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Yahoo! has launched a beta version of a new search site, Yahoo!Local which it says will give punters a more accurate guide to local businesses, large and small. The company says the move is a response to a demand for finely-tuned Web searches, as people log on to find things closer to home.

Analysts at The Kelsey Group suggest that around a quarter of all Web searches are attempts to find local information. Greg Sterling, analyst and program director at Kelsey Group, argues that user experience of local searching is not good: "The local search experience has generally failed to deliver against user expectations," he said.

In this case, Yahoo! is playing catchup to Google's service, launched back in March. The dominance of Google has forced the other search companies to look for other ways of attracting people to their sites. Ask Jeeves, for instance, now refers to itself as 'the find engine' and recently overhauled its page in a bid to challenge Google. It also signed a partnership deal with CitySearch to boost its own local search results.

At present the site is a beta, so user feedback is encouraged. Like Google Local, it is also US specific, so UK searchers looking for information on the nearest kebab shop, for example, will have to go elsewhere for now. ®

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