Back in the dawn of the Internet, Yahoo! was the most popular search engine. When Google arrived, its indisputably precise search results made it the preferred search engine. However, Google is not the only search engine and it is estimated that about 20-25% or searches are conducted on Yahoo! Another major player on the market is MSN, which means that SEO professionals cannot afford to optimize only for Google but need to take into account the specifics of the other two engines (Yahoo! and MSN) as well.
Optimizing for three search engines at the same time is not an easy task. There were times, when the SEO community was inclined to think that the algorithm of Yahoo! was on deliberately just the opposite to the Google algorithm because pages that ranked high in Google did not do so well in Yahoo! and vice versa. The attempt to optimize a site to appeal to both search engines usually lead to being kicked out of the top of both of them.
Although there is no doubt that the algorithms of the two search engines are different, since both are constantly changing, none of them is made publicly available by its authors and the details about how each of the algorithms function are obtained by speculation based on probe-trial tests for particular keywords, it is not possible to say for certain what exactly is different. What is more, having in mind the frequency with which algorithms are changed, it is not possible to react to every slight change, even if algorithms’ details were known officially. But knowing some basic differences between the two does help to get better ranking. A nice visual representation of the differences in positioning between Yahoo! and Google gives the Yahoo vs Google tool.
The Yahoo! Algorithm – Differences With Google
Like all search engines, Yahoo! too spiders the pages on the Web, indexes them in its database and later performs various mathematical operations to produce the pages with the search results. Yahoo! Slurp (the Yahoo! spiderbot) is the the second most active spider crawler on the Web. Yahoo! Slurp is not different from the other bots and if your page misses important elements of the SEO mix that make it not spiderable, then it hardly makes a difference which algorithm will be used because you will never get to a top position. (You may want to try the Search Engine Spider Simulator and check what of your pages is spiderable).
Yahoo! Slurp might be even more active than Googlebot because occasionally there are more pages in the Yahoo! index than in Google. Another alleged difference between Yahoo! and Google is the sandbox (putting the sites “on hold” for some time till they appear in search results). Google’s sandbox is deeper, so if you have made recent changes to your site, you might have to wait a month or two (shorter for Yahoo! and longer for Google) till these changes are reflected in the search results.
With new major changes in the Google algorithm under way (the so-called “BigDaddy” Infrastructure expected to be fully launched in March-April 2006) it’s hard to tell if the same SEO tactics will be hot on Google in two months’ time. One of the supposed changes is the decrease in weight of links. If this happens, a major difference between Yahoo! and Google will be eliminated because as of today Google places more importance on factors such as backlinks, while Yahoo! sticks more to onpage factors, like keyword density in the title, the URL, and the headings.
Of all the differences between Yahoo! and Google, the way keywords in the title and in the URL are treated is the most important. If you have the keyword in these two places, then you can expect a top 10 place in Yahoo!. But beware – a title and an URL cannot be unlimited and technically you can place no more than 3 or 4 keywords there. Also, it matters if the keyword in the title and in the URL is in a basic form or if it is a derivative – e.g. when searching for “cat”, URLs with “catwalk” will also be displayed in Yahoo! but most likely in the second 100 results, while URLs with “cat” only are quite near to the top.
Since Yahoo! is first a directory for submissions and then a search engine (with Google it’s just the opposite), a site, which has the keyword in the category it is listed under, stands a better chance to be in the beginning of the search results. With Google this is not that important. For Yahoo! keywords in filenames also score well, while for Google this is not a factor of exceptional importance.
But the major difference is keyword density. The higher the density, the higher the positioning with Yahoo! But beware – some of the keyword-rich sites on Yahoo! can with no difficulty fall into the keyword-stuffed category for Google, so if you attempt to score well on Yahoo! (with keyword density above 7-8%), you risk to be banned by Google!
Following Google’s example, Yahoo! introduced a Web toolbar that collects anonymous statistics about which sites users browse, thus way getting an aggregated value (from 0 to 10) of how popular a given site is. The higher the value, the more popular a site is and the more valuable the backlinks from it are.
Although WebRank and positioning in the search results are not directly correlated, there is a dependency between them – sites with high WebRank tend to position higher than comparable sites with lower WebRank and the WebRanks of the top 20-30 results for a given keyword are most often above 5.00 on average.
The practical value of WebRank as a measure of success is often discussed in SEO communities and the general opinion is that this is not the most relevant metrics. However, one of the benefits of WebRank is that it alerts Yahoo! Slurp that a new page has appeared, thus inviting it to spider it, if it is not already in the Yahoo! Search index.
When Yahoo! toolbar was launched in 2004, it had an icon that showed the WebRank of the page that is currently open in the browser. Later this feature has been removed but still there are tools on the Web that allow to check the WebRank of a particular page. For instance, this tool allows to check the WebRanks of a whole bunch of pages at a time.