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Old 11-20-2006   #1
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Yahoo Integrates Answers Into Search Results

Barry has just blogged on SEW that Yahoo is now officially starting to show Yahoo Answers results in the main set of search results.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this and how it could improve (or not) the results returned to search users.

I wrote an article yesterday (yes, I know it's sad to spend Sunday doing this) looking back a year after Yahoo Answers launched and how I think it could improve user retention.

Do you agree with my thoughts or take a different stance?



Rob
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Old 11-20-2006   #2
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Q&A

Hi Rob,

I have thought a lot about this. My biggest difficulty has been trying to see past the detrimental effects on my business and the work I have put in to ensure that my site is well optimised.

A generic travel search on Yahoo! currently generates only two natural listings. This is because there is three sponsored links at the top, followed by a Yahoo! travel advert and MyWeb results. Add answers to this and bang goes the natural listing altogether. It's PPC all the way,money in the bank for Yahoo! and no free traffic for me.

However, taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. I can see a future whereby users are making the choices and not the search engines. This subject is certainly associated with the roll-out of Google Co-op, custom search engines and Yahoo!'s purchase of del.icio.us.

You are right, the algorithms will be constanty manipulated and exploited by those that are capable. I have no doubt however that these people will be able to exploit Q&A platforms in a similar fashion.

I do like the Pagerank methodology, as it adds authority to the link. If a stranger came up to me in the street and told me to buy a car from Garage X. I would probably be sceptical. If someone I know, or a trusted source told me that Garage Y is better, I would probably believe them. However, in reality Garage X is better than Y, but I would always trust a known source than an unknown.

It also needs to be considered that Q&A users are a different subset of SE users altogether. Their preferences may not conform to the rest of society, resulting in bias.

I think it boils down to a question of trust. As SEOs we have a fairly good understanding of how SE's work and as such our approach to the organic results can be just as sceptical as others perceive sponsored links. Other people believe that SE's are the authority on everything.

Whilst I am sure that Q&A user preferences will increasingly become a prominent part of the future search landscape, I am undecided about whether or not this is necessarily a good thing for our industry. To improve retention, Yahoo! must ensure that the organic listings they are sacrificing to below the fold or even SERP2 are replaced by answers that are more relevant to the users initial search.

I hope this is helps to provide some different considerations and perpectives.

Gooner
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Old 11-20-2006   #3
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Hi Gooner,

You make some very good points and I don't think that there is any "right" answer to this.

Yahoo search results can sometimes look a little cluttered, although I would personally see the Q&A knowledgebase only being release in certain verticals or for a specific type of search. Some search's just do not fit the type of result which Q&A can provide, others (such as those being targetted by Ask.com through SmartAnswers) would dramatically benefit from Best Answer information.

Does anyone think that this is just another service to move Yahoo further away from their core search/portal platform, or is it a valid and welcomed enhancement?



Rob
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Old 11-20-2006   #4
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>enhancement

They'd better start mixing in some porn, pills, & poker to get traffic up, Answers ain't gonna cut it. There is a long-standing paradox in web development that the search engines, and not just Yahoo, are trying to forget; the more your users come to your site, the less they like to see on a page. The bar gets higher for 'enhancements' you add to the serps, they can't be just neat/cool/web2.0 they have to be true expansions of the underlying intent or functionality ...and I don't think Answers hits the mark, close, I'll agree, but still off a bit somehow.
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Old 11-27-2006   #5
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What's a question?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcjordan
They'd better start mixing in some porn, pills, & poker to get traffic up, Answers ain't gonna cut it. There is a long-standing paradox in web development that the search engines, and not just Yahoo, are trying to forget; the more your users come to your site, the less they like to see on a page. The bar gets higher for 'enhancements' you add to the serps, they can't be just neat/cool/web2.0 they have to be true expansions of the underlying intent or functionality ...and I don't think Answers hits the mark, close, I'll agree, but still off a bit somehow.
I agree. SERPs are getting incredibly cluttered. Besides, I rarely ask questions, I do *inverted* searches instead. Example; suppose I want to know the melting point of sodium. I do *not* ask a question, I simply search for "the melting point of sodium is" and get my answer instantly, sometimes without even clicking a URL.
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Old 11-27-2006   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abbottsys
I do *inverted* searches instead. Example; suppose I want to know the melting point of sodium. I do *not* ask a question, I simply search for "the melting point of sodium is" and get my answer instantly, sometimes without even clicking a URL.
I also do this when searching for statistics or facts; I think that Answers is targetted to the opposite spectrum of questioning - opinion and human interaction/trust.



Rob
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