Optimizing for Yahoo: The Next Big Thing

February 2004–Yahoo decides that they had had enough of Google subservience for their search results, finally pulling the plug on their alliance with Google for search technology, and aligning instead with Inktomi. Not only does this herald the advent of yet another eminent contender to defy Google’s dominion in the search market–Yahoo makes quite a significant chunk of the online traffic coming to a website–but it also sets the stage for a battle to be waged in SEO, with all sights now set on Yahoo.

With Google SERPs now beginning to make sense and offering some respite to most webmasters and SEOs, those webmasters and SEOs won’t be pulling any punches in trying their hands on the SERPs at Yahoo; the good SERPs at Yahoo that once used to come like a windfall for good optimization at Google now need to be specifically earned.

The New Scenario

The rules of the game have changed, and identifying the SEO rules is the name of the game. Thankfully, the new Yahoo SERPs still don’t show a marked departure from the existing Google algorithm, and the affinity between the two algorithms is still perceptible. This wipes out the need to make a fresh start while optimizing for Yahoo, and just weighing the Google SERPs against the Yahoo’s would suffice to make out the new algorithm Yahoo uses for ranking web pages.

Although Inktomi has not digressed much from the existing Google algorithm in formulating their own, the new Yahoo/Inktomi algorithm is not exactly a canned version of the Google’s, so the niceties that draw the wedge between the two algorithms need to be pinpointed to decipher exactly what works and what doesn’t for great rankings at Yahoo.

Keyword Density

When it comes to the significance of keyword density, it appears that Yahoo has a marked affinity for more keywords on the page when compared to Google. The analysis brings out the trend that most high-ranking pages generally have a larger number of keywords–primarily in the body text and title–than the pages that trail behind in SERPs. And interestingly, while the most high-ranking pages have an average overall keyword density of 9-10%, not all the high-ranking pages have that much keyword density; some have only 2-3%. This, in fact, is the upshot of the role played by backlinks, as will be explained later. Below is the breakup of various on-page factors and their respective keyword densities that make up the overall keyword density of a page:

  • Title – 15 to 20%. (This is one of the most momentous factors in the current Yahoo algorithm.)
  • Body Text - 2.5-3%
  • Meta Tags - 2-3%

Keywords in the Link Text

Link/Anchor Text still remains the buzzword, even for Yahoo optimization, though Yahoo apparently treats backlinks and link text in a different manner than Google. The statistics gathered reveal that most pages ranking well for an ‘allinanchor:keyword’ search don’t always top the charts on doing a generic keyword search. This demonstrates that Yahoo doesn’t give exceeding importance to link text, contrary to Google, where ‘allinanchor:keyword’ and generic searches still yield somewhat identical results with a little change in the order. As stated earlier, good link building and appropriate link text need to be further supplemented with copious keywords in title and body text.

Sub-pages vs. Main Domain

Interestingly, while the index pages optimized for a certain keyword using link text and all other techniques sometimes fail to make it in the top 10 SERPs, the internal pages of the same domain still manage to make the grade and rank in at least in the top 20 positions. Here’s how it works:

The algorithm first singles out the pages with most links pointing to them with appropriate link text (index pages in most cases). Next, it checks the keyword density (primarily in title and body text) of the pages filtered on the basis of the links and link text. Now, if the keyword density of the page is sufficient to satisfy a certain criteria, or if it can get the better of the other pages in terms of keyword density, then the page grabs a rank in line with the links and link text it has got. Otherwise, the algorithm locates another internal page of the same domain, which may not have been optimized using internal or external link text, but does have the sufficient keyword density in body text and title to appease Yahoo’s thirst for keywords on a page.

PageRank: The Old Recipe

PageRank being the exclusive Google trademark, it doesn’t now make much of a difference in Yahoo SERPs whether the PageRank of a web page is an impressive 8 or a paltry 3. Although the significance of PageRank in Google algo itself has stepped down significantly, it can still determine the fates of two pages at Google with strikingly different PageRank values. That’s no longer the case with Yahoo SERPs, and one can now comfortably overlook that green bar atop the browser window if the target is the Yahoo SERPs alone.


So the recipe to send a site rocketing high in Yahoo SERPs is this: get plenty of backlinks with appropriate link text, and then inundate the recipient page with keywords in the body text, title, alt tags, and wherever possible. Most probably, you’d have the feather in you cap of having your website thrive at Yahoo!

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