Google today announced the official launch of Google Local, its local directory of businesses similar to the Yellow Pages in the UK. The search engine also merged the technologies behind Google Local and Google Maps to create one application to access map directions and local advertisers.

Local search holds strong ad revenue potential for Google, since many web surfers look for products and services near their home or in cities they're visiting, and it is likely to be at the core of Google's money making strategy if it rolls out a free Wi-Fi network across America following its trials in San Francisco.

"With today's launch of Google Local, users will be able to go to one location to find all the local and mapping information they need," said Marissa Mayer, director, Consumer Web Products, Google Inc. "Whether it's directions to the nearest pharmacy or reviews of nearby dim sum restaurants, we will continue to develop innovative technologies that enrich our users' lives".

Google Local offers users access to relevant information such as integrated local search results and detailed driving directions, and includes features such as draggable maps, satellite imagery, keyboard shortcuts, and more.
Unfortunately, the service has only come out of beta for North America.