updated 8/3/2004 4:49:07 PM ET 2004-08-03T20:49:07

Internet giant Yahoo Inc. is unveiling a new search site that promises to provide a more precise guide to neighborhood businesses, making the latest in a series of attempts to improve the World Wide Web's focus on local information.

Sunnyvale-based Yahoo is touting the site, local.yahoo.com, as a major leap ahead in an industrywide effort to fine tune online search engines so they do a better job finding things closer to home.

"We think this is a first product that crystallizes the power of local search," said Paul Levine, who directs Yahoo's push into local search.

Yahoo launched the site late Monday on a test basis, meaning the company still might revise some features based on user feedback. Reflecting the experimental nature of the site, Yahoo initially isn't linking to the local search engine from its main Web site.

The local search site represents another bit of one-upmanship in Yahoo's intensifying rivalry with Mountain View-based Google, which introduced a similar product in March.

Several other online search engines also have been zeroing in on local search results, hoping to cash in on the lucrative small business advertising market.

Verizon Communications souped up the local search results of its SuperPages.com site earlier this year and Ask Jeeves Inc. on Tuesday planned to announce a partnership with CitySearch in a bid to improve the quality of local search results delivered on ask.com.

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