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AOL Yellow Pages has greatly benefited from search engine optimization, with 50 percent of its traffic coming from SEO, according to Chris Spanos, GM, local search, who was speaking today at Kelsey’s Marketplaces conference in Los Angeles. “We have a very healthy Yellow Pages business,” said Spanos, who called it “the No. 1 independent Yellow Pages” site. “If the AOL network were to go away, the business would still be strong because of what we’re getting from Google and MSN.”

Spanos also noted that AOL was effectively using search (and to drive traffic into its numerous vertical sites. AOL autos and AOL real estate are leaders in their space, he said. These “help uses make the right decisions,” he noted. “We monetize that in a strong way.”

Yahoo Local lead Atif Rafiq, speaking on the same session, made similar points about Yahoo’s efforts in verticals and search. “There is a deep integration of local into [user] experiences,” he noted. Rafiq also said Yahoo is looking beyond basic “transactional type things” in local verticals. “The next step up is research … which [requires] more sophisticated behavior.”

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