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Brainstorming For Yahoo!

The news around town is that Yahoo! is failing. With the growth of Google, the resources the company had once it went public, it’s not totally surprising – that growth had to come from somewhere. But even considering that, Yahoo!’s marketing efforts have been markedly poor from the start. They failed to differentiate themselves from Google, as Google continued to become more and more dominant in the market. Years in the making, and Yahoo! didn’t seem to take on the task of becoming a real competitor to Google. They still aren’t. As an internet marketer, I consider Yahoo! a place to go to advertise once it looks like you’ve maxed out your exposure on Google. They are a source of a little extra traffic that can come at a reasonable cost because they aren’t overrun by spam and because they have a pay per click advertising system that works relatively smoothly. If their market share continues to drop, it won’t be worth it to advertise with them any longer. Yahoo! ought to be concerned about being displaced by MSN or some other search engine as Google’s primary competitor.

What Can Yahoo! Do

There are plenty of small things Yahoo! could do to help their position by using better marketing strategies and by continuing to emulate Google. For example, they could implement a minimum bidding system like Google to increase revenue. Roll it out in a larger package of improvements and maybe even make a little bit of a branding effort out of it. As a side note – the name: “Yahoo! Search Marketing” . . . seriously? They couldn’t think of a better, less cumbersome name than that? I still want to call Yahoo!’s pay per click platform, “Overture.” For months I went to their login page by typing overture.com. Side note over – let’s forget the small things for now. Wouldn’t everyone prefer something big? How about Yahoo! making a real effort to increase their search share?

Outlining a System

In my opinion, a good search engine would be non-exclusive. It would strive to have the largest database of pages possible, searching all possibilities to get some of the most important search results out there. Let’s face it, that costs money, and Google will beat Yahoo! at that game. So if Yahoo! can’t be the best search engine, why not go the other way and become a “bad” search engine. Make their search engine more exclusive. Yahoo! has always had a reputation for having search results that focus less on linking and more on content. Search engine marketers who love Yahoo!, love Yahoo! for that reason. Give those people an edge. Generate a system that will generate buzz. Become the exclusive club that Google isn’t and pretend like it makes you different, more relevant – capitalize on the shred of reputation that has given you a following in the first place. Pay homage to those business sites that have helped fund your search engine by giving them an even bigger edge in the search results.

Labeling Content

Search engines uses crawlers to find pages and index their content. These crawlers are pretty good at identifying content even for really crappy code. Search engine algorithms sort through the code for words and do various unknown calculations on them to rank pages. It’s all like a streaming source of content without many labels or direction that may hint at what sort of context the content is used in. Web gurus love standards and xhtml, but search engine crawlers do a fine job without all of that. But it is easy to imagine a search engine (that people like and want to rank in because it has visitors) defining attributes for certain types of content to rank pages and better understand how the content is being used. It’s certainly not a new idea, and I couldn’t imagine a search engine like Google using it for their main search tool because it is way too exclusive and will probably open up new spamming possibilities. Google has search engines that implement this sort of content feeding: Froogle and Google Base. But these guys are out of plain sight and they’re typically not good sources of traffic. But for a search engine that is having a bit of a crisis, it might be a good way to implement something new, generate a larger following, and carve out a bit of a nitch. It’s one idea for Yahoo!: really become the “on the page” search engine. I can certainly imagine people scrambling to pick up whatever standards they define if it will give them a page one ranking right quick. And I can certainly imagine Yahoo! employing a bit of a safe guard to make sure that the pages that appear on page one aren’t total crap. And I can definitely imagine this creating a whole new buzz about Yahoo! that is positive. Of course, they’d have to watch out for people like me who’d be saying, “this is the opposite of what a search engine should be” (while I in the meantime read up on the standard and recommend to all business sites to start adopting it to get great rankings in Yahoo! – because it’s my job). All of this could be done under the guise of “increasing relevance,” just as Google labels just about every price hike and modification as “increased relevance.” And it just might take off.

Final Words

I’m sure there are other ideas out there. And I’m sure there is an abundance of brilliant people at Yahoo! working on increasing their search share. And I’m sure it’s arrogant to make recommendations when I don’t have all the information they have. But it seems like they’ve done such a terrible job over the past few years that they might need a little help from someone with a degree in General Studies. They can send me a gratuity check later if the idea works.

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About Steve Loszewski

Steve Loszewski leads the paid search team at Pure Visibility. He is individually qualified in AdWords, has the Google Analytics Individual Qualification, is an Oracle Database 10g Administrator Certified Associate, and is a Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform SE 6. Steve has been managing AdWords accounts since 2005 and also has experience in SEO. Most of his time is spent in the trenches, working with keywords, ads, bids, landing pages, placements, etc within the AdWords Interface. You can find him on Google+.

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