The Renaissance of Yahoo! Search
(reprint of September/October 2003 Online Magazine)
Reprint by permission only
When it arrived on the scene a few years ago, I quickly switched my homepage to Google. With my dialup connection, this was the fastest loading page I could find. Since then a slew of other search engines have also tromped down the simpler path: WiseNut, Teoma, and alltheweb come to mind. Now Yahoo! has revamped its search interface to a dedicated, simple search interface with new search options and leveraged content [http://search.yahoo.com or use the search box on the home page www.yahoo.com]. Speculation has it that the company wants to win back the market share it lost to Google only a few years ago. I probably wasn't the only person who abandoned Yahoo! for Google.
SIMPLIFYING THE INTERFACE
Yahoo!'s new interface is ad free and uncluttered. Yahoo! has spent a lot of time and money on market research to find out just what searchers want when they enter terms in the search box. The Yahoo! search results are a blend of Google algorithmic search results from the Google database and results from Yahoo! directory and news content.
On the Yahoo! Search page there are tabs for the Web, Directory, News, Yellow Pages, Images, and Maps, located to the left of the search box. Under the search box are categories that link you to other locations searchable on Yahoo! such as Shopping, Hot Jobs, Kids’ Sites, Movies, and Travel.
When you enter a term in a Web search Yahoo! will suggest “related” words to enhance search results. These related words do not take the place of "categories," which appear as well. Instead, they offer alternative suggestions that a researcher might not have used and help disambiguate the search, increasing the chances for better results. These “related” words are located just below the search box.
A new Yahoo! feature is Open in a New Window, indicated by this double page icon:
. This search feature allows you to open an additional browser window to view a search result site. Access to the original search result page is still in view. Using this feature, you don’t have to press your back key to view the original result list while viewing a site from your list. It is easy to split a window to view the new window and result list. Only Wisenut’s “Sneak-a-peak” feature has had this capability.
GOOGLISTIC SEARCH SYNTAX
Those who use Google will be familiar with the search syntax that is used on Yahoo!'s Web and images search¾it's the same. Just as in Google, a Yahoo! searcher can search the title, URL, file type, link, and similar queries by using intitle, allintitle, inurl, allinurl, filetype, link, and related commands. Most of these commands can also be implemented through Yahoo! Search’s Advanced Web Search page. The Advanced Web Search also allows a date restrictor, domain restrictor, content filter, language preferences, specific country restrictor, and the ability to increase the number of results per page from the default of 20.
Yahoo!'s advanced search choices remain in effect for your current search. If you want to retain these for other searches, set up your profile in Preferences. Once you've saved your preferences, they will be applied to all your Yahoo! searches.
Very few search engines and portals allow the use of truncation. Truncation can be used on Yahoo!¾sort of. However, truncation is limited to the News section. The truncation symbol is an asterisk. Thus, a search for automobile* will retrieve both automobile and automobiles.
If your Yahoo! search terms are included in the hierarchy of the Yahoo! Directory, the appropriate categories will display above both sponsor results and Web results. If the actual Web result is included in the Yahoo! Directory, Yahoo! lets you search the category with one click. This feature is located at the bottom your search results, appearing as a red arrow followed by text: "
More sites about:” Also note that, as with Google, Web results pages are cached and that you can search within the site of the result. Google's ability to search similar pages is not included in Yahoo! search.
Because Yahoo! has its own content, it has the ability to provide results that no other search engine can match. It has leveraged its content by providing “shortcuts.” Yahoo! has analyzed what searchers are really trying to find in five specific areas: news, weather, maps, yellow pages, and definition of words. If a searcher inputs: weather Greensboro, the Yahoo! folks have figured out that the person wants the current weather forecast for that area. This is what Yahoo! calls "direct display" of its content. If an address of a location is typed at the search box, Yahoo! interprets this information as the search requesting a map and Yahoo! provides a map with driving directions.
Since Yahoo! has its own Yellow Pages content (in partnership with BellSouth Real Pages, which sources information from infoUSA), a search done with the words plumber 27410 (a ZIP code in Greensboro) provides Yellow Page listings for plumbers in that region. The Yellow Pages on Yahoo! are impressive. Not only does it give you the name, address, and phone number of the entity searched but it also provides links to a map for the location and to city guides.
Direct display works the same for news and defining a word. To define a word, type define then the word that needs to be defined. Yahoo! then returns the definition, sourced from American Heritage Dictionary. For news, input the word news then the subject matter keyword for the news that needs to be retrieved. Yahoo! will immediately return news on the keywords. These results do not duplicate Google News headlines, as they are sourced from Yahoo! news providers.
Besides these five content driven shortcuts, Yahoo! also provides shortcuts that help the searcher to use simple keyword “shortcuts” predefined by Yahoo! with an “!” at the end of the keyword resulting in Yahoo! taking you to a specific location for those goods or services. For example, if I am at Yahoo!’s home page and I input: fantasy football! then Yahoo! will automatically take me to Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football page. Shortcuts can be done for taxes!, games!, Fantasy Sports!, hot jobs! etc. Yahoo! provides a full listing of Yahoo! shortcuts [http://search.yahoo.com/shortcuts_tutorial/yahoolist.html].
Yahoo!’s Images return the same number of images that Google does. Yahoo! returns .jpg, .gif, and .png file formats. Be aware that Yahoo!’s images are different images than their Picture Gallery [gallery.yahoo.com]. The Picture Gallery is meant for your own “personal publishing." Therefore, these are a separate set of images being searched than the vast amount of images browsed on the Web.
Maps are another content driven shortcuts. Enter the full address to have the map directly displayed. If you use the Map tab, there is a form where you can enter the street address and the City, State, or ZIP code.
DOING A YAHOO! SEARCH
According to comScore Networks, the provider of insight to consumer’s behavior by interpreting a cross section of 1.5 million global Internet users, Yahoo! has the domestic leadership, 26%, for the average weekly U.S. searches as of the end of January 2003. With Yahoo!’s content being leveraged, the combination of Google being the supporting search engine and combined Google and Yahoo! results, I wonder if more people will start saying, “Did you do a Yahoo! search?” instead of "Did you do a Google search?" when information needs to be retrieved. As search engines and portals move to a simpler, dynamic content driven form, Yahoo! appears to be back on track to be the search powerhouse it was several years ago. It is time for serious searchers to sit up and take notice of Yahoo! once again.
Donna Fryer is an Information Consultant, Researcher, and Trainer with Global Information Research & Retrieval, LLC www.SearchitRight.com