Today, at the inaugural Search Marketing Expo West conference, Yahoo plans to unveil a project code-named “Search Monkey,” a set of open-source tools that allow users and publishers to annotate and enhance search results associated with specific web sites.
The new enhancements differ from Yahoo’s “Shortcuts” that sometimes appear at the top of search result pages. Shortcuts are served by Yahoo whenever the search engine is confident that the shortcut links are more relevant than the other web search results on the page. Often, shortcuts highlight content from Yahoo’s own network of sites.
The new enhancements can be applied to any web site. Publishers can add additional information that will be displayed with the web search result. For example, retailers can include product information, restaurants can include links to menus and reviews, local merchants can display operating hours, address, and phone information, and so on—far more information than a title, URL, and description that make up current generation search results.
“Traditionally, we talk about results and results only. The interesting thing we’re adding here is the ability to annotate someone’s results,” said Amit Kumar, product lead for the open search platform.
These “apps” will be unique to each web site, and will contain content that’s directly relevant to each particular site. As Vish Makhijani, SVP & GM, Yahoo! Search, wrote on the Yahoo Search Blog:
“For example, by sharing its database of restaurant reviews, location information and photos with Yahoo!, Yelp can develop a far more visually compelling and useful search result than was previously presented to users. Here how it works: website owners like Yelp, WebMD, The New York Times, and anyone else can supply us with their data and our patented Machined Learned Ranking helps ensure these results are presented to users at the right time. Users benefit because their search results will have more useful information than they did before from websites they trust. And websites benefit through increased and higher quality traffic from Yahoo! Search. Here is an example of what it will look like:”
Anyone can create an app for a web site. Yahoo is collecting the most useful apps into a gallery that you as a searcher can enable for your own Yahoo search results. For example, if you like the app that was created for LinkedIn, which shows a mini-profile of a person, you can include that app so that the mini-profiles display whenever you search on a person’s name.
Publishers also have the ability to display an “add to Y! apps” button on their sites. This gives the searcher the ability to see enhanced search results, or, alternately, when viewing information on a publisher’s site to quickly switch to an enhanced Yahoo search result for that particular topic, product, and so on.
Yahoo used the code name “search monkey” in homage to Greasemonkey, the Firefox plugin that allows you to tweak the way web pages appear in your browser. Like Greasemonkey, search monkey is open source, meaning anyone can use it to enhance any web site. Yahoo plans to encourage the developer community to create a broad set of enhancements for thousands of web sites.
If you’re interested in learning more about Yahoo’s open search platform, you can do so live and in person if you’re attending SMX West. Amit Kumar, the product lead for the open search platform, will be discussing it at a special lunch talk (Session time: 12:30pm to 1:00pm, Location: Santa Clara Convention Center, Great America J).
Postscript From Danny: Matt Cutts notes that Google has a similar program called Subscribed Links. Indeed it does — one that’s been running since May 2006 and, as far as I can tell, is practically used by no one and seen by no searchers. Both Barry and I were very active promoters of subscribed links to our readers, yet there was very little take-up.
When Chris Sherman and I did our call with Yahoo, we put this directly to them — how’s this program at Yahoo going to be any more (or less) successful than subscribed links? The answer was that by default, some of the Search Monkey apps will be switched on for all users. With Google’s program, unless a user actively chooses an enhancement (and most don’t), nothing will show. It’s still being clarified who will get to be a default provider, but one top feature is how useful Yahoo deems the app to be.