Yahoo has sent word that they are testing integration of data from their Delicious social bookmarking site within the Yahoo search results pages. For some users, a search will now show whether a page listed in Yahoo results is also on Delicious and how it has been tagged. It brings back memories of Yahoo My Web integration and, before that, how the Yahoo Directory used to work. More below.
The screenshot above from Yahoo is an example of this. In a search on java, you can see under the page description for Java.com how you are also told:
Don’t see it yourself? I certainly don’t, and Yahoo itself says the implementation has not been rolled out to everyone. From the heads-up email Yahoo sent us:
Some users may start to see the del.icio.us icon as part of search results, which tells them how many people have bookmarked those pages as well as the tags that people have supplied for those pages.
As you know we constantly run tests to improve the user experience and overall quality of Yahoo! Search …. keep in mind this is only a test. We will of course also let you know if we decide to roll this feature out to all users.
Here’s the larger version of the screenshot Yahoo sent, where I’ve highlighted in red how several results get the Delicious integration:
Is the Delicious data being used as part of the Yahoo ranking algorithm, to help boost results? Yahoo didn’t say, but I’m following up on that. [NOTE: Yahoo has now confirmed that this is only a display change and that rankings are not altered by Delicious data]. Personally, I doubt it. That could very well come, but Yahoo doesn’t seem to have the infrastructure in place to start doing this — Yahoo My Web, for example, was never acknowledged to boost results.
The integration itself is similar to how Yahoo My Web used to work. Yahoo What Web? Back in June 2005, Yahoo rolled out its own homegrown page bookmarking service called My Web (homegrown, unlike Delicious and Flickr, which were purchased).
My Web still exists, but Yahoo pulled way back from it. For a time, you’d get pages tagged on My Web integrated into search results very similar to how Delicious information is now being shown. Here’s an example of that:
That integration got dropped entirely in October 2006.
One thing you have to wonder, or perhaps feel sad about, is why the Yahoo Directory now seems to get less respect than Delicious. No disrespect to Delicious — it’s a great resource, and I use it myself. But the Yahoo Directory WAS Yahoo — a list of human edited listings of what’s supposed to be the best in various categories.
As Aaron Wall pointed out today, you have to hunt to find the damn thing these days. Yahoo Answers gets featured on the Yahoo home page, but not the Yahoo Directory. If you do a search for something like java, results from the directory are nowhere to be seen.
Consider this evolution of Yahoo over time. A search for shoes in 1999, with the directory dominating the results:
By 2002, directory links had been shortened, but they were still at the top of the page:
By 2004, the directory section was gone, but at least a site listed in the Yahoo Directory and showing up in web search results got a "Category" line under its listing:
Now in 2008, you have to ask what the purpose of the Yahoo Directory is to Yahoo other than apparently an easy way to get site owners chasing links to pay $299 per year. Harsh? As I’ve covered, it’s not like actual searchers can easily find the directory. At this point, you have to wonder if there are more site owners and SEOs that know it exist than searchers. Either show that directory some love or kill the thing off as part of the overall restructuring and consolidation (Flickr-Photos; Yahoo 360; Yahoo Podcasts) that’s been going on.
At the very least, killing the Yahoo Directory will save me and others from having to explain why while Google says don’t buy links, it is still OK and even recommended to buy links from Yahoo because of the apparent human oversight that the directory provides.
Perhaps editorial oversight isn’t the only requirement Google should have, when considering what’s a "good" paid link. Perhaps visibility of the directory is also important. If you’re selling links from a part of your site that’s largely hidden away from the majority of your users, maybe that link — regardless of all the editorial review — shouldn’t get counted any longer.
For more on the Delicious rollout, see discussion on Techmeme.