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Yahoo! Content Acquisition Program

March 2004

Yahoo! Search Overview

The new Yahoo! Search is primarily based off of a recent rewrite in the Inktomi core algorithm. The recent rewrite will allow Yahoo! to

  • better process 3 and 4 word queries (or longer ones)
  • easily change the algorithm in the future

In addition to the newer algorithm Yahoo! is using a new content acquisition program to beef up the size of their index.

Optimizing for Yahoo! Search vs Google

All major search engines heavily consider linkage data when determining the relevance of documents for competitive phrases.

Google is heavily weighted on anchor text and link location. While Yahoo! still considers these elements important, on page optimization goes much further in Yahoo! Search than it does in Google.

On the Yahoo! Search FAQ page they specifically ask for meta data which Google places extremely low weighting on.

Yahoo! Content Acquisition Program Overview

Yahoo! believes that search can be made more intelligent by aiding algorithmic results with human editors. They are trying to beat Google by improving algorithmic search results with editors. Details of the new Yahoo! Content Acquisition Program are located in their press release.

  • Yahoo! has the editorially compiled Yahoo! Directory.
  • Yahoo! reviews sites included in the Overture Site Match paid inclusion program.
  • Yahoo! has turned on its free site submit.
  • Yahoo! has editors who randomly review websites in their search database.
  • Yahoo! editors are to search for new quality content which is normally not spiderable by Yahoo! Slurp.
  • Yahoo! is running its spider deeper and more frequently than usual.

Yahoo! Directory

Non commercial sites may be listed free. Commercial sites must pay a recurring $299 annual review fee. Adult sites pay $600. As search gets more advanced in clustering, these prices will become more justified. In addition Yahoo! Search can and may use the Yahoo! Directory to add relevance to its search results.

When sites are submitted to the Content Match Program they get a "Site review to ensure relevance and help high quality sites perform better." It would be a fair assumption to state that the Yahoo! editorial review which helps quality Site Match sites perform better is also applied to sites listed within the Yahoo! Directory.

Yahoo! Overture Site Match

Site Match is a new paid inclusion program which meshes the AltaVista, Inktomi, and AllTheWeb paid inclusion programs.

The annual review fee for a single url is $49 with an additional category based cost per click. Most categories cost 15 cents and a few cost 30 cents per click. Overture Site Match pricing details page. Site Match also offers an XML paid inclusion program for submitting large sites.

The whole point of Site Match is to generate revenue and improve quality of search results for spammy competitive phrases. Overture Site Match has strict editorial guidelines. Many websites will not be accepted into the program.

In January MSN dumped the LookSmart directory listings, citing relevance as the main problem. Recently Ask Jeeves dropped its XML paid inclusion program, citing relevance as the main problem. Yahoo! is the only major search engine which is employing its own editors to aid search result relevancy.

Google is using the ODP to help its search results (by creating a mirror directory as the Google Directory), but they do not hire any editors.

Problems With Overture Site Match

Technically paid inclusion is algorithmically agnostic, but the fact that sites participating in the program get refreshed daily makes it far easier to optimize a site for the new Yahoo! Search.

In addition Yahoo! states that Site Match uses a "Site review to ensure relevance and help high quality sites perform better." Sites participating in the Site Match Program are:

  • Guaranteed inclusion in Yahoo! Search and partner sites.
  • Frequent refresh-every 24 hours.
  • Offered reporting to track and optimize performance.

Some people view web search engines as an oracle of information which is unbiased. People want to know when they are clicking on paid search results. With that said, this program will be a failure or people will be clicking on more paid search results.

How Site Match Improves Relevancy

Many affiliate marketers make a ton of money putting up junky websites. An affiliate marketer which is requiring extra clicks and redirecting traffic decreases the quality of the search index. Some exceptionally competitive and spammy search results are improved by helping savvy marketers a chance to optimize their sites for these phrases. The sites in the search index will need to become more smooth otherwise they will not convert.

In addition Yahoo! Search editors may decide that "quality" websites with valuable content is worth spidering throughout. This will allow the webmaster to get all of his additional site pages included in the Yahoo! Search index free of charge. This seeding is strictly up to the editor reviewing the site.

