In football, there is an old saying – “They came to play.” What that means is the team is a competitor, they aren’t going to be content to simply go through the motions and let things happen to them. For awhile now it seems like Yahoo Search has been willing to gladly accept the role that Google has given them of second fiddle (and perhaps even third recently based on many of Microsoft’s moves) but as of October 1st, they have come to play.
Back in May, Google changed the way we searched (again) with their introduction of a new set of results for your searches. Their “Universal Search” system blended listings from its news (Google News), video (YouTube), images (Google Images), local (Google Local) and book (Google Books) search engines among those it gathers from crawling web pages (Google Search). This was an integrated approach to make searching more comprehensive and to also help blend together their properties on top of their core search business. Now Yahoo! has taken essentially the same leap and perhaps gone a step further.
Yahoo has now launched a completely revamped version of their search engine which ties together all of their recent acquisitions and moves of the last few years.
Since, we’ve seen the acquisitions of Inktomi, Altavista & Fast’s AlltheWeb, and how they’ve morphed into Yahoo Search Technology; the company’s search engine.
Enter Yahoo acquisitions of Flickr, Delicious and Upcoming.org into the mix, along with Yahoo’s own social Yahoo Video and Yahoo Answers channels, and the company has always seemed to have the potential to reinvent or dramatically change search results.
When you search on Yahoo today you will be able to see the major changes that they have made. With different searches you will find Yahoo embedded video, photos (Flickr), and announced the availability of more categories of Shortcuts (content modules at the top of results) across a range of vertical categories: events, music, movies, travel, sports, health, shopping, businesses and restaurants.
Search Assist offers suggestions, query refinements and numerous related topics when users hesitate as they enter keywords and the engine senses that help might be needed. Search Assist functions not unlike search suggestions or query refinements that are available from Ask, Microsoft Live Search and Google. However, the presentation of information is more compelling and more complete “on the front end,” meaning before the query is formulated.
So what does this all mean for Yahoo? Is this enough to usurp Google for the search crown? NO. Is it a step in the right direction? YES. Users need to see constant innovation like this from Yahoo. The most immediate change that I see coming from this is a higher retention of current Yahoo searchers. People who use Yahoo as their primary search engine will now be less likely to want to wander over to Google or Live because they will be getting better searches and seeing positive changes.
One major problem I see with it is the over reliance on paid Yahoo placements above the fold for many results. For example a search for “plasma TV” shows me only one natural result above the fold:
The same search on Google at least gives me three natural results above the fold:
Yahoo has to be careful to not shove their paid results down users throats or else it looks like they are one of two things: 1) not confident about the natural results they are serving 2) greedy.
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