Yahoo News Upgrades To Take On Google News

Yahoo released a new version of its news search engine late last week, a new move in what may be a modern-day version of the great newspaper wars.

The old version of Yahoo News combined content from 100 Yahoo news partners, although its advanced news search option did enable users to search 4,500 Web sources. The new version of Yahoo News, which the company is calling Yahoo News Search 2.0, now enables users to search more than 7,000 global news sources in 35 languages.

This makes Yahoo News Search 2.0 appear to be “more comprehensive” than Google News, which presents information culled from approximately 4,500 news sources worldwide. However, a series of queries on both news search engines presents a relatively mixed picture.

But tests using February’s top ten news queries as reported by the Google Zeitgeist showed mixed results, with Google edging out Yahoo in some cases. Of course, these reported results are estimates and may not represent an apples to apples comparison between the two news services.

While the jury is still out on which news search engine is more comprehensive, Yahoo News has an undisputed lead over Google News in popularity — at least according to statistics compiled by Neilsen//NetRatings. Yahoo News had a unique audience of 19.8 million visitors in January 2004. By comparison, Google News had a unique audience of 4.1 million.

On the other hand, Google News is just a year and a half old, while Yahoo News has been around since the fall of 1995. So, comparing their current popularity may not be an accurate indication of their relative growth trajectories.

The enhanced Yahoo News leverages the company’s new search technology, which debuted last month. Yahoo News Search 2.0 includes new functionality, including:

  • Improved ranking algorithms, which Yahoo says makes results “more relevant.”
  • More frequent crawls throughout the day that refresh content three times more often, which make results “more up-to-the-minute.”
  • A “Sort by” feature on the results page that enables users to sort results by relevance or date with one click.
  • An “Also try” feature on the results page that suggest related searches to help users refine their query and get more focused search results.
  • New commands on the advanced search page that allow users to search by location or news source.

Above the Yahoo News Search Results, you will find links to Full Coverage on specific topics and news events, selected by Yahoo editors. To the right, you will find related news photos, audio and video. On the lower right, you will find News Alerts, which inform you of breaking news related to a specific subject if you can sign up.

News from Reuters and the Associated Press is stored in the Yahoo News index for two weeks. News from other sources is usually stored for one month, although for some providers it could be as little as seven days.

While Yahoo News won the Search Engine Watch Award for Best News Search Engine back in February 2002, Google News won this prize the following two years. In the most recent voting, Google News screamed ahead of all other services in the popular vote, garnering an impressive 62 percent of the 641 votes. Yahoo News received just 22 percent of the popular vote – not a bad showing, but far behind Google.

Yahoo News Search 2.0 should make next year’s competition for Best News Search Engine much, much closer.

But, Google News isn’t likely to rest on its laurels. And, we shouldn’t forget that Daypop currently indexes over 59,000 news sites, weblogs and RSS feeds for current events and breaking news.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s MSN has been testing a news search feature, which relies on data from Moreover, on its international and foreign language sites, according to a recent article in ClickZ News.

In other words, the great news search engine wars have just begun.

Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR and was a speaker in the Public Relations Via Search Engines session at the Search Engine Strategies 2004 Conference & Expo held earlier this month in New York.

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