Why Site Match is Not a Big Deal

Yahoo! has stated that less than one percent of the Yahoo! Search search engine index is paid for. Many categories will go unaffected by the Site Match program.

  • Established sites are not going to fall out of the rankings just because they do not pay.
  • Many web searches are rather unique in nature. A webmaster will not be able to create a single page optimized for a thousand terms.
  • Webmasters will not be able to own all phrases in an industry. The submitted pages will be required to meet editorial guidelines.
  • The incremental cost will prevent untargeted sites from participating in the program.
  • The ranking boost given to Site Match reviewed sites will most likely be rather minor.
  • Yahoo! editors are also randomly surfing and reviewing some portions of their index free of charge.

In Defense of Yahoo!

Paid inclusion has been around for a long time. The change in its payment structure (to pay per click) eats into profit margins is making many webmasters angry. Yahoo! has profit margins just like any other company. Yahoo! is concerned with their search experience and profits. Yahoo! owes webmasters nothing.

Hands down Google has proven time and time again that through the use of mathematics and smart branding they will remain a dominant player in search. 5 Years from now quoting the sentence above will probably yield truth. Yahoo! will not be able to steal market share back from Google by fighting it at its strengths.

Yahoo! believes that the use of editors can sharply improve the quality of their search results. Yahoo! became the powerhouse that it is today from an editorial directory. Why should they abandon their roots? Who are we to fault them for finding another way to fund these editors?

If the Yahoo! Search product stinks there are many other options just a few clicks away. Yahoo! earned the traffic it has by focusing on user needs. To think that Yahoo! will ignore the needs of its users for a small increase in profits would be extremely short sided.

Yahoo! Free Site Submit

The site submit will provide no submission guarantee. Most crawling search engines prefer to follow a link to find a new site. The best way to submit your site is through building a linking campaign, but it does not hurt to try the free site submit. The free site submit states that you should expect to wait several weeks before your site gets spidered.

Other Yahoo! Search Products

AllTheWeb and AltaVista are also now using the same index as Yahoo! Search. Each website will remain powered using its own unique algorithm on that shared database. AllTheWeb and AltaVista are more likely to be used as test beds going forward though.

Overture Site Match Paid inclusion, Yahoo! Directory Inclusion, or the Yahoo! Slurp spider following links to your site can get a site listed in the shared Yahoo! Search index.

If you need help deciding what to do with the new Yahoo! feel free to call me or shoot me an email.

Should I pay for Site Match?

Generally I would say no. Sites which rank well will not just disappear because of the new program.

I would rather build links first:
I am under the assumption that a listing in the Yahoo! Directory will probably grant a site the same review bonus that a Content Match review would. If you can afford the $49 Site Match review fee and the additional $50 minimum Site Match deposit it may be worth springing the extra $200 for a Yahoo! Directory listing.

If you are not in the Yahoo! Search index you may need to work on building a linking campaign, or you may have technical issues. Either way, it will be hard to rank well for competitive terms based exclusively on "on the page" criteria.

Who Should Pay for Site Match?

  • Those who have a large budget and do not want to worry if your site is in the Yahoo! Search index.
  • Those who have rapidly rotating stock.
  • Those who need to quickly promote an event.
  • Those who want to use their paid inclusion to learn how to reverse engineer search results.
  • Those who have amazing profit margins who will be tweaking their sites for maximum exposure.
  • Those who are not appearing in the Yahoo! Search index due to technical issues. Sites with great quality content may use the Site Match page to seed the rest of the pages in the site into Yahoo! Search.
  • Smart marketers who create sites in front of anticipated market demand.

What Others Are Saying About Yahoo! Search

Search Engine Watch - solid overview of the Content Acquisition Program including potential problems with the FTC

"There's no way for a searcher to easily distinguish between paid inclusion results and content that Yahoo's crawler found on its own. And there's no indication that Yahoo gets paid when a searcher clicks on a paid inclusion link.

Cadogan insists that this isn't a problem, because there is no difference in treatment between pages participating in the inclusion program and those found naturally. "Payment is linked with the interaction. The payment does not connect with the ranking," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to reward good sites and punish bad sites, period."

