Behind the New Yahoo Homepage

Following the launch of Yahoo’s new homepage design, the Yahoo UI team discusses the patterns behind the homepage and the technology that powers the new interface.

From the Yahoo UI Blog:

This principle captures the idea that every piece of logical content does not have to be on a different page. Instead when we design a content page, especially a home page, we should consider how we can expand the user’s virtual space. In many ways this is similar to creating a play. At any given time the view on the stage is only a small part of the action. The backstage, props, and other actors are all being prepared for the next scene. A home page can provide ways to allow a user to take a “sneak peek” at additional content and essentially “open up” the page space.

This is just what the new Yahoo! home page has done.

Livesearch on AlltheWeb

Yahoo just launched a new feature called “Livesearch” on AlltheWeb.

Livesearch is a combination of Google Suggest, Related Searches, and Instant Search. With some slick use of AJAX to make searching faster, Livesearch aims to speed up search time.

Yahoo plans to introduce new search features over at AlltheWeb in the future:

AlltheWeb is a search destination that has its roots as a showcase of new and innovative technology – for example AlltheWeb was the first site to roll out the calculator functionality within the search box. The site will remain true to its roots as we continue to introduce new technologies there in the future.

Yahoo Travel, Trip Planner, and Travel Web Services

Yahoo combines Web 2.0 style communities, Travel search and Web Services to create one cool travel planning experience.

Now when you search for travel related terms on Yahoo, you’ll be served one box result that taps into Yahoo’s FareChase.

Yahoo! FareChase (which is now in general availability) is a travel search engine that searches across many airline sites like AA.com, hotel sites like Sheraton.com, and on-line travel agency websites such as Orbitz.com and Cheaptickets.com, to give searchers a comprehensive set of prices and availability for flights and hotel rooms that is available on the web.

FareChase resembles offerings from similar services like Kayak but does not poll as many sources. Here’s a list of some of the travel sites that FareChase searches. Compare that to Kayak’s airline and travel lists.

My favorite part of Yahoo’s new service is the community integration – Yahoo Trip Planner. Take a look at some of the features – very Web 2.0. You can share your trip, create a trip profile, receive comments on your trip, add maps, combine guides, rate trips, add photos, add a journal, and more. Tons of stuff that you will be better off playing with.

Trip Planner is a tool on Yahoo! Travel that lets you save hotels, attractions, restaurants, maps and more to a customized travel guide. You can add travel dates, your own comments, even bookmarks for other sites to your trip. Once you’ve created your trip, you can print a copy to bring with you, or access it from any computer with Internet access.

More about Trip Planner at the FAQ.

This will open different advertising opportunities as search engines continue to develop rich interfaces to aggregate information. Google has already started to experiment with Google Map advertising and Yahoo is sure to follow. Yahoo has the tools to combine their search services with community building experience and this is another product showing the collective effect of both.

Even more exciting is the release of Yahoo APIs for the new services. You can use the APIs to search for public trips by keyword or place a FareChase box on your site. By combining user generated content (trip guides and plans) with search, Yahoo is doing what other search engines aren’t – smart search with community input. This type of search is a review based search and I can see this extending to Yahoo’s already huge base of content and reviews. I bet we see similar things coming for movies, shopping, real estate, music, etc. Product data combined with user reviews will be huge.

Sidenote: I’d like to see something like this for blog comments. (Not coComment)

Yahoo Toolbar Adds del.icio.us

Yahoo just released an updated version of their toolbar.

For IE: Tabbed Browsing.
For Firefox: Bookmarks, Mail Alerts, and Anti Spy.

And the big change:

Speaking of changes, you must have heard about del.icio.us by now! People use del.icio.us ito save and share web favorites. We’ve just created a del.icio.us button for our US users. You add it to your IE or Firefox toolbar to get easy access to your del.icio.us account from anywhere on the web. If you already have toolbar installed, you can add it with a click, otherwise, find it on the Add/Edit Buttons page in the “Personal Tools” section.

