Wired News: How Yahoo Blew It Wired News is out with a fairly comprehensive article chronicling the career of Yahoo Chief Terry Semel under the headlline, How Yahoo Blew It. The consensus of the story seems to be that Yahoo! was unable to navigate a purchase of Google back when a purchase of Google was possible and subsequently has failed at executing on their own search strategy.
Everyone knows at this point that not just Yahoo but Microsoft as well have lost the search game.
Google reigns supreme.
The cheese stands alone.
Remember where we were a year ago? A year ago Yahoo CFO Susan Decker took a firestorm beating in the blogosphere when she was quoted as saying, “”We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to gain a lot of share from Google,” Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.””
All of a sudden all of the back peddlers came out saying she was misquoted, etc. Caterina Fake, co-Founder of Flickr and Yahoo executive suggested that Decker’s quote was taken out of context and used one of her rare “bull shits” to describe the blathering that was taking place over the quote in the blogosphere. Internet search Guru John Battelle suggested that Decker’s quote wasn’t in character with the folks he knew at Yahoo, etc. VC blogger Jeff Clavier added, “To cut the commentary short: Bullshit. No way.”
I added my own commentary at the time as well adding “Say it ain’t so Jerry Yang, or at least say it’s part of a secret trick double secret agent plan to make everyone *think* this is in fact the case while you knock Google off their game with the old keep your eye on the birdy punch.”
And yet here we are a year latter. Yahoo’s search still sucks. They have not only been unable to hold ground in the past year, they have lost even more.
Last year I gave my own consensus on what Yahoo needed to do to regain it’s footing in search. I sincerely believe that Yahoo actually has the pieces and tools in their arsenal to not only stop the bleeding but to actually gain back market share. The problem comes down to execution. Until Yahoo can execute on the promise of social search, a search that is incredibly powerful, it will be difficult for them to gain back mind share. What’s worse is that as time goes on and Google increasingly becomes cemented in the minds of everyone everywhere as the superior vehicle and Yahoo search will increasingly become more and more irrelevant.
So let’s look back at what I suggested Yahoo do with social search a year ago and see how they executed. And yes, I recognize that armchair quarterbacking is certainly much easier than actually being out there on the field on game day.
A year ago I suggested that Yahoo.
1. Combine Flickr/Yahoo Image Search into one. Have they done this? No. They gave lip service to the idea late last year by adding a few images to four search terms in Yahoo Search but this not been executed at all. Flickr delivers superior search and Yahoo for two years now has instead served their users crappy Yahoo Image Search results. Yahoo can beat Google in Image Search today. Yes it’s only 9% or so of search traffic and yes ads don’t work as well on image search pages but to not do this just kills me when Yahoo has such a clear advantage here. I believe the reason why this has not been done is that Yahoo lacks the technological expertise to execute here.
Remember who bought Flickr folks, not Yahoo Photos, Yahoo Search. It was the search team that bought Flickr and yet the fruit in terms of search has not been realized as it should.
2. Buy Digg. Nope, Yahoo did not buy Digg. News search is another area where Yahoo could excel. Fetching back news stories influenced by an algorithm that determined rank for news stories is smart. Is there a “digg this” button at the bottom of Yahoo news stories? Nope. Can they build their own instead of buying Digg? Sure. But they haven’t and with their problems in executing buying seems smarter than building here. Of course now Digg likely wants more than $160 million for the property and the price tag will continue to increase as Kevin and the boys continue to roll out more and more features and gain more and more users. Social ranking news results not for today’s consumption but for archive search should be done and none of the major players are doing this.
3. Integrate Delicious. Nope. Again. It’s amazing how interesting Delicious search results are. Unfortunately you don’t see them in Yahoo search.
4. Improve search results through human editors. Yes this has been tried before and yes it’s failed. But I still think hiring 25 or so inexpensive editors to refine the long tail and filter out things that really don’t belong (especially in image search) makes sense. Neutralizing bad tags shouldn’t be that hard to do.
5. Buy TiVo. Not for the service (which rocks), but for the research and the ability to better index television search. The celebrity market is huge. If I’m searching for Winnona Ryder and she just happens to be coming on Letterman later tonight, being able to schedule, from Yahoo, my TiVo to record this show would be a unique advantage.
6. Integrate Upcoming.org. Nope. Still not done. Same thing as TV. If I’m searching for the Flaming Lips and they are playing a concert in my neighborhood, chances are this is going to be relevant to me.
So why is Yahoo not gaining market share? Because they can’t execute on social search. And so Google continues their dominance. Google believes in algorithms not social search. Their lame attempt at their Image Labeler game shows how little they know about social search. Yahoo can dominate social search but they don’t.
I’m also going to add one more point this year that I didn’t last year about what Yahoo needs to do better to execute in search. They need to better understand blogs and bloggers in search. Forget about what Comscore or Nielson or whoever say about search traffic, when I look at my own internal server logs for search being driven to thomashawk.com (excluding image search) I get the following breakdown.
Google 90%, Yahoo 7.5%, Microsoft 1.6%.
90% of my search traffic is delivered by Google. Google indexes blogs much higher than Yahoo does. As an example, look at this search on Google for Gene Scott, the controversial tele-evangelist I wrote an obit for a while back when he died. It’s highly ranked by Google. Now I’m not saying that my article is necessarily authoritative, but I do think it’s interesting (obviously I’m biased). But lets look at Yahoo. My search is not on the first three p
ages and if it’s not on the first three pages then it doesn’t count. There are lots of other examples, but Google indexes my blog (and I suspect other’s blogs as well) much better and more prominently than Yahoo does.