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Friday, May 11, 2007

Is Yahoo! Making a Vertical Search Move?

Is there more to Famous Landmarks Get the Flickr Treatment in Yahoo! Search than simply integrating Flickr into Yahoo! Search for a limited set of queries? I think this is a big move for two reasons:
  1. Shows that Yahoo! is serious about finding synergies between existing properties
  2. Creates a subset of Yahoo! Search that is a step towards a travel vertical search engine
Both of these are significant in that they could help Yahoo! take market share from Google. I argued last year that Yahoo! should integrate another of its properties,, into search results to build a better search engine than Google:
I think Yahoo should leverage their property to improve their search product. They could tack on results, much like they've done with answers. Better yet, they could use the collective intelligence of social bookmarking to improve their search relevance algorithm. Google's big breakthrough was PageRank which uses links as a measure of a web page's relevance. Google looks at both the quantity and quality of links and treats these links as, essentially, votes for a site. I think a page bookmarked via could be a better indicator of the importance of a web page than links. Particularly as webmasters have caught on to this idea and links have been gamed to a large degree. If someone views a page as important enough to bookmark, perhaps that's a better "vote" than a link? If Yahoo integrated bookmarks in its search engine algorithm, could the results be more relevant than Google's?
Since then, I've seen others (like Fred Wilson and Rand Fishkin) suggest that could be leveraged to defeat Google. The power of both and Flickr is in the network effect. Instead of relying largely on the interlinking nature of sites to determine relevance, these Yahoo! services depend on the actions of people. In a sense, they serve as collaborative filters. Consider the explanation for Flickr's interestingness:
There are lots of things that make a photo 'interesting' (or not) in the Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic photos and stories are added to Flickr.
So, combine "interesting" photos of a famous landmark (Flickr) with travel ads (Yahoo! Search Marketing) and information sites (core Yahoo! Search) and you're starting to see a vertical travel search engine when performing a simple Yahoo! Search. Consider a search for Chichen Itza, one of the examples from the Yahoo! Search Blog:

chichen itza yahoo search

Notice that before you even get to the core search results, you see travel-related search refinements like "chichen itza tours" and then some PPC ads that are travel-related and then the Flickr photos of the destination (landmark). Contrast this with the identical Google search:

chichen itza google search

That's just plain dull in comparison. Notice that the top 2 core search results are the same, albeit in different order:
Does the Yahoo! SERP look something like a travel vertical SERP? Even if I'm reading too much into this, it does look like a better (at least more "interesting") search experience than with Google. Perhaps that's what's important here, for Yahoo! and its future. I'll be curious to see if they cultivate more synergies between Yahoo! Search and their web 2.0 properties.

BTW, if you found this post dull, perhaps a game of Flickr TagMan will help. ;-)

Apogee Tags (made w/ TagBuildr): , , , , , , , , ,


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