Why You Thought Yahoo! Search Sucked (and Why You Might Now Notice it Doesn’t)

I worked at Yahoo for five years.

And for five years I used Google.

Giving a presentation about our contextual advertising to a group that included our SVP, he mad a remark about my Firefox still being set to Google. I played it off, saying I didn’t use it and quickly showed how I had a ‘y’ keyword mapped to search on Yahoo.

A half-truth. True, I didn’t use the searchbox in the browser. But also true that I also had ‘g’ mapped to google (and used that 98% of the time).

Judging by my peers, fellow Yahoo engineers, I was far from alone.

When Yahoo Search Marketing was re-organized so that it fell closer to Yahoo! Search, I started to hear more about Search. How based on some studies we did well. Really well, in fact.

Knowing the individuals and the context, there wasn’t a heck of lot of motivation for lying. So I started using Yahoo Search for a bit and I found these two seeming contradicting statements:

1) The algorithm for Yahoo Search is really good.
2) It’s hard finding what you want with Yahoo Search.

What do I mean? Well, the search engine works, just you don’t see the results.

For instance, take a look at this page, an example from the Yahoo Search Marketing site showing advertisers where their ads appear:

So, imagine for a second that your search worked. The results you wanted for ‘Quigibo’ are right there. What do you see?


Here’s the stuff I care about:

It’s that teeny little bit down in the corner.

Your results are buried in the page. You see one, maybe one and half results.

So when you do a search, does it work? Yes.

Do you see it? No.

Which is why it was exciting to see Yahoo’s new alpha:

Simple, clean, elegant.

I even like that I can collapse sponsored results.

It’s not that I have anything against, in fact, for commericial queries, they can be darn useful, it’s just I want control. If I’m searching for Perl’s tie operator, odds are ads are just a waste of space.

It’s still a bit early, but it looks like Yahoo might be getting it’s mojo back.

11 Responses to “Why You Thought Yahoo! Search Sucked (and Why You Might Now Notice it Doesn’t)”

  1. Yahoo Alpha Beta custom search Says:

    [...] It’s nice that sponsored results have moved to the sidebar. One of the gripes about Yahoo!’s excellent search is the box of sponsored results on top of popular SERP’s. [...]

  2. Rick Says:

    In the end, it’s still Yahoo.

    The difference between Google and Yahoo isn’t about search results. It’s this: Google is in the *Internet* business; Yahoo is in the internet *Business*…

  3. links for 2007-04-06 « My Weblog Says:

    [...] Why You Thought Yahoo! Search Sucked (and Why You Might Now Notice it Doesn’t) (tags: ads google search yahoo) [...]

  4. Tom Beesley Says:

    this from the same people who hand-optimize their top results because their algorithm sucks? give me a break.

  5. gullova Says:

    Google hand optimizes their results too…they’re just too ashamed to admit it in public.

    Bill – in fairness to Yahoo, the screenshot shows the search results for “cellular phones”, which is a highly commercial search term.

  6. the real rick Says:

    good post, bill. google will fall like any other empire. not sure who the other rick is. he’s a fake.

  7. wdr1 Says:

    This is like in Star Trek VI were there are two Captain Kirks and I have to figure out which one to shoot.

  8. blakkat Says:

    alpha rocks! go yahoo!

  9. superm0nkey Says:

    I use alpha a hell of a lot and I gotta say it’s an awesome product. While I still use google to search for technical stuff (perl syntax, php hacks) I find Yahoo!’s search results more relevant for research on topics that don’t require contextual matching. Rock on, Y!

  10. Randy Standford Says:

    Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based upon on the same information you discuss at http://wdr1.com/blog/2007/04/04/why-you-thought-yahoo-search-sucked-and-why-you-might-now-notice-it-doesnt and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

  11. Trinity Corsilles Says:

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