Yahoo!’s New Search Engine

On February 18th, Yahoo launched its new search engine, Yahoo Search, a mix of technologies built around its subsidiaries Inktomi and Overture Services, and replaced Google as search engine results provider. A day earlier, Google officially announced that it had reached an important milestone with immediate access to more than 6 billion items, including 4.28 billion web pages, 880 million images, 845 million Usenet messages, and a growing collection of book-related information pages. Why would Google brag about its leading position at this auspicious time? Because changes are coming

Such changes will have immediate impact on search engine rankings and traffic as the main search engines’ market share is anticipated to change dramatically.

According to a Nielsen//NetRatings report released on February 23rd, search engine use in the United States increased to include one of every three Americans or, 39% of the US population! Specifically, 114.5 million unique users turned to search engines to find information about products and services in January, and each spent nearly 40 minutes there.

The heavy usage of search engines in January was no different from the reliance on search engines during the 2003 holiday shopping season:

  • 36 % of those surveyed said they used Google during the shopping season
  • 25 % used Yahoo! Search
  • 14 % used MSN Search
  • 5 % used either AOL or Ask Jeeves.

Not surprisingly, the top five search engines in January were:

  • Google (59 million visitors)
  • Yahoo! Search (46 million)
  • MSN Search (45 million)
  • AOL Search (23 million)
  • Ask Jeeves (13 million)

What the Nielsen report did not indicate is the intricate connections between the main search engines and the results they provide to their partners. In January, Yahoo used to show the organic search engine results provided by Google. MSN Search provides organic search engine results provided by Inktomi, a Yahoo company. And AOL Search shows Google-provided search engine results. This complex interdependence between the main search engines makes current changes in the web search market place more intriguing.

The impact of Yahoo replacing Google as search engine provider can be enormous on anyone’s web traffic. Until now, according to comScore Media Metrix, a Nielsen//NetRatings competitor, Google boasted market share of around 79% which included 16% through the AOL partnership and 28% through Google’s agreement to provide search results at Yahoo’s portal.

Google Yahoo


Yahoo, on the other hand, through its Inktomi subsidiary, has been providing search results to MSN. In addition, Yahoo through its Overture subsidiary owns AltaVista and AllTheWeb. The switch from Google-provided search results to Yahoo’s own search results at Yahoo Search implies a major shift in search engine market share — from 28% to 51% for all Yahoo search properties and partnerships.

While nobody argues the dominance of Google as the top search engine, now that Yahoo provides its own search results, it is only logical to anticipate that Google’s position will be diminished. This leaves Yahoo and Google as the two main search engine providers, leaving Ask Jeeves (and its Teoma subsidiary) with 3% market share and 2% for all other search engines.

What if you are not included in Yahoo’s index?

Currently, Yahoo provides two options to get your web content indexed in its new search engine: by using a free URL submission box available to its registered users (you would need to login to Yahoo to access that feature), or by using Yahoo’s paid inclusion program, Inktomi.

Yahoo claims that submitting a web link via the free URL submission box is considered only “suggestion” and not a guarantee that the page will be added to the index.

The only guaranteed way to have your content included is to use the Inktomi paid inclusion program. The pricing for Inktomi paid inclusion is as follows:

1st URL – $39
URLs 2-1000 – $25 each

Yahoo has not commented on the fate of its other search engines, AltaVista and AllTheWeb, which were acquired through the Overture purchase last year. Currently only the Inktomi inclusion will feed search results into the new Yahoo Search index.

Submitting a URL to Inktomi is valuable because the results would feed MSN Search, at least until MSN Search develops their own search engine. In addition, an Inktomi submission would provide results to About.com and other partners.

However, the interesting thing about Yahoo and Inktomi is that, at least according to industry insiders, the new Yahoo Search is not a simple copy of Inktomi but rather an evolved, advanced form of Inktomi. As proof one can consider comparing the search results provided by MSN and HotBot both of which serve Inktomi results – they are certainly different from the results provided by Yahoo Search.

There are even claims that Yahoo will stop using the Inktomi database or paid inclusion after April 15 when a new Yahoo paid inclusion program will be made available.

This is what one of Inktomi partners, PositionTech.com, posted on this topic:

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT INKTOMI SEARCH SUBMIT:
 

“Yahoo! Search has transitioned to its own search technology and is preparing to launch a new inclusion program. As a bonus for Search Submit customers, Yahoo! Search is providing a free trial of Yahoo! traffic that will end on April 15, 2004.

 

“When the new inclusion program launches, Search Submit customers will have the option of joining the new program for ongoing participation in Yahoo! Search results.”

So what are we to do with all this confusing information? My opinion is to continue using Inktomi at least for the benefit of appearing in the MSN Search results and to have one’s options open for the April 15th planned introduction of Yahoo Search paid submission. Nobody knows if paid inclusion in Yahoo Search will be more expensive than the $39 Inktomi currently charges per URL, so putting some portion of your marketing budget for the new big search engine player would be wise.


Just before the launch of Yahoo Search, rumors started appearing on the renaming of the new spider. It is official now – it is called Yahoo Slurp and you can see its visits in your web server log file like this:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Yahoo! Slurp)

Yahoo! Slurp will continue to follow the Robot Exclusion Standard, so as long as you have your robots.txt file valid, you should be fine.

For more information on the new Yahoo spider, see http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysearch/slurp/.

What are the Yahoo’s site submission guidelines?

Yahoo! Search crawls the web every 2-4 weeks and automatically finds new content for indexing. If pages already in the Yahoo! Search index link to your site, it will be considered for inclusion in the next update of the index.

Not surprisingly, getting your site listed in major directory services such as the Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ is an excellent way to be sure that there are links to your site.

What is different in Yahoo-optimization from Google-optimization?

Careful selection of keywords, incoming links, title tags, header and keyword-rich content are of course going to be as important to Yahoo as they are to Google.

Yahoo cares about page descriptions. Google usually composes its own page description based on the text of the first paragraph of the indexed page. Yahoo wants you to have a unique page description and you should diligently follow their advice.

Specifically, Yahoo advises:

“Use a “description” meta-tag and write your description accurately and carefully. After the title, the description is the most important draw for users. Make sure the document title and description attract the interest of the user but also fit the content on your site.

Use a “keyword” meta-tag to list key words for the document. Use a distinct list of keywords that relate to the specific page on your site instead of using one broad set of keywords for every page.”

Yahoo dropped Google and this will impact anyone’s traffic. Instead of search results provided by Google, Yahoo is serving its own search engine results. They are different from the ones provided by Inktomi although Inktomi seems to partially feed results.

While we all wait to see what happens on April 15, when Yahoo will announce its own new paid inclusion program for Yahoo Search, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having one’s web site submitted to Inktomi. In addition to partially feeding Yahoo Search, Inktomi currently provides search results to MSN Search, About.com, and others.

All these changes in the search engine market place should remind us all once again how important it is to monitor and maintain one’s search engine rankings.

Should you have any questions about how these events will impact your web site’s search engine rankings, feel free to contact WebSage.

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