Category Archives: Yahoo

Bye bye Yahoo! UK

Well it’s finally happened, Yahoo UK search is no more. Yahoo UK (and European properties) are now powered by Bing. Just over 2 years after Microsoft bought Yahoo for (apparently $0!) and about a year after the US and Canadian Yahoo portals, the once great search giant has finally abandoned the fight against the mighty Google and going the same way as Altavista, Inktomi and AllTheWeb (all bought by Yahoo! ironically in an attempt to use their search engine know how to bolster Yahoo’s search algorithms). Officially Bing will power Yahoo! search for 10 years but the deal also gives Bing access to Yahoo’s search technology and the right to integrate it within Bing search. Yahoo is rumoured to have laid off as much as 20% of it’s workforce so I can see no going back from this. I predict Yahoo! will be wholly owned by Bing in the next few years. Yahoo’s much loved site explorer tool will close at the end of the year and Bing are working on a replacement within the Bing Webmaster Toolbox. With Google properties now accounting for a massive 92% share of the UK market and Yahoo and Bing combined on 5.84% the future seems bleak for any competing search engines against the behemoth that is Google.

The browser wars look to be going the same way as well with Google’s Chrome browser now the second most used browser in the UK with a 22.1% market share and Firefox at 22%. Internet Explorer dropped a massive 15% to 41% in July.

So where did Yahoo go wrong and why hasn’t Bing made any in roads against Google in the UK? Personally I think the answer lies in Google’s focus on search as it’s main product. Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz (the head honcho, the big cheese) said in a 2009 interview:

“The priority was to get the fog away from the company. Yahoo got pegged as a search company and we’re not a search company. Search is only one aspect of what our customers do.”

Yet Yahoo! Search was where the majority of their visitors came from and losing focus on their main source of traffic (and therefore money) shows how little respect and knowledge the company’s top brass had of their own business. If you can’t draw visitors to your “portal” with the promise that they’ll find what they want then you won’t have any visitors to sign up for Yahoo mail or a small business listing or Yahoo shopping listings (the latter 2 are powered by a third party). Basically Yahoo just aggregates stuff that you can find quicker and easier in other places (e.g: Google). When was the last time you saw an advert for Yahoo in the uk? Yep it was probably this truly forgettable and overly long ad from 2009:

Doesn’t exactly get the pulse racing does it?

How about this one:

Better isn’t it? That advert was for the launch of Bing (formerly MSN Live Search) and does everything the Yahoo ad doesn’t, it tells you how to solve a problem.

Finally a Google advert from 2010 showcasing (almost) everything Google can do in one simple, effective advert:

Simple and effective, just like Google really.

Let the search engines do the work

Things have come a long way since the late 90’s when I first started learning SEO. Back then you’d submit to Altavista or Lycos or Inktomi and wait and hope that the search engines would spider you.

Nowadays it’s so much easier. The major players, Google and Bing/Yahoo, have their own dedicated “Webmaster Toolboxes” where you simply verify your site, submit an XML sitemap and watch as they crawl your site and give highly detailed reports on it’s progress. They’ll even help you create the sitemap! These toolboxes will then tell you how many pages the search engine has indexed, how often your site is visited, your top keywords, the number of links to your site, broken links, malware infected pages and much more, free of charge! Google even tells you how fast your site loads and how to improve.

Let’s look at each one in a little more detail:

Google Webmaster Tools

The daddy of the search engine world and probably the most useful of the lot. Google Webmaster Tools shows you your site’s top queries, where the site ranks over time for each query and a click-through rate for each position and keyword. It shows any crawl errors, the most used keywords on your site, the number of links to your site and each page that has external links, the submission status of your sitemap, allows you to quickly and easily point Google to your new domain if you are moving your site, internal links, and subscribers to your rss feeds. There’s also a section telling you how you can improve your site’s ranking, from HTML considerations (duplicate or short title and description tags), site speed performance, malware infections, broken links, robots.txt checks and adding content to your site’s sidewiki. YOu can even request removal of a plage from Google’s index here. You will need a Google account to access the tools.

Bing Webmaster Center

Bing’s Webmaster Center will become more important now that Bing owns Yahoo! and will soon be powering Yahoo! search, giving Bing a much larger share of the market. Of course you’ll need a Windows Live account to access the toolbox.

Once inside the toolbox you’ll see a range of reports on your site, from the date it was last crawled by Bing to Bing’s very own Domain Score. Bing ranks each page on your site out of 5, with 5 being the best. Now it’s not hard to get a 5 out of 5 rating for each page with a little bit of thought but the rating system is a handy way of showing you what pages you need to improve. Unfortunately it only shows you the top 5 pages on your site. You’ll also see the language of the page, it’s last crawled date and if it’s blocked by robots.txt or other factors. You’ll also see a count of the total number of indexed pages.

Like Google each site has a profile page where you fill in your sitemap address, manage verification settings and an optional email address where Bing can alert you to periodic news and updates, although I’ve yet to receive any mail from Bing and I’ve been using the toolbox for a long time!

Again like Google, you can view crawl issues, malware, broken links, etc., view backlinks and outbound links by domain and subdomain.

Where the Bing Webmaster Center fails to match Google is the Keywords area of the toolbox. Bing does not give you any reports on your top performing keywords at all and their keyword tool is shockingly bad. Basically you type in a keyword or phrase in to the tool and it returns a list of pages on your site that feature that word or phrase along with a domain rank score for each page. There is no data on click through rates, positions, the number of times your page appeared in the search results for that phrase, nothing useful in short.

