As part of our Google Free Mondays series this month, today is the day to try Yahoo. What are Google Free Mondays all about? My past post explains the intent of the series more. The short scoop is NOT to be anti-Google but rather stress that trying alternatives is good, because there might be something better out there or you might want know you’re already making the right choice.
Below is a guide to Yahoo. Similar to the previous AOL search guide, Ask.com search guide and Microsoft Windows Live.com guide, there is some light comparison to Google. This is not meant at a definitive look at strengths and weaknesses but instead to give you a feel on how the two differ.
As I explained about Ask.com, Yahoo also has its own crawler and ranking system, which gives it a unique search "voice" that differs from Google. The different mix from Google means that Yahoo might have an answer when Google fails to provide a result.
Yahoo is unique among the major search engines in running a paid inclusion program that means site owners can pay to have URLs listed within the same database used for finding web search matches. This is different than paid placement search ads, where payment guarantees listing. Instead, Yahoo says payment does not guarantee that a URL will rank well, only that it will be added and revisited on a timely basis. Still, there’s no easy way for searchers to know if paid inclusion URLs are showing up in response to queries. That’s something that some people do care about.
I’ve long wished that Yahoo would drop its paid inclusion program or label these URLs. Having to mention paid inclusion at all is necessary but distracts from Yahoo still being an excellent search engine with the most mature search technology next to Google. Indeed, since Yahoo’s search technology incorporates that from the old Inktomi and AltaVista search engines that predate Google, Yahoo arguably is even more mature than Google (Yahoo also incorporates technology from the AllTheWeb search engine, which was newer than Google).
Ironically Google, which stressed its lack of paid inclusion when it went public, may soon become a major purchasers of paid inclusion listings on Yahoo if the DoubleClick deal goes through. Microsoft After 24/7; Another Search Engine To Own SEM Firm? covers this more.
Do a search on Yahoo, and some queries will trigger and extensive range of "Shortcuts" designed to provide direct answers without having to leave the result page. Everything from gas prices (gas 92663, for example) to weather (london weather, for example) brings up helpful links and information. You’ll find an entire list here, with Yahoo recently having added new travel shortcuts.
By the way, Yahoo Shortcuts For Sale? covers how some Yahoo Shortcuts show up due to paid partnerships. I’ve spoken to Yahoo since that came out earlier this month, and the company is considering whether it should add the word "sponsored" or some type of similar labeling to these.
Looking for pictures? Yahoo Images gives you matches that come from Yahoo’s crawling of the web, which means it will have a different collection than what Google gathers. In addition, Yahoo Images also provides matches that come out of its Flickr photo sharing site. These were added in June and have gained several positive reviews for increasing image search relevancy there. Image search also allow you to narrow results by size, including those matching wallpaper formats, plus to select either color or black & white.
Yahoo has one of the oldest news search sites. To me, a highlight is the long-standing Full Coverage area, where human editors are involved in creating custom pages for various news topics such as about the US 2008 Presidential Election.
Indeed, the human component key difference between Yahoo News and Google News. If you browse though news pages at Google, what you see comes solely from an algorithm guessing at what it thinks are the best stories on a topic. At Yahoo, human editors are involved in the process.
Do a keyword search, and the human component disappears. Then, as with Google, you’ll get matches that come from a large selection of news sources ranging from mainstream media to niche sites. Unfortunately, blog search results that were added with much praise in October 2005 were pulled last year in August, when Yahoo dropped them.
Yahoo Local & Maps
Yahoo Local has been constantly expanded over the years to provide tons of information about local businesses and events (powered by Yahoo’s Upcoming.com events service, itself recently upgraded). User reviews are also offered.
Looking for maps and directions? Yahoo Maps buts the emphasis on maps, though local information is also offered. Yahoo Maps Get A Makeover from Greg Sterling provides a Search Engine Land review of the latest changes added in May, ranging from building outlines to neighborhood color-coding. And while Google got attention earlier this year for offering live traffic reports — Yahoo already had it. Indeed, Yahoo was the first major search engine to offer it (see Google Maps Tailgates Yahoo, Microsoft With Real-Time Traffic Info for more about it).
Had no luck searching for something on your own? Yahoo Answers is a huge, thriving community of volunteers who answer questions you put to them. You can browse though a vast collection of questions already answered or put out your own question for others to answer. Answers can come in amazingly fast — if you do anything with Yahoo today, try leaving one of your questions here, to get a feel for who it works.
There are many other specialized search services beyond those I’ve listed above for Yahoo. To give you just a sampling:
- Yahoo Shopping: Lets you find
matching products from across the web.
- Yahoo Video: Video content from the
web, uploaded to Yahoo and from other sources.
- Yahoo Audio: Find music,
podcasts and more from across the web.
Yahoo Podcasts is a dedicated area for podcasts.
Yahoo Music provides music clips,
videos, songs for purchase, information and more — including lyric search
that was recently added.
- Yahoo Directory: The web’s oldest
guide to web sites that are organized into categories by humans, rather than
through the work of automation.
- Yahoo Travel: Find hotel, flight
and other information relating to travel. You can also focus just on flight
and hotel deals using Yahoo FareChase.
- Yahoo Mobile: Either access Yahoo’s blended mobile search results, Yahoo oneSearch, using your phones internet browser or download the dedicated Yahoo Go mobile search tool.
Finally, two last tips:
- Yahoo Site Explorer:
This is Yahoo’s dedicated area just for site owners looking to learn more
about how they are listed – well worth checking out!
- Yahoo Pure Search Page: Of all the
major search engines, Yahoo has by far the busiest home page. A billion things
seem to scream out at the person who merely wants to search. Solution? Go to
search.yahoo.com – the "pure" search
page for those who just want to search.