Using Advanced Search Operators

Today, Rand posted an entry about linking together search operators:

So I’m playing around with the MSN operators as per my post from last week and I stumble upon the holy grail of link searches

I’ve been doing the same types of searches over at Yahoo with the linkdomain commands for some time now, but never really tested out the MSN operators until Rand brought them up for discussion on his site.

The main benefit of using MSN over Yahoo for this is the inanchor operator. Yahoo currently doesn’t support the inanchor operator so you are partially limited.

My take on the holy grail, something like this:
inanchor:seo inbody:search inbody:engine inbody:optimization linkdomain:mattcutts.com linkdomain:seobook.com -linkdomain:seomoz.org

Then go one step further, take the domains from that list and see which ones are linked to by searchenginewatch.
site:searchenginewatch.com linkdomain:domainfromlist

Google FUD Over Paid Links

The more and more I think about the debate over paid links and Google, the more I think about FUD.

FUD is a marketing strategy that stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The term FUD describes disinformation tactics used to persuade customers to use a certain product over a competing product. A company that cannot respond with hard facts can use FUD tactics to cast a shadow of doubt on their competition and make people think twice before switching to the competitor.

Lets take a look at some quotes from Matt Cutts:

Reputable sites that sell links won’t have their search engine rankings or PageRank penalized–a search for [daily cal] would still return dailycal.org.

Fear:
I’m afraid that my site will lose its search engine rankings.

Uncertainty:
Is my site a reputable site?

Doubt:
Maybe I shouldn’t sell a link then, since I’m not dailycal.org

However, link-selling sites can lose their ability to give reputation (e.g. PageRank and anchortext).

Fear:
I’m afraid my site will lose it’s ability to give reputation.

Uncertainty:
How will I know? Maybe my PR will be affected? Maybe I’ll be penalized?

Doubt:
Guess I shouldn’t sell links.

Google’s stance on selling links is pretty clear and we’re pretty accurate at spotting them, both algorithmically and manually. Sites that sell links can lose their trust in search engines.

Fear:
Google can see my paid links from a mile away. My site will lose its trust in the search engines.

Uncertainty:
Wait. How can Google tell which links are paid? What if I’m just buy links for traffic. Oh no, should I have nofollowed that link?

Doubt:
Maybe I shouldn’t buy any links. I guess I’ll stick with AdWords.

Would anyone be surprised to find that some link buyers turn around and then sell links to other sites? And that those links may not be of the highest quality?

Fear:
What if the site I am advertising on is linking to a bad site? Will my site be punished?

Uncertainty:
How can I check if the site is linking to a bad site? What is high quality?

Doubt:
Forget this, I’m pulling my link buy from this site and I’m sticking with AdWords.

What if a site wants to buy links purely for visitor click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site? In that situation, I would use the rel=”nofollow” attribute. The nofollow tag allows a site to add a link that abstains from being an editorial vote. Using nofollow is a safe way to buy links, because it’s a machine-readable way to specify that a link doesn’t have to be counted as a vote by a search engine.

Fear:
Now that I have a nofollow link, does that mean visitors will think my link is spam?

Uncertainty:
Search engines don’t count my link. Visitors see that my link has a link condom. Will humans think my site is spam?

Doubt:
I have no idea how safe this is. The only real safe alternative is to stick with AdWords. I can purchase links without having to worry about how it affects my visitors or my rankings.

The Google FUD is working.

Over at cr8atsiteforums, a user is scared of being punished for placing links on his site:

If I were to sell ads on 14thC and put up a page describing traffic, rates, terms, etc. one of the terms I’m inclined to place would be that a “nofollow” would be attached to the ads.

Except that will turn a lot of people away.

Shoul I even worry about it or just let Google devalue those links on their own (per Rand’s appearance in Newsweek and subsequent chat with Cutts)?

If I do that, would I incur any penalties?

