Yahoo has selected Google to take over from Inktomi in powering Yahoo's secondary results. These are the listings that appear in the "Web Pages" area of Yahoo's results, after any hits from Yahoo's own human-compiled listings. In addition, Yahoo plans to move forward with changes to improve the relevancy of its own primary listings over the coming months.
The switch to Google should occur sometime this month (in fact, it appears to have already happened). Inktomi is also being retained as a Yahoo partner. The company will provide search services for Yahoo's new Yahoo Corporate product that was announced in June.
Google becomes Yahoo's fourth crawler-based partner. Open Text was the first, then AltaVista took over in mid-1996, then Inktomi picked up the contract in mid-1998. At that time, AltaVista lost out because it was seen by Yahoo as competitor in the portal space. In contrast, Inktomi's "behind-the-scenes" business model of powering but never competing with portals gave it the edge.
Winning the Yahoo contract didn't "make" Inktomi. At the time, the company had already been picked as a provider by both MSN Search and Snap, in addition to serving HotBot and smaller players like GoTo. But the contract certainly raised Inktomi's profile as a leader in the portal powering market. Similarly, the Yahoo partnership is a huge boost for Google. It's an extraordinary achievement for Google, less than two years old, to be selected by the web's most popular search site as its partner.
It's also well deserved. "Our goal is to produce no holds barred, the best search available," said Google's CEO Larry Page, in an article I wrote just after the company received major investment in 1999. Since then, Google has delivered. The most recent NPD Search and Portal Study found 97 percent of Google users say they find what they are looking for every or most of the time, placing it highest among the 13 major search sites surveyed. In addition, reviewers continue to rave about Google, as does the general public. When I speak about search engines to groups and mention Google, something unusual happens to some members of the audience. They smile and nod, in the way you do when you feel like you've found a secret little getaway that no one else knows about. And each time I speak, I see more and more people smiling and nodding this way, pleased to have discovered Google.
One thing that will be missing from Google's results at Yahoo are links to the Google version of the Open Directory, a main competitor with Yahoo in categorizing the web. But what Google has done to apply link analysis to the Open Directory could also be applied to Yahoo's categories. "We have chatted with them about what can be done to improve their directory," said Google president Sergey Brin.
Bringing Google on board to improve Yahoo's secondary results is great, but Yahoo is also planning upgrades in the coming months in how listings from its own database are presented and ranked in response to a search request. "You should certainly be looking at further improvements to our own search," said Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo's editor in chief.
The process already began when "Most Popular Sites" sections were added to some categories in April. Since then, popular sections have been added to additional categories, Srinivasan said. Srinivasan says you'll tend to see these more in non-commercial areas of the directory and only in categories where 20 or more sites are listed. Examples where Most Popular Sites can be found include the Virtual Cards category, Children's Health and Genealogy.
Yahoo's keeping quiet on how the popularity rankings are determined. I've not seen Yahoo do any clickthrough measurements, nor has anyone reported this to me, which leaves me assuming the company is spidering and doing some type of link analysis.
Yahoo has also come through a reorganization of its business listings, which was completed around the end of April. "This was truly a wholescale renovation in how we deal with commercial listings," Srinivasan said.
Previously, commercial listings had been broadly divided between the "Companies" and "Products and Services" categories. However, Yahoo realized there was less distinction between companies and products and much more between companies with products aimed at consumers and those catering to other businesses. Consequently, if you enter the top level "Business and Economy" category, you'll now see two major categories below it, "Business to Business" and "Shopping and Services," aimed at consumers.
Given the reorganization, you may wish to check your listings at Yahoo. Some companies offer both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) services. If you are one of these, you should be classified both ways. If you are not, Srinivasan said to use the Yahoo change form to let editors know why you should be in both major sections. Make it easy for them. Located the most appropriate B2B or Shopping and Services category for your site, and send that along with your message.
For new sites not listed in Yahoo, Srinivasan said to pick the best category for your site, then submit the other as your second pick, then add a note explaining why you should be in both places. For instance, let's say your site serves both B2B and consumer markets. You need to start the submission process from somewhere, so you decide to find the best category within the B2B area. On page 2 of the submission form, you would enter the Shopping and Services category that's appropriate as an optional suggestion. Then, at the end of the form, use the Final Comments section to explain why you belong in both places.
Follow this procedure even if you use the Business Express service, Srinivasan said. Don't do two separate Business Express submissions, one to each category. You'll only lose the fee for the second submission.
Finally, another change that just hit Yahoo about two weeks ago was an increase in the fee for adult sites to use the Business Express system. They must now pay $600, rather than the normal $199. Yahoo says this is to make up for the extra time they've found adult sites take to process. "A small proportion of the submissions take a disproportionally large amount of our time, Srinivasan said. In particular, there is a high incidence of adult sites submitting trying to obtain multiple listings through the use of disguised mirror sites, she said.
Google Announces Largest Index
The Search Engine Update, July 5, 2000
Google's index has gotten much larger, but not all partners may tap into it.
Yahoo Changes Listings
The Search Engine Update, May 3, 2000
More information about the addition of "Most Popular Results" to Yahoo's categories.
NPD Search and Portal Site Study
More details from the latest search satisfaction survey will be posted by the end of this week.
Yahoo Business Express Expanded
The Search Engine Update, Nov. 23, 1999
Past article and links to previous articles about the Yahoo express service.
Yahoo Business Express Help
More information about Yahoo's express service, from Yahoo.
Yahoo Change Form
Good For Google Does Not Equal Bad For Inktomi
The Search Engine Report, July 5, 2000
Inktomi's stock plunged after last week's announcement that the company had lost the Yahoo web search contract to Google, as investors wondered if the Yahoo deal was a harbinger of future Inktomi defections. Maybe, but the loss of a big portal doesn't necessarily mean Inktomi is a big loser, just because Google is a big winner.