Ben Willis of Keyword Rankings - explains who Yahoo!'s real customers are and the evolution of search.

"Yahoo!/Overture MUST think of their true customers first. While Overture’s customers are other businesses, Yahoo!’s customer is any person who is looking for information relevant to a certain topic on the Internet. Site Match, as with any other paid inclusion service, allows website owners to place information which would not normally be visible to the search engines (how thoroughly search engine spiders index the Internet is a whole other issue in-and-of itself) into their databases to make them known to that search engine. While the search engines would love to crawl the Internet and update their databases every single day, they must take steps in the interim to overcome this hurdle. Is it a patch? Yes, but I doubt Paid Inclusion, as we now know it, will remain in this format forever."

Jeremy Zawodny - Yahoo! employee states how paid inclusion has been around a while and how the new business model is just an extension of the past.

"Let's go back in a time a bit. Back to a time when the Yahoo! Directory was the way to find stuff on-line. It became so popular that everyone submitted their sites. The result, of course, was that there were too many submissions to handle in a timely fashion. It seems that around then someone got the idea that you could offer a priority queue for folks willing to pony up some extra cash.

Did that make users trust the Yahoo! directory any less? Beats me. But I suspect it had a very small impact.

Think about it this way. When you fly on an airline, you have the opportunity to pay more (Business Class, First Class) to eliminate some of the waiting and hassle. But you know what? When the plane gets to the other airport, and you're in the terminal, nobody knows if you arrived in First Class or not. I best most people don't care either.

Welcome to capitalism.

[Remember, these are my personal views and not those of my employer.]"

Tim Bray - An extremely anti Yahoo! translation

"Cadogan: What we are excited about is having a better relationship with the people who are providing content. There’s currently a lot of uncertainty and guesswork. We think there's a lot of room for improvement.

Translation: You send us money, you’ll get better placement in search results.

Cadogan: It [rolling all the Yahoo, Altavista, Alltheweb programs together] radically simplifies the situation from having six programs to one that gets you a ton of distribution and gets you a lot of benefits from interacting with us.

Translation: All the money you pay for better search-engine results can now be sent to one place."

Larry Page - as quoted in a New York Times article

"Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, argued that such disclosures were not enough. He compared search results with the news articles in newspapers or magazines, which are independent of advertising.

"Any time you accept money to influence the results, even if it is just for inclusion, it is probably a bad thing," Mr. Page said."

John Battelle - a great ongoing discussion between John, search engine engineers, and fans of search sparked by this quote.

"As, er, a thought experiment of sorts, take a look at what each search service (Google and Yahoo) bring up when you search for "yahoo "content acquisition program"":

Google
(top two are webmasterworld board posts, questioning the program)
Yahoo
(straight news stories, not nearly as controversial)

Algorithms have no bias? Draw your own conclusions."

Andrew Goodman (of Traffick) offers a series of posts on the new Yahoo! Search topic.

"At a certain point, of course, there remain unanswered questions. The fact that Yahoo is supposedly aggressively spidering the web may bear little relationship to how prominently these "free crawl" pages will be displayed. Perhaps many such pages will only be there in spirit."

Dan Gillmore - This Silicon Valley writer is another frustrated searcher.

"Just when I was starting to like Yahoo Search as a Google alternative, the Wall Street Journal reports (paid reg req) that Yahoo is making it harder -- make that impossible -- for users to know whether companies are paying to be included in the results.

"Yahoo Inc., the nation's second largest search engine, is aggressively expanding a program that lets advertisers pay to ensure that their sites are included in search results.

"Yahoo executives say the payments won't improve a site's ranking on the list of results that appear after a search. But at the same time, Yahoo acknowledged that there will be no distinguishing marks to alert Web surfers that a company had paid to be included."

That's bad enough. But how long will it be before Yahoo starts rigging the actual results? The slippery slope beckons"

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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This article may be syndicated in whole are part. Simply provide a link back to the original article or http://www.search-marketing.info. Please note that I do not usually update articles over time and the date last modified on article pages is usually referring to a navigational change.

 

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