Here’s a post over at webmasterworld:

BUT – arrgh, I still can’t quite get the big G out of my head. Now the option of buying a load of links comes up (around 15,000 in fact) and based on its natural merits of click throughs and brand awareness it seems like a very cost effective way of advertising. I can’t get G out of my head though. With a huge percentage of my traffic coming from search engines I cannot afford to get flagged or lose my rankings. I know I want these link for natural purposes but will G realise they are for natural purposes? I’ve read a bit about buying links and getting flagged and bam, your rankings have plummeted to oblivion. I’m trying to go completely white hat – but even then I think I may get into trouble, even though my motives for the links are totally pure.

And another:

Matt stressed that obvious paid links offered no boost in rankings, although they do not detract. In short, he stressed that paid links are a waste of money, and that G rewards links occuring naturally. He stressed that G is getting better by the day in detecting paid links.

I know there are ways of crafting paid links so that they will appear to be naturally generated, but the effort may not be as cost effective as developing unique, compelling content which will stimulate good inbound links. At least, this was my take away from that session as well as others in which matt participated.

Sure sounds like FUD to me.

Google may have a problem determining the difference between a paid link and a freely given link. But that is their problem, not yours. Ultimately, it is Google’s job to detect whether a link is bought or not and adjust its rankings accordingly.

It’s not the Webmaster/Marketer’s job to prevent web spam.

Who wants to buy an endorsement that says “Visit this site, but I don’t really trust their products”. Imagine buying a page spread for the New York Times that has a big banner across the top that says “This site maybe in the same category as pharmaceuticals, porn, gambling, and other spam.” Right.

Google can/is effectively eliminate competition to its main cash cow (AdWords) by keeping people afraid of using any system other than AdWords for advertising. Buying a graphic ad – well don’t because Google may ban you since the site you are buying ads on may link to something Google doesn’t like. Buying a text ad – well don’t because paid links are bad. Selling ads on your site – well don’t because Google may not trust your site anymore. Adding affiliate links to your site – well don’t because Google doesn’t like “thin affiliates”. Ad nauseum.

The FUD isn’t just hurting the text link brokers and individual link buyers. The impact is widespread. Online publishers are afraid that their sites will lose rankings, so they don’t consider any alternative revenue sources (affiliate links, text link advertising, etc) and they stick with AdSense. Ad networks like text link ads lose potential business since customers are afraid of buying links. SEOs are impacted since clients are afraid of Google so they stick with AdWords. For instance, take a look at the SEO guide from Google. It is filled with FUD. There is one sentence about the benefits of SEO and about another 200 lines covering bad SEO.

Nofollow is not an option. Nofollow was created to make sure spammers get no benefit from abusing public posting areas (like trackbacks/comments/etc). Forcing site owners and advertisers to employ nofollow on their links with FUD is just low. Google needs to stop scaring site owners/advertisers and focus on producing a product that makes the debate over paid links non existent.

Yahoo Design Pattern Library

Are you in the process of creating or redesigning a website? Want to know what design patterns Yahoo uses and why Yahoo uses them?

Check out the Yahoo Design Pattern Library.

Right now the Yahoo Design Pattern Library has 9 design patterns:

Auto-Complete
Breadcrumbs
Drag and Drop Modules
Module Tabs
Navigation Tabs
Object Pagination
Search Pagination
Rating an Object
Writing a Review

Each design pattern has a detailed summary of when to use the pattern and the solution the pattern solves. There are also links to how Yahoo uses each pattern and some related patterns.

You may also want to check out the Yahoo User Interface Library and the new Yahoo User Interface Blog.

Update: Read more about how Yahoo implemented the Pattern Library. More info on Erin Malone’s site.

Contextual Search Y!Q Paper

One of the papers released to the past Conference on Information and Knowledge Management was Y!Q: Contextual Search at the Point of Inspiration by Reiner Kraft, Farzin Maghoul, Chi Chao Chang from Yahoo (8 pages, PDF).

From the abstract:

This paper presents Y!Q—a first of its kind large-scale contextual search system—and provides an overview of its system design and architecture. Y!Q solves two major problems. First, how to capture high quality search context. Second, how to use that context in a way to improve the relevancy of search queries.

