Thoughts On & Playing With Yahoo's Blog Search

I've been playing with Yahoo's new blog search that Chris wrote about earlier and wanted to share some of my thoughts, plus link to those of others. In summary, I like blog and news content being integrated, but I hope it will evolve into something even better. I also want a dedicated blog search service in addition to the integrated approach and find the lack of RSS support for blog search matches something that should be fixed quickly.

Like The Integration, But Want It Better

First, like Dave Winer, I love that Yahoo is integrating the blog content into the news content. As I wrote about Memeorandum's launch last month, tying blogs to mainstream news is a nice blend of news and opinion to me.

If you haven't seen Memeorandum, do check it out. It's been absolutely superb in getting news stories and blog commentary blended together in a compelling fashion. The only downside is that you only get a view for politics or tech stories.

That's where Yahoo goes a step beyond. Since you can keyword search for anything, you can get a pseudo-Memeorandum for any topic. Want blogs and news about ipod nano scratches? Here you go.

News & Blog Content Not So Clear Cut

Notice in that search that things aren't always clear cut, however. Engadget's Mossberg: iPod nano scratches like crazy story was both the top news story and the top blog story, when I looked. And Engadget's a blog, right? It shouldn't be in news! Well, not really to me. Engadget may publish using blog software, but it's essentially a news outlet. It makes sense to be in news search. But then again, it can make sense to be in blog search. The lines can be blurry.

Indeed, while Dave writes today that Google excludes blogs from its news search, that's not correct. Some blogs are also considered news sources to Google. Admittedly, not very many but some are. A search for nano ipod on Google News brings me back Engadget, just like at Yahoo. Looking for nano ipod scratches, I get this page from iLounge listed first, plenty bloggy in terms of having lots and lots of comments on it.

That's another reason why I like Memorandum. It's not trying to play the "is it a blog or is it news" game. Sometimes, a blog post is the lead item with news stories and other blog posts associated with it. Sometimes, a news item is the lead item with blog posts and news items pointing at that. In the fuzzy world of blogs versus news, it's a nice solution.

Maybe we'll see this type of Google News-like clustering happen to Yahoo News to better integrate blog content -- and perhaps the same will happen at Google News. That would be welcomed.

Bring On The Standalone Service

Another thing that would be welcomed would be a standalone blog search service. Want just blog search results? Right now, as Chris noted, after you do a news search, you can use the "More Blog results" link at the bottom of the Blogs pane to see all blog matches for your query. It shouldn't be that hard.

I agree with what Yahoo's Jeremy Zawodny wrote about the integration making blogs more visible to more people. But it's not an either/or situation. Yahoo Audio integrates podcasts, but the new Yahoo Podcasts service also stands alone. News content is in Yahoo Web Search already, but having Yahoo News allows for better, fresher presentation of that content. Blog content can be in Yahoo News and is welcomed there, but there's no reason it can't standalone in a dedicated service -- which in turn can offer things that Yahoo News cannot.

What's The Deal On Backlinks?

Backlinks are one of those things. Over at Google, not to mention Technorati and other places, getting backlinks to a particular post is easy. Yahoo's implementation is uncertain.

Here's Robert Scoble coming away trying to count links to a Channel 9 video of Bill Gates. Yahoo found nothing. But how did he look? Not using a link: command. He just entered the actual page URL, like this:

So how do you find backlinks on Yahoo's blog search? The first thought is to do this on Yahoo News:


Oops! That doesn't work. Over 2 million links come back, and you can see that they clearly aren't linking to that video. In fact, do a backlink search for anything, and it pretty much seems to bring back matches similar to as if you searched for link:http://.

But wait, let's try something else. Back to that link: search, and this time, click on the More Blog results link. That brings back this, showing one match to the video.

Only one link isn't going to impress Robert, but at least we can see how link: does sort of work in blog search. Sort of. Overall, with some other queries I tried, it seems poorly supported and incomplete. But since many bloggers are seeking that type of data, it's something hopefully Yahoo will improve.

Then again, Yahoo has an entire Site Explorer service to generate this type of information, launched only about two weeks ago and that I cover more here, Yahoo Site Explorer Live: New Way To See All Your Pages, Links.

Want backlink data? It gives you plenty, finding nearly 900 links from blogs and other pages across the web to the page Robert is interested in. But unlike with, say, Google's blog search, you can't get the most recent links coming up. Again, that's a key bit of data bloggers are interested in.

Heck, a rundown on new links to anything is something anyone is interested in, as I've written before. Site Explorer would be better than Yahoo coming up with backlinks just from blogs, since it would give you a better picture of the entire web universe discussing you content. It just needs to be able to sort by date.

Again With The Better Integration!

Another comment on Robert's write-up. He was disappointed that Yahoo's blog search only brought up 2 matches about Chris Pirillo's new meta search service But in reality, he was counting only NEWS search results.

When I do the search he did, I get three matches in the main "News Stories" section. But over to the right-hand side, the Blog listings area shows me four matches and clicking through to see further, I get 15 matches in all.

From what I can tell, Robert just missed the results, just as Om Malik notes in his write-up on the integration searchers are "very likely" to miss the blog integration. Well, here's a major blogger -- Robert Scoble -- apparently doing just that. It underscores that integrating blog content into news search is fine, but if people like Robert are missing it, many more are likely to, as well.

Back to those 15 matches, none are Robert's own post on the service, which I know was widely cited. So while Yahoo's better than he thinks, it clearly has much more work to do. But Yahoo also acknowledges this in its own post on the launch, which will including going beyond just RSS feeds known to My Yahoo users (and indexing more than just feed content, as Technorati's Niall Kennedy seems to find).

Where's The RSS/Feed Support?

Let's hope part of that work is adding RSS support for queries. I know it's a beta, but with Yahoo's love of all things RSS, I was dumbfounded to find no way to get blog search matches sent to me via a feed.

To be clear, you can do a news search and get a feed for any query sent to you. In other words, if I want to monitor news about Yahoo, I just search for yahoo, then subscribe using the orange RSS/XML box at the bottom right-hand side of the page.

There's a page that explains more here and a big list of more Yahoo feeds here. Yahoo Gains RSS Feeds For Web Search & Discovering Auto-Discovery from me also covers how to get feeds for Yahoo web search and other types of searches.

How about a feed of blog search results? Nowhere to be found, as far as I can tell. Even if you click through to view only blog search results, there's no RSS icon nor any autodiscovery of a feed enabled. And from what I can see, subscribing to a news search result only brings back news matches despite the new blog integration. Overall, it's an omission that needs to be fixed quickly.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our forum thread, Yahoo Mixes Blog Search With News Search.

Postscript: Yahoo's added RSS feeds for blog search. More here: Yahoo Blog Search Gets RSS Feed.