Does Yahoo + Del.icio.us = Yahoo's Relevance in Search Again?

    Posted by Pete Caputa on Jan 21, 2008 1:22:00 PM

    Most people forget that if it wasn't for Yahoo, Google wouldn't exist. Yahoo had enough foresight to realize that Google's algorithmic search engine was better. And they did a deal to use Google's technology to power Yahoo's search engine, before anyone ever heard of Google. Years later now, Yahoo has spent a lot of $ and time to try and duplicate Google's technology. And they've developed a nice "me-too" search business for both organic rankings and paid listings. It's a big business for Yahoo! Huge, actually. But, they are very far behind Google in terms of search volume and revenue.

    Find me 10 websites that get more search traffic from Yahoo than Google and I'll kiss a monkey's ass. Most people use Google. As a result, Google makes a lot more $ from search than Yahoo! Some people have suggested that Yahoo should throw in the towel and use Google again to power their search and ppc ad platform.

    I highly disagree. It would be disastrous for both democracy and commerce. Without Yahoo in the race, Google would be the closest thing to Big Brother as the human race has ever invented. Maybe they aren't evil. But, they'd wield way too much power and influence. They already wield too much power with an almost unbreakable ecosystem of SEO & SEM professionals, small businesses, advertisers, media companies and individuals reliant on it for survival.

    Not only would Yahoo throwing in the towel be bad for womankind. But, I think it'd be like quitting a marathon because you're behind in the first mile. There's lots more room in the search race for game changing innovation.

    One of Yahoo's secret weapons is Del.icio.us. If you haven't heard of it, you may soon. It's generally a site that web native early adopters use to save web pages they want to visit later - like you probably use internet explorer's bookmarking tool. However, del.icio.us saves the web pages to an online account that you can search, gives you tools to organize lots of pages, and share it with others.

    Unlike Digg, many different types of demographics (besides pimpled slightly-post-pubescent internet geeks) use delicious. So, it's not constrained to one demographic. For example, I did a search for Vegetarian Chili Recipes on delicious this weekend, and it returned a ridiculous amount of great results. I used the recipe that had been bookmarked by 264 delicious users, and the chili turned out delicious! (Pun fully intended.)

    In a conversation I had a week or two ago with a prospect, we talked about Delicious. Among other things, HubSpot's website grader reports how many times your website has been bookmarked on Delicious vs your competitors. It doesn't mean a whole lot by itself other than the fact that your website may be "viral" if a bunch of people have bookmarked it. In "non-marketing" other words, if one company has a lot of bookmarks on delicious vs their competitors, it means they are probably better at publishing information that people find useful. But, delicious itself doesn't send a lot of traffic to websites and it doesn't help you increase your search rankings in search engines since it uses the "nofollow" tag in all outbound links.

    Atleast not yet. TechCrunch reported last week that Yahoo is inserting Del.icio.us bookmark data in Yahoo's search results.  It's not clear whether Yahoo is planning to use Del.icio.us data to reorder Yahoo search results. But, I'd highly doubt if they weren't thinking about using it as a factor to atleast help rank search results. They'd be stupid not to consider it.

    Both Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask all use formulas that take into account the number, quality and construction of links pointing to a website to rank websites in search results for a given keyword phrase. However, most people don't create links on the web. I'd hazard to wager that more people bookmark stuff more frequently than they do create links on the web. So, by using delicious bookmarks to rank search results, Yahoo could drastically improve the quality of its search results. It's like running two different polls. The one with more votes is usually a more accurate poll results. Right now, Google has more votes in its poll. But, with delicious, Yahoo could leapfrog google.

    Assuming they are considering this, Yahoo isn't the first company to consider letting people more directly influence search rankings. Back in 2004, Eurekster started an interesting trend of letting people directly build search results. I actually started an unofficial blog to cover it. Google has an experiment in place too. And Readburner is a cool application built on top of Google reader which shows which stories are shared the most. (Ironically - or not - an article about Delicious is at the top right now.) Techmeme is a much more popular memetracker which uses link patterns between a small group of tech blogs to create a list of top news. There's one for baseball, gossip and politics too. It's certainly feasible that a search engine could take this approach for every topic conceivable. Both Mahalo and Wikia search are attempts at throwing away the algorithm and letting users build search engine results pagesGoogle Web History also uses your previous search results to rank your own search results. Many SEO professionals think that click track data affects the main search result rankings too.

    In short, there are all kinds of experiments being conducted to leverage different user inputs to rank search results. Many different types of approaches are being tested to let users rank search results more directly; to crowdsource search rankings. As search engines expand the variables in their algorithms to include more user inputs, the search engine with the most user inputs will most likely serve the best search results. Delicious is a huge bank of user inputs with a thriving community of inputters. The question is whether Yahoo + Delicious search results can attract searchers to Yahoo from Google?  Combined with a new more-useable Delicious look and more prominence in search results, could Yahoo's search business see a rise in usage? Will SEO professionals start using Delicious to engineer Yahoo search results? Can Yahoo leverage the user base at Delicious to increase usage of their search and impressions for Yahoo Search marketing? I wouldn't bet against it. On the other hand, are they too disorganized to pull it off?

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    Topics: delicious, yahoo, bookmarking, SEO, search engine optimization

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