Why Does Yahoo! Search Lag Google & Microsoft in Ranking Newer Websites?

Feb 29th

Yahoo! has guys like Jeremy Zawodny marketing their fresh new search platform, and yet they remain behind the competition. Microsoft jumped into the search field way later than Yahoo! did, so why is it that Microsoft rankings for well promoted sites often roughly track Google rankings, while Yahoo! still has yet to give many of these sites an opportunity to rank?

Here are some examples of what I am talking about (with URLs expunged to protect the guilty)...

A couple year old site that was lingering about with a few inbound links and was promoted last November. Notice how quickly both Google and Microsoft took to the marketing, whereas Yahoo is still nowhere to be found

Here is a site that was promoted from brand new. Notice how Google and Microsoft are trending toward trusting it more and more, while Yahoo! Search occasionally picks it up and then spits it back out again

Here is yet another newish site that Microsoft loves and Google is starting to like more and more. Yahoo! is still nowhere to be found

If you had to pick the 1,000 most competitive keywords on the web I think all 3 of the above would fall in that group. I could list numerous other example sites as well. All the above sites have been in the Yahoo! Directory for at least 4 months. Even with new sites and a moderate amount of targeted promotion it is not that hard to work your way up into Google and Microsoft's rankings, but Yahoo usually ignores it.

I have highlighted that Yahoo! Search has their domain authority score overemphasized in their relevancy algorithms, which causes a lot of parasitic SEO to dominate their search results, but do they even care?

Can you rank a new site in Yahoo! for terms like insurance without getting it nuked in Google? What makes Yahoo! so much slower at ranking new sites than the other major search engines?

Yahoo! Open Search

Feb 26th
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One of the biggest things holding back Yahoo! Search is their preference for Yahoo! content. As a shift in strategy, Yahoo! announced they are opening up their search results to third party data integration. Instead of a typical search result, some of the results with third party data may look like this

Google has largely been pulling in third party data and doing their best to keep that traffic on the Google network. To appreciate how aggressive this has been, you only need to look at the increased size of Google local listings or the sharp decline in stock prices of traditional Yellow Pages companies, as highlighted in this WSJ article.

A couple questions that remain are how interactive will the paid inclusion results get, and will the paid search ads get more interactive as well?

Google has a similar program to what Yahoo! offers, with a couple major differences

  • Yahoo! will turn on third party data for some leading sites by default
  • Google requires you to learn their proprietary confusing language AND promote Google, Google Search, Google Subscribed Links, AND get your users to subscribe for you to get any additional exposure (and yet they wonder why it hasn't taken off yet)

Through different strategies both of the top 2 engines are turning their search results into destinations. Worth watching as it progresses. More information available at Search Engine Land.

Yahoo! Search, Please Turn Down Site Authority in the Algorithm or Drop Tag Pages

Jan 23rd
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Does it make sense for MySpace profile pages to rank on the first page for one of the 10 most competitive terms on the web? Should English to English page translations inherit domain authority from another domain? I don't want to out anybody, but I see way too many tag pages ranking in Yahoo!'s search results. The easiest way they can improve their search results is to simply delist any page with tag in the URL.

If they continue down this path inside a few months they will link to nothing but internal site search / tag pages on other sites. Where is the value, innovation, or thought process in that? What percent of Yahoo! searchers want to see Wordpress.com tags pages and how many Yahoo! Pipes pages are tagged with a brand name? What does a searcher do when they land on a page like this?

If you are going to trust user generated content on authority sites, expect a lot of users to create content just for Yahoo!. :)

10 Things Yahoo! Search Must do to Become Relevant

Jan 20th

Yahoo!'s Downward Trend

Yahoo! killed off their brand universe project, and recently fired 30 people. Rumor has it that about 2,000 more layoffs might be coming soon. Yahoo! shares are nearing $20, trading at $20.78, and giving them a market capitalization of $27.8 billion.

This WSJ article highlights that about half of Yahoo!'s value is in cash and equity stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan. Over the last year Yahoo! lost significant momentum and marketshare in search. They need to outsource search and search ads, fire a bunch of employees, gain search marketshare, or there is going to be a buyout or merger before the year is out.

Pageviews Still do Not Have Much Value

Sidebar: to anyone hyping the value of pageviews and social media, think of how many pageviews Yahoo! has. If you pull out the value of Yahoo!'s large equity stakes in other companies and cash on hand, Amazon and eBay are each worth about 2 to 3 times Yahoo!, and Google is worth about 13x.