The paper is a real interesting read – especially the sections describing how Y!Q determines context. Everything is pretty high level so no juicy details on how Y!Q specifically works, but a good read anyways.

Yahoo Asking For Questions For Andrei Broder

Yahoo is hosting a Q&A session with Andrei Broder over at their search blog.

My question for Andrei Broder:

Blog Search. It sucks. How is Yahoo going to make it better? Conversation based search? Comment search?

My second question for Andrei Broder:

PS. If you are annoyed by all these sites that ask you to copy some letters or numbers to prove you are not a bot, you can blame Andrei as well: he co-invented this challenge, back in 1998.

Do you regret inventing this? Proving that you are not a bot to a ton of sites daily is annoying to say the least.

Search Engine Webcasts

I’ve been watching Berkeley webcasts for some time now, but I recently noticed that during this past fall, The School of Information Management and Systems had a class on search engines.

On the webcast site, you can watch the talks given by:

And more.

I found Dr. Najork’s talk real interesting. He spent the majority of his talk covering web spam techniques and which techniques search engines could detect. I’d recommend everyone spending sometime to listen through his talk. He goes through every well-known spam technique and describes ways search engines can train themselves to detect spam. Given enough processing time and a large enough document set, expect the search engines to detect spammy sites.

New Look for Yahoo Sponsored Listings

Got this through the SEM 2.0 group. Looks like Yahoo will be updating it’s look. Basically, Yahoo is cutting down the number of characters it will be displaying for Sponsored Listings.

Subject: New look for Yahoo! Search Results, More Clicks for You

Dear Advertiser,

A new look is coming to the Yahoo! search results pages that will translate into more clicks for your listings. On January 18th, Yahoo! will debut a streamlined design that will make the search results displayed on Yahoo! even easier for consumers to read. Our research has shown that by improving the search experience in this way, advertisers can generally expect to see an increase in clicks, while maintaining their conversion rates.

How this change impacts your listings:

* Yahoo! will display shorter descriptions for Sponsored Search listings

* You don’t have to make any changes to your listings; they’ll be automatically shortened for you when displayed on Yahoo!

* If you’d like to optimize your listings for Yahoo!, begin your description with one short sentence that includes your keyword and focuses on your most important information in the first 70 characters

* Over time, we will fine tune the exact character count that we believe works best for advertisers and search users

* Most of our partners, including MSN, CNN, ESPN and Infospace, will still display longer descriptions for your Sponsored Search listings, though the exact length may vary from partner to partner

Yahoo! is taking this step to improve the search experience for its users. By continuously focusing on delivering highly relevant search results in a user-friendly format, Yahoo! also gives you the best possible platform for reaching customers interested in what your business provides.

Sincerely,

Your Partners at Yahoo! Search Marketing

Yahoo Buys del.icio.us

Yahoo snatches up another Web 2.0 site. This one is the grand daddy of all social tagging sites.

I’d like to change the non-committal answer I gave to this: “Yes! And as of today, del.icio.us is part of the Yahoo! family.”

As Joshua writes, the del.icio.us team will soon be working in close proximity to their fraternal twin, Flickr. And just like we’ve done with Flickr, we plan to give del.icio.us the resources, support, and room it needs to continue growing the service and community. Finally, don’t be surprised if you see My Web and del.icio.us borrow a few ideas from each other in the future.

Yahoo Answers and New Formats for Site Submission

Yesterday, Jeremy Zawodny announced Yahoo! Answers – Yahoo’s new question and answer service. But what makes Yahoo Answers unique is the approach. You post a question and a real person answers it, sort of like Google Answers but without the price tag.

Gary Price wrote up a nice article about Yahoo Answers over on SEW.

Yahoo also added several new formats for site submissions. You can now submit your list of URLs as an RSS Feed or an Atom Feed – which makes it even easier now since many websites already have feeds of their URLs.

