Sourced from Search DayAfter just two months in testing, Yahoo has pushed its local search out of beta and is giving the service prominent exposure on the Yahoo home page.

The company has taken several steps to improve relevance to get more precise local results, according to Paul Levine, General Manager, Yahoo Local.

Yahoo Local now uses two relevance algorithms to provide different results depending on whether the user is searching for a category or a specific business. Based on query analysis, results are weighted differently based on the user’s intent.

Levine said that the newly launched service is also more comprehensive than the beta version, with more than two million new listings.

The user interface has been streamlined, both on the Yahoo Local home page and search result pages. Results now look very similar to web search results. The most notable change has been to the search refinement tools, which have been throughly exposed on the left side of the page. In the beta version, refinement tools such as the ability to limit results by distance, category, rating, price and so on were available through drop-down menus. These menus have been replaced with explicit links that show the total number of results that will be displayed for each type of refinement.

Yahoo has also added “Also try” links to the top of result pages, similar to the refinement option recently introduced for web search results.

The “view results on map” feature is more prominent, with a map icon enhancing the previously generic button used to access this feature. Driving directions from Yahoo maps have also been added.

The details page for each individual business is cleaner, with more of a business card feel for each listing. The ratings and review area is also more prominent, separated from the business listing with a blue background. Radio buttons used to rate a business have been replaced with star icons. Mousing over the stars indicates the rating – from one star (hated it) to five stars (loved it). Simply click a star to cast your own vote. Users have created ratings and reviews for a broad spectrum of businesses, including things like auto dealers and dry cleaners.

Although Local search is replacing yellow pages on the Yahoo home page, Levine said the company still plans to maintain its yellow pages listings, in what he calls “the trough” on the left-hand side of the home page.