Five Days Alone with Yahoo!

Filed in Searcher Behavior, Yahoo by Matt McGee on November 20, 2006 0 Comments

No, I didn’t actually spend five days on Yahoo!’s campus (though I’d love the opportunity to do so). My “five days with Yahoo!” is something much more personal, but it’s also something you can do, too. If you’re willing to take risks.

See, I realized recently that I’ve become too reliant on Google. I’ve become too dependent on that spartan home page with the big text field where I can type anything I want and get feedback in less than a second — even the most well-trained dogs aren’t that responsive! Google really is Man’s Best Friend.

And Google has been easy, too. It’s right there in the upper corner of my browser. It was there when I was using Safari, and it was still there when I switched to Firefox a few months ago. I don’t have to go to Google to use Google.

Then I decided this had to stop. There are other search engines out there, and I need to play the field. At 38, I’m too young to settle down with one search engine. So, I did the unthinkable. I took Yahoo! out on a date. It started easily enough: I went up to the top right corner of my browser, said goodbye to Google (told her I might be back in a week or so), and made Yahoo! the default browser search engine.

Here’s a picture I took on our first date:

Firefox search bar/Yahoo

I’m not usually one to kiss and tell, but our date was pretty interesting. Everybody Loves Google, but Ugly Yahoo! was fun and, for the most part, satisfied all my needs (if you know what I mean). We spent five days together, me and Yahoo!, doing a fair amount of searches. Some of those were personal, and won’t be included here. And many were work/client-related, and those also won’t be discussed here. But I will share about 10-12 SERPs that make an interesting, if completely unscientific case study of dating Yahoo! vs. dating Google.

Query: [agiven site:atu2.com]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: “Agiven” is the name of a relatively unknown band in Ireland that I happen to like. I’ve written about them a couple times on @U2, my independent U2 fan site. The purpose of this search was to track down the two old articles I’d written where Agiven had been mentioned.
Results? Yahoo! and I got off to a bad start, like many dates often do. Yahoo! didn’t find anything. I was embarrassed to have to go back to Google so quickly, but sure enough, Google had the links I needed.

Query: [950 kjr]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: The home page of the all-sports radio station in Seattle, 950 KJR.
Results? This felt much better. Yahoo! gave me exactly what I needed in the No. 1 spot.
Anything else? Both Yahoo! and Google include the KJR Wikipedia entry in their top 10. Both sets of SERPs are pretty heavy with news-related pages that mention the radio station. The most noticeable difference is that Yahoo ranks KJR’s duplicate domain at #2, while Google doesn’t show the 2nd domain in its top 50. Yahoo! also has five of its own directory pages (where KJR is listed) in the top 20.

Query: [kelsey group]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: The home page of the Kelsey Group. I was trying to track down their recent local search projections.
Results? No surprise for a company home page query — Yahoo! gave me exactly what I needed in the No. 1 spot.
Anything else? Google also has the right page at No. 1. Both engines have Kelsey’s blog at No. 2, but Google has the correct/current URL, while Yahoo! still has the old one. This is also a good example of how the Google Sitelinks really add to the user experience.

Query: [define:remiss]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: A definition for “remiss.”
Results? Poor Yahoo!. I had asked it to do something using the same language I used when speaking to Google. My mistake. Yahoo! came up with nothing. This is a Google search operator.

Query: [didgeridoo]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: Information (and the correct spelling) about a musical instrument called a didgeridoo.
Results? Yahoo! rebounded with a Wikipedia entry at No. 1, and that gave me what I needed. (Google had the Wikipedia entry at No. 3.)

Query: [google sitelinks]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: I was looking for either the official Google Help explanation of sitelinks, or the Search Engine Watch coverage about them.
Results? At No. 3 in the SERPs, Yahoo! pointed me to a Google blog entry about sitelinks, which consequently had the link to their Help pages. So that worked, in a slightly roundabout way.
Anything else? Google had the two exact things I wanted at No. 1 and No. 2 — the SEW blog post about sitelinks, and then the Google Help page. Nice.

Query: [yahoo quick links]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: I was mostly looking to see if I had the name correct.
Results? At No. 3 in the SERPs (again), Yahoo! pointed me to what I wanted — a SEW blog post about Quick Links being added to Wikipedia results. That confirmed the name “Quick Links” for me.
Anything else? The No. 1 result on Yahoo! for this query was strange — a Yahoo! Directory listing on Religion & Spirituality. Meanwhile, the No. 1 Google result is perfect: a Yahoo! Searchblog entry about Quick Links. Now why wouldn’t that rank No. 1 in Yahoo!, too?

Query: [ilq firefox extension]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: The download page for this Firefox extension.
Results? Yahoo! had the SEOCompany.ca page in the No. 2 spot in the SERPs, behind a forum discussion which had the link. That’ll work. (Google had the same two results at the top, but switched.)

Query: [show ip firefox extension]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: The download page for this Firefox extension.
Results? Yahoo! had the mozilla.org download page at No. 1. Perfect! (Google had it at No. 2 – exact opposite of the situation above with the ILQ query.)

Query: [boise newspaper]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: The home page of the big newspaper in Idaho. I assumed it was based in Boise.
Results? Yahoo! had the Idaho Statesman at No. 2 in the SERPs behind Boise Weekly, a newspaper I’d never heard of.
Anything else? I found what I wanted, but Idaho Statesman should be No. 1 for this query. It’s the dominant newspaper in Idaho and it’s based in Boise, the capital. Google has the Statesman at No. 1, with the Boise Weekly at No. 2. Why the difference? We know Google values inbound links more than any other engine. The Statesman has 4x-5x more IBLs according to MSN and Yahoo.

Query: [how to call London]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: How to make an international call to London, of course.
Results? Yikes! Holy %@!#$. What am I looking at? Book listings, anti-terrorism articles, and finally, at No. 8, a helpful page.
Anything else? Google, frankly, wasn’t much better. The top 10 was littered with book listings and pages about London call girls. Needless to say, I should’ve put my query in quotes, where I would’ve found much more helpful SERPs.

Query: [current time London]

see it on: Yahoo! // Google
What I was looking for: The current time in London, of course.
Results? Yahoo! gave me exactly what I wanted right in the SERPs via a “Shortcut.” Google would’ve done the same had I searched there.

After our date…

Even though Google had slightly better SERPs overall, my date with Yahoo! was satisfying. Yahoo! gave me what I wanted almost every time and I hardly missed Google at all. In fact, I was so pleased by the experience that I went out and added MSN Live and Ask.com search to my browser — I can date whatever search engine I want, and more than one at a time! So long, monogamous relationship with Google — I’m now a full-time search engine player!

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