Yahoo Maps Beta

Yesterday, Yahoo launched a new beta version of Yahoo! Maps. This new version is a significant improvement over their previous version – the interface has been upgraded and plenty of new features have been added.

The new interface is very application-centric and the default text form has been replaced with a huge map with a form to the left side.

Drop down menus combined with easy to find search boxes improve usability. The navigation can be collapsed for a bigger view of the map. The visual map is draggable.

In the upper right corner of the visual map there is a smaller inset map that shows the surrounding area. To the right of the inset map are the zoom controls.

One feature I really like is the live traffic overlay. With this feature, you can tell how fast traffic is moving and which roads have accidents.

Yahoo has placed default categories on the left hand side to help users find what they want faster. There are links to services (atms/gas stations/groceries), shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and travel (tourist spots, transportation, hotels).

You can choose to save locations for future searches. One of the more useful features is the new Multi-point driving directions. Now you can map from point A to B to C on one map. The directions are color coded, so they are very easy to follow.

Yahoo! Local has been integrated into the map search, so in addition to directions/address information, you can access ratings/reviews/events.

Some interface features have been added that really make it easy to use Yahoo! Maps. For instance, you can drag a drop a locations address from the map popup into the address form, making it quick and easy to get the directions. No need to retype the info into the form. Map locations can be toggled to display or not display, this way you can clean up the clutter if you want to print a map.

To coincide with the new beta, Yahoo has released a new maps API. The new API has support for both Flash and AJAX presentation models. Several new APIs have been added including geocoding, traffic information, map images, and local search. The Simple Maps API is still allowing developers to plot locations on Yahoo Maps with no rate limits.

Yahoo Update Tonight

Tim Mayer is once again giving us a heads up to the updates over at Yahoo.

We will be making changes to the ranking of our index tonight. I would expect that this update will be mild and quick compared to recent ones but will impact the ranking of some sites.

If you have any feedback for us about the new index please email: ystfeedback@yahoo.com.

Drop by this thread at WebmasterWorld to discuss what you are seeing on Yahoo’s search engine results pages. A couple people are upset over Yahoo’s delay with indexing new sites and an increased number of spam sites showing up in the rankings.

Google And Apple Together?

Google may soon be offering Apple iTunes through the Google site. Are we seeing the first of many uses of Google’s micropayment system? Combining music search and music downloads would place Google way ahead of Yahoo – its main competitor in the music search arena.

I’d imagine Google to incorporate iTunes into any search regarding musical/artist terms. Any search for related to a particular artist, lyrics, or title of a song would bring up informational links and links to various iTunes songs available for purchase. Sounds like a great way to provide Google users with relevant info and a way for Google to increase its media offerings.

Technorati About to be Sold

B.L. Ochman is saying that “Technorati is about to be sold to a large search engine company. The deal should go down in about a week.”

My bet is Yahoo – Yahoo has already bought Blo.gs and Flickr. They started their own social networking blog product Yahoo 360. They have been very aggressive with recent investments (Alibaba) and my bet is they are the ones who grab this one. Technorati fits in well with their current blogish acquisitions.

Yahoo Publisher Network Invite Only Beta

Yahoo is finally releasing it’s AdSense competitor – Yahoo Publisher Network.

Yahoo has had a while to take a look at Google AdSense and figure out what AdSense lacks so that they can improve on the network. Yahoo plans to address customer service issues and give publishers more control over what ads will be shown on their sites.

Our new self-serve platform will offer publishers new sources of revenue, starting with our Content Match contextual advertising product, and one-stop access to unique Yahoo! products, such as “Add to My Yahoo!” buttons and Yahoo!’s Y!Q beta. The Yahoo! Publisher Network self-serve beta will also offer phone and email customer service and in the coming weeks, will feature ad targeting capabilities to publishers. And that’s just the beginning. Down the road look for more opportunities through the self-serve platform that draw from other types of Yahoo! content (Think: Web search, “Add to My Web” buttons, RSS advertising, shopping…).

Check out Barry’s interview with the GM of YPN over at SE Roundtable for more info.