Yahoo search getting smarter

October 2, 2007

I posted the other day surmising whether Yahoo is catching up in search based on some new metrics from Compete. The general feel from that post was that they weren’t really and the numbers were questionable in value.

So, what should I see this morning? New, useful features in Yahoo’s main search interface, the kind of features that make search a whole lot less painful for users and add a lot of value, helping users to target searches more effectively.

The first thing I noticed was that they have integrated images from Flickr and also playable videos, kind of like Google’s universal search idea and equally as useful to the user. So if you search for a music artist (eg. Unkle) you should get images and video in the results along with useful additions such as links to albums, lyrics, photos and more videos. Next I did a search for a hotel (eg. ‘hudson hotel new york‘) in New York (being the online travel buff that I am) and the top result in this case was a Yahoo Local listing for the hotel complete with map links, again extremely useful (although possibly doing themselves out of a small amount of ad revenue here). Another cool feature is the inclusion of custom results for searches such as health related (eg. ‘lyme disease‘), quick easy access to relevant info is the killer in search and here Yahoo have it spot on.

And then there’s the biggest and most useful addition, and it’s an addition that Google haven’t yet implemented… It’s an AJAX based search assistant panel that appears if it senses you hesitate while typing a search query. It works as an auto-complete assistant and also a guided search tool as it will both try to guess what you were typing and give you suggestions as well. This is extremely powerful and really makes search easier for the user. It also adds a lot of value to advertisers as it should mean more qualified clicks on paid search results as the searches are better informed.

I’m actually really surprised this has come out of Yahoo first, I’ve been waiting for Google to implement something like this for a while now but for once Yahoo have the upper hand. Now all they need to do is sort out the problems with their paid search results (relevancy, gaming etc), fix their algorithms for natural search and improve the interface and they could become my search engine of choice!

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