Head-To-Head: Yahoo Search Direct Vs. Google Instant

Yahoo rolled out Yahoo Search Direct today, its rival to Google Instant. Yahoo says that its service is focused on providing actual answers, while Google’s is focused on bringing back links. True? Let’s have a face-off.

Test 1: Who’s #Winning For Charlie Sheen?

Yahoo says one of the 15 areas that it’s especially focused on right now with Yahoo Search Direct  is that of celebrities. Well, celebrity Charlie Sheen is still making plenty of news. What happens if I try searching for him at both places?

Typing in “charlie…” on Yahoo gives me:

There are links to Sheen’s Wikipedia page, his Twitter account and a YouTube video about him. Those are all links, not answers.

Meanwhile, Google gives me links, too:

But I have to hand this one to Google. In those links are recent news items about Sheen, which I think are better “answers” than what Yahoo is providing.

Test 2: What’s Playing Near Me?

How about movies showing near me. I type in “mov….” and both show me movie information, even before I finish the word. Here’s Yahoo:

Yahoo gives me three links, to Yahoo Movies, to Movies.com and to Fandango.

Here’s Google:

Again, I hand this one to Google. Google has guessed at my location, gotten it pretty correct and shows me local screening information. Sure, it’s one city off — but Yahoo didn’t get my city at all.

Test 2, Subsection A: How About By ZIP Code

Yahoo’s demo suggested that I might get better results for a movie search if I also entered a ZIP code. So, I gave it one near me:

That’s pretty nice, though it misses out two theaters that are actually more convenient to the 92661 ZIP code and instead lists the Edwards Univesity Town Center location that’s farther away.

What’s Google got?

Yes, same thing Google showed before. If I want more from Google, I have to do an extra click:

And the clicking is pretty good — I get the nearby Triangle Square cinema listed, which Yahoo’s Search Direct display missed.

Now, if I clicked into Yahoo’s own movie results, I also find Triangle Square listed. But the point about Yahoo Search Direct is that I’m not supposed to have to make that extra click.

Test 3: What’s The Weather?

In Yahoo’s demo, they seemed to totally trump Google in how typing only “wea…” would present the local weather:

But in reality, I got a different experience:

And at Google?

I actually got the weather for my area, just by typing the letters “Wea….” I’d say that was another win by Google.

Don’t get me wrong — I love that Yahoo’s bringing this new system out. Maybe things will improve, as it gets up to speed. Plus, if I ran more tests, maybe it would come out as more impressive than Google Instant.

But it’s also not correct to dismiss Google Instant as just showing a bunch of links. It’s showing answers, too.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features: Analysis | Yahoo Search Direct | Yahoo: Search


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Steve

    Great review. I appreciate this was a small sample.

    The processing power under the “hood” of Google Instant must be awesome and a competitive differentiator with any wannabee. I believe the computing power needed for Yahoo to replicate the Google Instant experience might be why their approach does not seem be as pure as Google Instant and why their results seem to fall short.

    And on a side note, I was really impressed with Google Chrome update yesterday which incorporates their amazing voice to text, another future differentiator.

  • http://caridy.name/ Caridy Patino

    Danny we found an issue in search.yahoo.com with the geo-location in our first beta. That’s why you have to add the zipcode for “weather” query in search.yahoo.com. Although, in the search result page it works fine:

    Fix is on its way :). Btw, thanks for taking the time to review our beta. I should gets better after some tuning.

    Best Regards,

  • Peter Hanson

    Extremely dumb.
    Search on a product nunber with Google Instant and you see an entire listing of links, along with previews. Do this with Yahoo! and all you see are the paid sponsored links.
    Dumb as dumb can get.

  • http://www.go-optimisation.co.uk kanebart

    Re: Steve
    I think this could be right for a lot of competitors but I think with Microsoft powering Yahoo they should, and I’m sure, do have the computing power to run something similar to instant. I think the main differentiator is the people and the willingness to invest heavily in search.

    Google rely on search as the main revenue stream so they invest heavily in it. Search for Microsoft/Yahoo is small fry in comparison to their core business.

    They’re investing in it but I’m sure they’re more interesting in investing in Windows etc. as that’s their cash cow. So they seem to release small updates which they expect to rival Google, but without investment they just look like weak copies.

    If the gap between Google and Microsoft was closer I’m certain they would invest a lot more money into things like this, but as it stands they don’t want to push too much into it.

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