Yahoo Search Results Start the Switch, Experts Say

 
 
By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-02-17
 
 
 
Yahoo Inc. this week is revving its search technology as it prepares for a promised switch away from partner Google Inc.s search results.

Search engine marketers, who watch the variations in search listings like hawks, said on Tuesday that they had begun seeing a large amount of results from the Yahoo Search site coming from Yahoo-owned Inktomi Corp. rather than from Googles Web index.

A day earlier, Web site operators also reported a new Yahoo Web crawler indexing their Web pages. Yahoo posted an FAQ about the crawler, called Yahoo Slurp, and said that it "collects documents from the web to build a searchable index for search services using the Yahoo! search engine."

Yahoo officials did not return requests for comment on the search moves.

Read more here about Google adding another billion Web pages to its Web index.

At Web-site marketing company WebSourced Inc., 15 people spent much of Tuesday analyzing Yahoo Search results to decipher the reason behind changes in rankings for the companys Web clients, said Andy Beal, vice president of search marketing for the Morrisville, N.C., company.

Beal said that as of Tuesday afternoon he was noticing about 90 percent of the search results from Yahoo being retrieved from Inktomi, rather than Google. Yahoo acquired Inktomi last year as well as paid-search provider Overture Services Inc. and in January confirmed that it planned to switch from Google by the end of March.

The Inktomi-based results were appearing as slightly different from those at other Web search sites that use Inktomi, leading Beal to speculate that Yahoo was using its own algorithm to filter the results. Beal wrote about the new Yahoo Search results on the Search Engine Lowdown Weblog.

"The early results are looking good and very relevant and fresh," Beal said. "And it looks like Yahoo is trying to mimic Google in many ways."

Beal based his observations of a Yahoo Search switch on an analysis of its search results. When users roll their cursor over the links of results, the URL includes a redirect to Inktomi. Inktomis index, unlike Googles, includes listings from sites that pay to be included. The redirects are used to track the traffic for those paid-inclusion listings, Beal said.

Yahoo Search still includes Google results in many search results, experts say. Yahoo most likely is testing its new search technology as it prepares for a full, official switch.

"They need to have, in the eyes of customers, a seamless switchover," Beal said. "Theyve really supped up the results and they need to be able to switch over without losing a heartbeat."

Inktomi has used for some time its own crawler named Slurp, but on Monday, Webmasters began noticing a crawler named Yahoo Slurp spidering their sites. Yahoo has offered few details about the new crawler, and search experts disagree as to whether it is a renaming of Inktomis crawler or a separate one creating a distinct Web index.

Detlev Johnson, vice president of technology solutions at SuccessWorks Search Marketing Solutions Inc., said his analysis of his clients Web logs points to Yahoo using its new crawler to create a separate index from the existing Inktomi one.

"It appears that they want to have a completely independent index that is as relevant and high quality as they can possibly manage," Johnson said.

Yahoos switch away from Google, once completed, will create a more competitive search engine market. Google currently accounts for about 78.6 percent of U.S. Web searches, according to data from comScore Networks Inc. But without the Google-based searches that flow through Yahoo (27.7 percent) Google would fall to 50.9 percent.

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