Yahoo Site Explorer

The Yahoo! Site Explorer is probably on it’s way to the scrap heap now Bing are in charge yet Site Explorer can still provide some useful information in the meantime. You will need a Yahoo ID to access the full features of Site Explorer. Like the other two you can manage yor sitemap feed here, view the number of indexed pages and crawl errors. Site Explorer also shows you the number of domains that link to and from your site and like Google shows your top performing keywords although in far less detail than Google. Like Google you can request page deletions.

Where Yahoo! surpasses the others is in it’s reporting of backlinks. Yahoo seems to list every single link to your site and you can filter by domain, subdomain and page. Yahoo also lists every single page on your site that it has indexed.

What about Ask?

Ask is the only one of the big search engines that have yet to roll out a webmasters area but it does support xml sitemaps and allows you to ping the sitemap so they know of any changes.
http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http%3A//www.the URL of your sitemap here.xml

So take the hard work out of the basics, submit your site to these webmaster toolboxes, wait whilst they gather some information on your site and follow their suggestions and your search engine traffic will start to increase. The toolboxes take away some of the guesswork of improving your rankings allowing you to concentrate on writing quality content and gaining links.

Yahoo snubs Armistice Day

Today is Armistice day, marking the end of the First World War. Google, Bing and Ask all have commemerative logos / layouts whereas Yahoo has nothing. No poppies, no special logo. Now I don’t know if Yahoo had something on Remembrance Sunday but considering this marks the end of one of the bloodiest global conflicts in human history I expected something.

The logos for Google, Ask and Bing are below.

If you mouse over several parts of the Bing image it presents you with facts about Armistice Day, Poppies, World War 1 and related poetry.

The meta keyword tag is dead.

Yahoo! has publically announced it no longer uses the Meta keyword attribute for ranking sites. Apparently they stopped using is a few months ago but today at the SMX East conference’s “Ask the Search Engines: Best Practices” seminar, Yahoo Search’s Senior Director, Cris Pierry, let slip that Yahoo no longer uses the keywords tag when ranking pages.

So is that it for the keyword tag? Is it now just a part of Internet history? Google has never used it, Bing does not support it and now Yahoo doesn’t. Of the major players that only leaves Ask and I can’t find any recent concrete evidence that says they use the tag either. The specifications for HTML 5 don’t include the keywords name although it has been proposed as an addition.

So should you ignore keywords from now on? Yes, unless you’re optimising for a custom search engine for your site or Intranet.

New look Yahoo! goes live worldwide!

Although we’ve already had access to Yahoo!’s new look here in the UK and in the US, the redesign and new features are now live worldwide.

At first glance basically everything is purple instead of red. It has a choice of skins or colour schemes to choose from, switch to “compact view” (change the page size so it fits on 800 x 600 monitors by getting rid of the left hand “My Favourites” column) and “Move News To Top”, which moves the headlines from Yahoo! News, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Mail to the top of the page. According to the BBC the new look is now “the second-largest source of online traffic to the newspaper’s website”. Of course Yahoo! are taking a share of the revenue the traffic generates.

Hovering over on of the “Favourites” in the “My Favourites” list brings up a list of headlines from the site if it’s a news site, you can watch your eBay auctions from the Yahoo front page, see customized sports results and more. Of course most of the content that appears on the portal page is customizable too, but it seems like an awful lot of effort to set up. Personally I go to Yahoo! for search, not to organize my life. According to Yahoo’s senior vice-president for Europe, Rich Riley, surveys suggest that 60% of Yahoo users in the UK want a one-stop shop to organise their life on the Internet. But that’s a survey of Yahoo users, not the general public or the average user. Whilst I applaud Yahoo! for listening to it’s users I think they should be catering for the mass market rather than the 1% of UK search users who use Yahoo. In a word that means fixing it’s search engine rather than investing in skins and customizable home pages.

The new look isn’t powered by Bing yet, as the tie-up between Microsoft and Yahoo is still being scrutinized by the regulators. Even if Yahoo! does begin to use Bing, will it bring back the visitors?

There are some nice features about the new Yahoo search. As well as the list of search results you can also search for related MySpace sites and Wikipedia articles from the left hand column, see related searches (like Google has at the bottom of the page), and of course there are sponsored ads. The search suggest tool is still clumsy and shifts the whole content of the page about which I dislike immensely.

Finally we come to “Search Pad”. I have absolutely no idea what this does at first glance. I can type notes in it. What these notes do I really can’t say. I can re-order them by dragging them but that’s it. I have to have a Yahoo! account if I want to save them, although it does seem to remember your search pad entries as long as your session is valid. After watching the tutorial videos I’m still at a loss to explain why I’d need “search pad”, surely I can just bookmark the results that interest me?

On the plus side, Yahoo! search retains it’s tie up with McAfee Safe Search so you know if a site is safe to visit or not. Unfortunately Safe Search is off by default and you have to enable it in the preferences. Again you need to be signed into your Yahoo! account to make sure the option stays on. I tried to turn Safe Search on, without signing in, and the default preferences say it’s already on yet the icon in the search results says it’s off. Safe Search also relies on user submissions to tell you if a site is safe or not, unlike Google’s malware warnings which are automatic.

So in summary it’s all very pretty and purple, but it’s still not as fast, relevant or as good as Google and all the bells and whistles aren’t going to change that.