Yahoo Local Search Update — Yahoo Replies

Yesterday, I posted that Yahoo’s Local Search offering had gone gold, but that it wasn’t drafting off the main Yahoo search box (at yahoo.com).

I was corrected by a poster over on John Battelle’s blog, who said that it worked fine for her, when she entered a query such as “palo alto, ca florist”.

I tried this myself, and found that it worked; so I updated my post to indicate that it still didn’t work if you entered “florist 95126″, generalizing that Yahoo wasn’t supporting zip codes out of the core search box (my bad for not testing all permutations)…

Well, Ali Diab from Yahoo (whom I don’t know, but who appears to be Director of Product Mgmt for US Search, at least as of 11/2003) wrote to clarify the situation.

Here’s Ali’s info:

“Y! Search does supports ZIP code based search. But, the ZIP code needs to be entered before the search term. For example: http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=94089+florist.

We have historically not supported users entering the ZIP after the query term, because the level of false positives for Query followed by ZIP is actually very high. That being said, we are working on a novel query analysis technique that will enable users to enter the ZIP after the query term with much lower false positive rates than currently possible.”

So, net net… Yahoo Local Search is supported through the main yahoo search box, provided you enter a city name with your search term, or, with a zip code, provided you enter a zip code before your search keywords.

Personally, while I’m glad to see that Yahoo is supporting the majority of use cases (and is working on a technique to solve for all of them), as a fellow product mgmt exec, I find this situation a bit bizzare. Perhaps it’s just me, but in all of the local search testing I’ve done over the past ~ two years (including my time at Overture), I’ve always entered the search topic (“what”) first, followed by the zipcode (“where”).

Perhaps that’s because that’s how Yahoo and Google are training users to local search through their local search specific UIs!?!

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