10 Key Ideas Yahoo! Needs to Implement Tomorrow (or Sooner)

After seeing the underwhelming launch of Wikia Search, I think Yahoo! should push further in human aided search. Relevancy is based on perception and marketing. Yahoo! needs to do the following if they want to compete in search:

  1. Increase the relevancy of their directory by actually featuring it (the directory looks like a sidebar to a blog that occupies most of dir.yahoo.com), and by becoming more selective with what sites they accept. You can appreciate their bad marketing of the Yahoo! Directory by the fact that the Google Directory (a DMOZ clone) has a higher PageRank.
  2. Yahoo! is testing integrating Del.icio.us data in their search results. Brand Yahoo! search as human edited safe search and find a way to pay end users for their contribution. Payment does not need to be monetary. Take a look at the success of Yahoo! Answers and Del.icio.us and apply those toward search. Google gives Checkout advertisers free ads and a higher ad CTR (which leads to a lower ad cost). Win search marketshare from your users by giving them rebates on your other products as well.
  3. Create a branding and awareness campaign around the new Yahoo! Search. Hire someone to do a fake study proving that Yahoo! Search is more relavant than any of the other players. Make sure Ask or Microsoft is ranked #2 ahead of Google.
  4. Let users comment on search results AND on listings in search results. Controversy surrounding this will lead to more people talking about and evaluating Yahoo! Search for quality.
  5. Launch a new toolbar with a meter like PageRank in it...call it YourRank (or something the emphasizes to the user) that it is their web and what they like. Heavily push that branding message to users locked into Yahoo! email, Yahoo! Stores, and other verticals they interact with.
  6. Create a well branded specialty search for bloggers with innovative features that make it easy to follow the conversation both ways. Also launch creative ideas to buy mindshare with other high authority communities (universities, open source projects, etc.).
  7. Easily allow advertisers to do keyword research on Yahoo! outside of while they are setting up search campaigns. Create a reliable publicly accessible keyword tool which actually markets the Yahoo! Search product.
  8. Give away a lot of useful search market data (like Microsoft recently did with their Ad Intelligence plug-in).
  9. Put the Yahoo! brand on the millions of syndicated domain landing pages they power each day.
  10. Increase the relevancy of their contextual ad product and increase payouts to 100% (buy marketshare) BEFORE Microsoft openly launches their network. Perform case studies with publishers who saw their Yahoo! monetization go up AFTER switching from AdSense (and other inferior networks) to the NEW Yahoo! Publisher Network contextual ads program. Perhaps pay key leading bloggers 150% just to get them using, talking about, and giving feedback on your ads. Buy marketshare...

How Could Yahoo! Become Relevant?

Do you still use Yahoo! Search? What could Yahoo! do to make you want to use them and talk about their search product?

Yahoo! Search Now Supports Bogus Webmaster Stats

Oct 16th
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I was sad to see Barry's post about Yahoo! showing garbage stats to unauthenticated users.

Not that they asked for it, but here is my advice for Yahoo! Search:

  • Following Google's moves from last year is no way to catch them.
  • How about marketing yourself on your key properties.
  • Invest in Wikia search and share technology with them to attack Google from multiple fronts. Google engineers have openly admitted to frequently hand editing the search results. Now that search is back to being about people tell the USER that it is their web and THEY own it.
  • What if you assumed you already lost the search battle and decided to counter Google by being open about search, and being actively involved with the webmaster community? What is the worse that can happen? People start talking about you, trying your product, giving you feedback to improve your product, talk about you, and you gain marketshare. Oh no!

Major Yahoo! Ranking Changes

Sep 26th

Yahoo search normally moves rather slowly with small changes, but I just saw some pretty big shifts in Yahoo rankings, including

  • botching part of a sitewide 301 redirect that they had followed for months - now both sites rank, but each ranks well for some portion of the queries
  • a bit more weight on domain names

What are you seeing?

Yahoo! Search Update

Jul 21st
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Yahoo! recently did another search index update with little fanfare. To me it looks like they put more weight on exact match domain names, inbound link anchor text, and domain authority.

Yahoo! Quality Based Pricing

Jun 5th
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Yahoo! announced their Panama API today. They also announced the beginning roll out of their quality based pricing for content websites:

Previously, you were charged the same for traffic from all web sites within our distribution network. Now, with quality-based pricing, you may be charged less for certain clicks than you otherwise would pay, depending on the overall quality of the traffic provided by our distribution partners. As a result, your click charges can decrease.

As Yahoo! cleans up their content network look for many of their partners to switch to Google, which has a deeper ad network and better relevancy algorithm.

Flat Rate Paid Inclusion: Yahoo! Search Submit Basic Returns

Not talked about much, but my partner noticed Yahoo! once again shifted paid inclusion to a yearly flat rate.

While Search Submit Pro allows you to have more control over listings and is sold on a costs a per click basis, their Search Submit Basic allows you to submit URLs for $49 per year per URL.

In the past Search Submit Basic was called Search Submit Express. It charged a flat inclusion price and sold clicks on CPC basis. Here is an Archive.org link to the old program.

If you have launched a new site and are not getting much Yahoo! traffic, submitting a few of your highest value pages is a good call. If you have key deep high value pages that are not staying indexed in Yahoo! this program also makes sense.

Even the Search Engines are Bad at Optimization

Mar 27th

Yahoo! allows paid inclusion members to buy quick links in the search results and indexes sites more fully if they use Yahoo! for their site search. While neither of these may seem like a big deal they both are. Allowing businesses the chance to buy a greater share of the search results or giving them greater indexing priority for them using your search service are both things that would make search purists cringe.

While Google is busy turning the text link into a performance based ad network Yahoo! sells their search credibility and marketshare too cheaply. Buying Del.icio.us and MyBlogLog are not going to make up for the undermining effect on credibility paid inclusion offers.


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