Posted Thursday, October 21, 2004
It all started with a gasp…while reviewing the traffic report for one of our sites I noticed that traffic was down significantly from the day before. I soon discovered that the change had occurred at Yahoo.
So I navigated to Yahoo, typed in the keyword, and gasped. The trusty Yahoo search ranking page we had come to know and love (because our site was ranked #1) was gone! It had been replaced by what appeared to be a normal, non-categorized search listing like you would find at most other search engines. And more importantly, our site was no longer on top of that list!
By now you probably know that Yahoo has changed the way that it delivers search results. The old way, of showing a page of categories (Business and Economy > Business to Business > Construction > Metals) in response to a search has been replaced. Visitors now see a few one-line category links followed by a list of sites that rank well against that search term.
What does this mean for Internet Marketers? First, it probably means that your site has changed in ranking on Yahoo. You might be lucky and your site is in much better position now than it used to be. But you also may not even show up in the listing, especially if your success was based on having an alphabetically-prominent company name (Yahoo used to list sites alphabetically).
Second, it means that the search engine battleground has probably changed yet again. Yahoo currently represents about half of all searches on the net. My prediction (and I’m sure Yahoo’s hope) is that since this change makes information easier to find, it is going to make them significantly more popular, resulting in greater market share, and hence more searches, going through Yahoo in the future. (I’ve already called my broker…)
Keys To Ranking High on the New Yahoo!:
The formula for getting ranked high on Yahoo used to be one of the easiest to understand in the search directory/engine world. Now that formula’s not so obvious, and more importantly, it may become a moving target, just like most of the other search engines. What works well this week, possibly won’t next. But that’s life!
In spite of that, it’s fairly clear that Yahoo will be utilizing several factors in their equation to determine what comes up first in their ranking. Keep these in mind as you register new sites:
1. Presence in their database. They won’t list you if you’re not there! So if you haven’t done it yet, get off your duff, dust off your credit card, and fork over the $299 to get your site listed. You can’t afford not to, period!
2. Presence of the keyword in your URL, Yahoo title and Yahoo description. Yahoo still doesn’t appear to be ranking their search results based on the page content of your site itself, but rather by the information in the title, description and URL that is listed in their database for your site. Your site must provide valuable information to be accepted into the Yahoo directory, but when it comes to determining who gets ranked first on any given search, it’s the words in the titles, descriptions and URLs that determine the ranking order, not the actual copy on your site.
Ideally, the keyword that people will most likely find you under will be listed in your URL, your company name (which Yahoo will use for the title of your site in their listing) and right at the beginning of your site’s description on their database. For example: (http:compostmakers.com) Compost Makers Inc. Compost makers, tools, and equipment for making your garden healthy will score considerably better for a search on “compost makers” than would (http:gardenstuff.com) Bob’s Hardware Store Compost makers, tools, and equipment for making your garden healthy
3. Primacy of the keyword in your URL, Yahoo title and Yahoo description. Yahoo places more weight on words at the beginning of terms than that same word later on in your description. So: Compost makers, tools, and equipment for making your garden healthy will score better than: Garden tools, including compost makers, rakes, shovels and more for the term “compost makers.”
Keep in mind though, that this second example will score better on searches for the term “garden tools” which is searched on 70 times more frequently than “compost makers.” You need to know what terms people are actually using to search for sites like yours. How to do that is the subject of another article, but the easiest method is still Overture’s (formerly Goto’s) tool, (currently located at (http://inventory.overture.com/inventory/searchInventory.mp)) Make sure that if you’re going to go to all the work to rank high against a specific search term, that it’s one that people are actually using to search for your site!
It’s vital for you to not only know what you are truly selling, but also what is being searched on in your category.
4. Other factors. Every search engine applies certain weights to certain site criteria and change those weightings frequently. At the moment, Yahoo is doing that in several areas, which may change:
A. Placement in Yahoo’s categories. Yahoo has not abandoned their old category structure, just changed the way they list search results. They currently seem to be giving higher rankings to those sites that are categorized under the top category for a given search term rather than the lower priority categories.
B. Giving more weight to hyphenated URL’s than non-hyphenated URL’s with the same keywords. Thus (everything else being equal) (http://compost-makers.com) would score better than (http://compostmakers.com). This is especially true if the keyword is not the first element in the URL: (http://best-compost-makers.com) would score better than (http://bestcompostmakers.com).
C. Penalizing sites that have numbers or early-in-the-alphabet letters before the keyword (probably in reaction to those who tried to beat their old alphanumeric ranking system): (http://1compostmakers.com) probably won’t even show up in the first several pages of their listing.
D. Not differentiating between .com’s, .net’s, .org’s, etc. This opens up opportunities to achieve top rankings through purchasing alternative domains to the .com standby. (Caution we have no idea how the new .info, .biz etc. domains will fare in Yahoo’s new structure, so approach these with caution).
Several key issues are not yet clear at Yahoo:
1. There is no indication of popularity or link popularity affecting rankings. Yahoo is tracking click-throughs so it won’t be surprising to see popularity affecting rankings in the near future. Link popularity may be farther out, as Yahoo isn’t currently spidering sites, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see an acquisition or licensing deal in the future.
2. There are several thousand sites that are paying extra to be listed at the top of the category pages as sponsored sites. Yahoo has now significantly decreased the value given to those paying partners by shunting as much as 75% of their search traffic off of the category pages and into their search pages. They stand to lose millions of dollars in sponsorship revenues in the next few weeks if they don’t quickly find a way to bring those sponsored links onto the search results pages in addition to their category pages.
All of these changes are vital for internet marketers to understand. Not only will they most likely result in additional traffic to Yahoo, but for those who understand these changes it can yield major benefits of extra traffic, sales and profits!
About the Author
Don Crowther is the founder of (http://NetMarketingMasters.com) a company dedicated to helping companies build their sales and profits through the techniques used by the masters of Internet marketing. For more information on NetMarketingMasters or to subscribe to their free online marketing newsletter, visit (http://NetMarketingMasters.com)