Last week, Yahoo's search results pages underwent probably the most significant change since the service began. Yahoo also increased the price of its Yahoo Express submission service to $299, last month.
For years, Yahoo has followed what I call the "CSP" model of search results: presenting category listings first (the C), then web site listings (the S) and finally matching web pages (the P).
As Yahoo has grown, this model made it likely that users would get overwhelmed by matching category listings, when searching for popular topics. For example, a search for "travel" would find 80 categories, meaning that you needed to hit the "Next" button 3 times before seeing any web site matches.
Of course, many people would immediately find a relevant category in the first page of results and click through to it, thus giving them access to the web site listings compiled by Yahoo editors for that topic. Nevertheless, some people want both category and web site matches all at once, and the Yahoo change has been designed to satisfy them.
"A number of users in our usability tests said they want to see more of those [web site matches” on the first page, said Scott Gatz, general manager of search and directory at Yahoo. "With the changes, we can we present more of those, as well as highlight the concept of our categories."
Matching category links still remain. When found in response to a search, they come at the top of the results, under the heading "Category Matches." You may see up to five category listings. If there are more than five matches, you can access the entire list by using the "Next" link to the far right of the Category Matches heading.
Yahoo has also made its category names more readable. For instance, the "Air Travel" category in the past would have been listed in the search results as "Recreation > Travel > Air Travel." Now all categories have been given short, user-friendly names to appear in the search results.
"For the new folks coming on to the net, they need a little easier way to read what the categories about." Gatz said. "One of the biggest things is making the names shorter and easier for them to understand."
After the category matches, you may now get up to 20 web site matches. They come under the "Web Site Matches" heading. These are web sites that have been reviewed by Yahoo editors and added to one of its categories. In contrast to category links, clicking on a web site link takes you directly to the web site, rather than to a list of web sites in Yahoo about a particular topic.
Below each web site match is a "More sites about" link. If you click on that link, you'll be taken to category where the web site "lives" within Yahoo. That category will also list similar sites. For instance, searching for "train travel" brings up a web site called "How to Travel Europe by Train." Selecting the "More sites about" link then gives you a list of sites compiled by Yahoo editors about European train travel.
Finally, by using the "Next" button at the bottom of the results page, you'll eventually move past Web Site Matches to the "Web Page Matches" area, as noted by that heading. These are results that come from Google, which is why the Google logo appears at the top of the results page. Selecting links from here takes you directly to matching pages that Google has found from crawling the entire web.
As a reminder, Google results are provided for those times when Yahoo's editors themselves have not categorized anything that seem to match your search topic. For instance, search for "feeding hedgehogs" at Yahoo, and Google results come up immediately. That's because Yahoo's editors themselves haven't reviewed any sites on this topic -- or more appropriately, haven't written a description about any sites that use those words. By "falling through" to Google, Yahoo users can still receive some relevant results.
Under each Web Page Match, you'll see a "More Results From" link. Unlike the "More sites about" link described above, this link brings back other pages from the same web site as the page that is listed. In other words, you won't get a list of web sites on a particular topic. Instead, you'll simply be shown a list of web pages from a particular web site, which match your search terms.
Another significant change at Yahoo was the increase in its "Yahoo Express" submission price from $199 to $299.
The program is required for anyone submitting to one of Yahoo's commercial categories. It is the first price change for the service, since it launched back in February 1999, with the exception of the June 2000 increase to $599 for adult site submissions.
The move follows LookSmart's lead in August, when LookSmart raised its "Express Submit" price from $199 to $299. Yahoo declined to say whether LookSmart's increase had made it more comfortable taking its own price up. Instead, the increase was due to high demand and the need to keep quality up, Yahoo said.
"There's really been a strong demand for that product," Gatz said. "People still see the value in such a product. They see it as a very good one-time investment."
It's hard to see why a 50 percent price increase is necessary to keep the service level up, but it's much easier to understand that Yahoo no doubt saw the listings it provides as undervalued, especially coming after the LookSmart move. And, even at the higher price, getting listed in Yahoo remains one of the bargains in terms of gaining web traffic.
Getting non-commercial content listed within non-commercial categories remains free at Yahoo. To help site owners (along with users) understand what's commercial, Yahoo's commercial categories now clearly say "Yahoo Commercial Directory" in the yellow reverse bar at the top of the page.
How Yahoo Works
Very detailed guide to the process of submitting successfully to Yahoo, available to Search Engine Watch members. Explains what Most Popular sites are, reasons to carefully choose a category and tips on how to get non-commercial content listed.