Part One: What Is Yahoo! Answers?

Filed in Social Media, Yahoo by Matt McGee on February 11, 2008 1 Comment

This is part one in a series on social marketing using Yahoo! Answers. You may want to start reading with the series introduction.

What Is Yahoo! Answers?

Yahoo! Answers (YA for short) is one of Yahoo!’s social media success stories. The question-and-answer service launched in December, 2005, and, according to Hitwise, it surpassed the market share of the now-defunct Google Answers within two months.

Usage Stats

In August, 2007, comScore listed Yahoo! Answers as the #2 reference site on the web, behind only Wikipedia. Yahoo’s own data from the same time shows the site with millions of users and millions of answers in the U.S. and across its 26 international versions. In December, Hitwise reported that YA gets about 1/6th the U.S. traffic that Wikipedia gets.

Yahoo Answers usage stats

My very unofficial observations show users asking dozens of questions per minute at off-peak times of day, and upwards of 100 questions per minute during busy times.

How It Works

Obviously, YA is all about people asking and answering questions. There’s a point system in place that has no real reward other than status and authority. However, as you move up from one level to the next, you do gain additional privileges, such as being able to ask and answer more questions, rate other questions, etc.

You earn points mainly by answering questions, by having your answer judged “Best Answer”, and by having other users give your answers a “thumbs up.” You lose points when you ask a question. I asked a Yahoo rep about this not long ago and was told it’s an attempt to keep the quality and quantity of questions high. (Imagine how many crap questions people would ask if they earned points for posting a question!)

Sad Yahoo Answers HamsterThe system relies on community moderation to support the community guidelines. (Of particular note for our purposes is that the community guidelines do allow link dropping in some cases. More on that later.)

Users who successfully and correctly help report spam and support the guidelines can become trusted reporters. It’s very easy to report spam, and I’ve written before about how quickly spammy questions can be removed.

Social Elements

Your use of YA is, like many social sites, based around a profile page. Your profile page is where you (and any other user) can see your activity and points earned while using Yahoo Answers. It also keeps track of every question you’ve asked, answered, and marked as “interesting”. Here’s a peak at part of my profile page:

Yahoo Answers profile

Like most social sites, you’re allowed to include a link in your profile. And like most social sites, that link is nofollowed. (see red circle) Yahoo! Answers is not a linkbuilding exercise; all links in your profile, your questions, and your answers are nofollowed.

Like any good social site, YA offers several common social features: you can add friends to grow your network, you can invite friends to join YA, you can send individual questions to friends, you can vote good or bad on other answers, and so forth. As you add friends and build your network, their questions will be highlighted for you on your profile page. For that reason alone, I suggest you build your network carefully. You don’t want a lot of low-quality questions taking up space on your profile page.

Coming tomorrow in part two of this social marketing series: Why Use Yahoo! Answers.

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