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Yahoo Introduces Personal Search

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The Search Personalization: A Marketer's Perspective companion to this story for Search Engine Watch members provide tips for search marketers on preparing for the coming of personalized search results, including a close-up look at how the My Yahoo Search "Block Site" feature works. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Yahoo has enhanced its My Yahoo service with personalization features including search history, the ability to save pages to a "personal web" and block URLs from appearing in search results.

Reached at My Yahoo Search, the new features available to registered Yahoo users are similar to those recently introduced by a9.com and Ask Jeeves, although Yahoo plans to differentiate the service in future enhancements, according to Eckart Walther, senior director of product management for Yahoo Search.

Search results with My Yahoo Search resemble standard web search results, with additional options added to each individual listing. These options are "Save," "Save with Note," "Share" and "Block Site." Clicking "save" saves the search result to your personal collection of web pages. At this point, only the result is saved, not the full text of the underlying web page -- a serious drawback, as I'll explain in a moment.

"Save with note" allows you to add an annotation to the saved listing. "Share" sends the search result via Yahoo email to any recipient. You can also share saved searches by category via email, RSS feeds or as a module which the recipient can save to their My Yahoo page. "Block Site" blocks all pages from a site in any future search results.

Also new at the top of search result pages are links to "Visited Results" and "My Web." Visited results is a list of pages that you clicked through to read from search results. You can easily toggle this feature on or off depending on whether you want a record kept of your browsing behavior.

"My Web" is the list of all pages you have saved. Both visited results and my web lists can be sorted by title, date, URL, or "how I found it," a cool feature that organizes results based on the query terms you used to generate them. \

Once you've saved search results, you can organize them into categories. These categories can be added to your My Yahoo home page by clicking a small blue plus sign icon appearing next to a category.

Once you've created your own collection of saved web results, you can search for saved entries. While this sounds like a great idea, it's a weak feature in this implementation of My Yahoo personal search, because the search only matches keywords in the limited information in saved search results rather than the full text of the underlying pages. Unless you use very specific keywords when you're searching your saved results, you may not get any matches, even for pages you are certain you've saved.

This limitation will go away when Yahoo begins indexing the full text of saved pages sometime in the future, according to Walther. But for the moment, searching saved pages isn't much more sophisticated (or useful) than searching bookmarks.

Yahoo has also limited the number of saved results to 1000. Contrast these limitations with Looksmart's newly acquired Furl service, which indexes the full text of pages and offers a virtually limitless 5 gigabytes of storage.

In all, the new My Yahoo Search is well implemented and easy to use, but doesn't offer compelling reasons to use it unless you're looking for what amounts to an enhanced bookmark utility that's tied to Yahoo search results. It's great to see companies like Yahoo and Ask Jeeves taking baby steps toward true personalization of search results. And I fully expect to see more robust features and enhancements to personal search from both search engines, probably in the very near future.

But for now, my reaction is "that's nice," as I continue my daily use of personal web managers like search engine independent, industrial strength Furl.

The Search Personalization: A Marketer's Perspective companion to this story for Search Engine Watch members provide tips for search marketers on preparing for the coming of personalized search results, including a close-up look at how the My Yahoo Search "Block Site" feature works. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Search Engine Personalization: Growing, but Still Weak discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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