I was all set to write an article predicting the future of search engines, when Yahoo dropped Google and replaced it with its own engine. Now that's big news. In less than twenty-four hours, Google went from about 79% of the market share to about 51%, almost overnight. And what a welcome relief it is too! Being #1 in Google was great, but when you had the misfortune of dropping even a couple of positions you really felt it. Now there will be more stability; if you drop in Google today, your hits from Yahoo will remain consistent.
What is the new Yahoo?
Last year, Yahoo bought the AltaVista, Fast, and Inktomi search engines. The new Yahoo results are none of these. Many people are saying that the results come from a new Inktomi because the results are similar; but the results are also similar to all the other search engines out there. In comparing these engines, it seems to me that Yahoo's results are from a brand new engine. Maybe they took parts and ideas from all the search engines they bought - maybe they even took the best parts - , but whatever they did, the result is something completely new.
Which search engine is better?
I will be comparing Google and Yahoo for the terms "music", "art prints and posters", "Bahamas real estate", "mosquito nets", and "liposuction". The other search engines all hold less than 4% of the market share (except for MSN which uses Yahoo's Inktomi), so I won't be considering them. Here is what I found in the top 10 results for each keyphrase:
Yahoo offers a lot of music resource sites. Information about music from different sources such as magazine, TV and other music news sites are found 6 times in the top 10 results. It also offered downloading and file sharing programs 3 times. The 10th result was an audio player program site.
Google has a lot more diversity. There were 3 music resource sites (but no magazines), one downloading program, one CD store, one radio station (Yahoo radio), one music directory, and the 10th result was an audio player program site. Google also had 2 sites in its top ten that were of no value whatsoever; MP3.com which just has one page stating that they no longer offer the services that they used to (with links to their parent company), and music.com, which is nothing more than an email gathering site for a newsletter (not a single link on the entire page).
Google's diversity is a big bonus, but the 2 spam/junk/useless sites really hurt it. The results? Yahoo 1, Google 0.
Art Prints And Posters
Yahoo offers 6 stores, while Google offers 5. The other links are all affiliate spam with no content whatsoever (just links to stores), with the exception of one of Yahoo's links, which has some biographical content about artists. So Google has 5 spam sites, and Yahoo has 3 and a half.
Yet another round goes to Yahoo.
Bahamas Real Estate
For this keyphrase, I found results between Google and Yahoo to be quite similar. The only differences were sites by actual realtors and sites that were simply property listings. Both types of results are useful, with Google having an edge in realtors. Google had some lower quality sites, but the information was just as good even though they did seem less professional. On the other hand, Yahoo did have one site that was nothing more than a links page from another realtor's site. Big boo boo.
This one goes to Google.
It seems to me that someone searching for "mosquito nets" wants either A) to buy them, or B) to learn about them, so I was expecting to find either stores or information about mosquito nets. Yahoo showed me 6 stores and 2 informational pages. The other results were a search result page (not a good result) and an inner page from a previous result (also not a good result).
Google gave me 7 stores and 3 charitable organizations (one of which was a store as well). The other 2 charitable organizations were a news article outlining what they had done regarding mosquito nets and information about mosquito nets.
So even though I didn't necessarily want the latest news about what a charity did regarding mosquito nets, I think getting the same site twice from Yahoo (not to mention the search result page) is the bigger no-no. Google wins this round.
I expected to find information about liposuction, liposuction organizations and either doctors or centers where you can have liposuction done. What I got was a lot of "how to find a doctor" sites, with a lot of good information.
Yahoo results included 3 sites doubled. This is a problem that killed AltaVista in the late 90's. Hopefully they will have it fixed soon. Other than the 3 doubled sites, the results included 4 informational sites, 2 sites for finding doctors and one poorly written article about the history of liposuction.
Google gave me 4 good informational sites, 2 good "find a doctor" sites, one recent article about liposuction for people in the industry, one site with very poor information one written by a single doctor and one site that was nothing more than a directory.
Google gets this round as well. Overall, it looks like Yahoo needs to fix its doubling of sites and Google needs to clean out some spam (poor sites).
And The Winner Is...
You! Having two good search engines to choose from makes searching that much better for everyone. It also makes getting listings better. It also makes marketing better. It also makes traffic to your site steadier. The only way this could have been worse is if Yahoo's results sucked, and they don't. They seem just as good, if not better, than Google's.
So rejoice, and enjoy a more dynamic world of online searching!
Shawn Campbell is an enthusiastic player in the ecommerce marketplace, and co-founded Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc. (http://www.redcarpetweb.com/). He has been researching and developing marketing strategies to achieve more prominent listings in search engine results since 1998. Shawn is one of the earliest pioneers in the search engine optimization field.