Yahoo’s Secret Weapon is Answers – Google in Trouble

Finally, a post not directly about Google!

My friend Ji predicted the story I’m going to share today. It first became clear when the story broke that Google bowed out of the answers service and Yahoo slapped them around. While Techcrunch simply referred to this as Yahoo’s “Morale boost,” my friend pointed out that this could be the beginning of Yahoo’s come back in the search engine market.

It all started today when I read an article that talked about how few ads Google has compared to Live and Yahoo. The supposed reasoning is that Google serves less ads per page to reduce noise, which increases click rates in the long term. So on a search where Google only shows two ads, Yahoo shows eight. At first glance, Google is beating the pants off of Yahoo. Not only are their ads clearly less cluttered, but Google has 50% more results and a map with restaurant reviews.

But wait, scroll down to the bottom of Yahoo’s result page and notice this:

who wants sushi

I don’t know about you, but if someone types in “San Francisco  Sushi” and got that, I can’t see them ignoring that result.

This is Yahoo’s power play, and they’re doing it in relative stealth mode. Perhaps they don’t even realize just how ground breaking this can be. For example, if I search for “Which game console should I buy?”, on Google, I get a bunch of results from review sites. On Yahoo, I get all those, plus these:

excellent results

As you can see, the potential is amazing. Yahoo may not have the biggest index or the best search algorithm, but who needs it when you can mine answers to common questions out of an Answers database! Yahoo shouldn’t be sidelining these results near the bottom. They should be right at the top, perhaps even displacing a few ads on the right. After all these years, we have come full circle to a search engine that performs best when it is literally asked a question.

This is “ask Jeeves” all over again. Except this one works.

Yahoo Answers is barely a year old. What happens in another two years when this service has fully matured and becomes far more ubiquitous? This won’t ever replace Google, but it has the potential to get users acquainted with asking questions on Yahoo, which has the residual effect of converting them over the long run. Google should be afraid of this application because it has the potential to steal a large slice of Google’s search engine pie.

Keep on eye on this feature as we should see it become a larger part of Yahoo’s search results this year (if they have half a brain).

Note: this was originally going to also cover Live’s shameless sponsored result for San Francisco Sushi that promoted something completely unrelated. I was also going to discuss how bad the sponsored results were. Since I took the screen shot, I have decided to include it here. The caption is, “Which one doesn’t fit?”

which one doesn't fit?

I really hope that maps ad is because I typed in a location and not because they are randomly spamming ads to their other services.

3 thoughts on “Yahoo’s Secret Weapon is Answers – Google in Trouble”

  1. Nicholas,

    You should check out my post about Yahoo’s stats being over counted.

    There’s some anti-Yahoo fodder for you to chew on. 🙂 enjoy.

    Either way, if Yahoo capitalizes on this answers feature, they may be on to something. If they keep it where it is, they’ll continue to “blow.”

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