10 reasons why Yahoo search sucks
by Brian Turner
Because Google is synonymous with “search” and effectively monopolises the global online search market, many of us look to rivals to at least try and even out the playing field.
The big problem is that these “rivals” often sabotage their own competitiveness by failing to focus on the user experience – despite the fact that this has been Google’s policy since inception.
For example, here are 10 reasons why Yahoo Search fails the user experience, and therefore cannot seriously claw back Google marketshare:
10 reasons why Yahoo Search provides a poor user experience
1. Domain name
If I want to find Google, I just type in a name. If I want to find Yahoo Search, I have to type in a sentence.
Example 1: http://www.google.co.uk – word
Example 2: http://uk.search.yahoo.com – sentence
No wonder Google as a name has become a verb in daily use for internet search. You can “google” yourself, but who is going to “UK Search Yahoo” themselves?
When I use Google search, it at least remembers my preferences.
While privacy advocates have long raised valid questions about the implications of this, they don’t need to worry about Yahoo at all.
Yahoo search can’t even remember who I am. Even if I’m searching from the same PC, on the same IP, on the same day.
Every time I run a search on Yahoo search in a new browser window, I have to reset my preferences.
Only Yahoo could make protecting my privacy the centre of poor user experience.
For tracking purposes I often need to look at the Top 100 results, not the Top 10.
However, if you click on “Options” next to the Yahoo search box, you are then prompted with two further options: “Advanced Search” and “Preferences”.
Which of these allows me to select 100 results per page? Usually the second one I click.
Google provides both options clearly beside it’s own search box, and Google additionally have search preferences under – um, preferences.
Google users who try Yahoo search and want to edit preferences quickly learn Yahoo calls these “Advanced Search” options.
It works against an industry standard that Google has set, and again, works against the user experience.
4. Sponsored results
Google always made it their mantra that the user experience should come first, monetisation second.
Yahoo follows the lead of more obscure search engines who figure that if they actually get any visitors, they should cash in on them quickly.
The way they do this is to try and throw in as many paid advertisements above the fold before a searcher can even get to the supposedly relevant results.
In other words, try and send the user to another page, rather than retain the user, or encourage repeat visits.
5. Paid results
While Google has tried to bend over backwards to preserve the integrity of its search results, Yahoo has traditionally sold out to the highest bidder.
So while again Google has tried to focus on the user experience, Yahoo has again tried to get rid of the user quickly.
If they can’t get the user to click on a clearly marked advert, they will sneak in a few in the “natural” results in order to get cash from user activity.
If Google Search had a motto for users, it would be “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”.
If Yahoo Search had a motto for users, it would be “Thanks for visiting, now feck off, thanks for the cash”
6. Search bugs
Last year, Yahoo UK search (or is that UK search Yahoo?) had issues with their CSS values not loading up properly all the time.
More recently, I’ve been informed by Yahoo that I may have a virus on my PC.
While Google also has these messages displayed for certain spam bot keyword searches, Yahoo will throw these up if I use Yahoo Search too frequently.
In other words, I can search 50 times on Google without a problem, unless I’m searching how to hack a phpbb forum.
But I can’t search Yahoo 50 times without a problem, because it think the only time anyone uses Yahoo search frequently is if its a bot.
Yet another great example of trying to send away users.
7. Region specific
If I go to “uk.search.yahoo.com”, Yahoo doesn’t really seem to understand where I want to search.
Google makes this clear on their own country-specific search domains by having an option such as Search: “the web” or “Pages from your country”.
Yahoo waits until it’s presented the search box, the user has made a search, before saying “Oops! I’ve given you some results that may not be relevant to you. Did you actually mean you wanted to use Yahoo UK to search for UK results?”.
I think this comes under the heading “putting the cart before the horse”.
8. Culture, not Geography
Let’s visit Yahoo UK – oh, look – it’s actually called Yahoo UK and Ireland.
This is a massive cultural faux pas.
There are already significant cultural differences across the UK – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
But Ireland itself – Eire – is a complete different country. It doesn’t have the same laws, the same government, or the same currency.
Ireland is also a country with a very troubled history with the UK – invasion, independence, IRA…
While English is taught as a language in Irish schools, Ireland has it’s own traditional language – Gaelic.
Overall, Yahoo trying to lump the UK and Ireland together can only be explained as geographical convenience.
In doing so, completely overlooks the unique user differences between the countries.
9. Search suggestions
A while back Google tried out search suggestions – you started typing a search query, and Google would suggest alternatives.
Yahoo decided to copy, gung-ho, and roll it out as a major feature of its search engine – possibly on the grounds that any gimmick Google could do, Yahoo could match.
Excepting that Google dropped the practice – an educated guess would be that Google tracked the process and decided it either did not add to the user experience, or even adversely affected it.
Yet it’s still there in Yahoo search.
So instead of being able to search for something, Yahoo now offers a complete reference list of alternative searches, and even provides alternative lists of alternative lists for users to use.
It gets in the way of the user experience, and offers nothing to it. In fact, it’s in danger of overwhelming or even insulting users.
At least if you may get something wrong at Google, they state “Did you mean … ?”
Yahoo, on the other hand, seems to be saying:
“Sorry, you can’t mean that. You must be a bit thick. Try these references instead as you obviously have problems using search engines. Maybe that’s why you’re here and not at Google?”.
I mentioned at the beginning that if you just want to use Yahoo Search, you have to type in a sentence in the address bar of your browser.
Okay, now that we’re at the end of this list, I’d like you to try – without looking – to find Yahoo search for the UK.
I’ll make it easy for you – I’ll provide a multiple choice:
Without checking, would you know which one to use?
If you did, how you you communicate the URL in conversation?
Ironically, two of the above URLs work – the third leads to a 404 error.
The fact I can even pose this question speaks volumes when compared to finding Google.
Google can be found on all major domain types. Just type Google, add domain extension.
Yahoo’s country-level targeting is simply confused, and this confuses users.
Overall: Yahoo search has no user experience
Overall, the big problem with Yahoo search is simple – there’s no real focus on the user experience.
We’ve gone through all of the above issues, and haven’t even got to looking at the search results themselves, because there are so many obstacles to the Yahoo search user experience before even getting to results.
Yahoo could have the greatest search relevancy in the world, but without a greater focus on user experience, who is going to use it?
Yahoo as a company has constantly been overshadowed by Google. The problem isn’t so much the difference in business models, traffic, or monetisation, as much as that Yahoo doesn’t take the user experience as seriously.
While buying up social networking sites may show some degree of vision in the company, if Yahoo continue to fail to understand the basics of accessibility of their internet assets, how on earth will they compete?
The company seems unhealthily focused on the US and Asian markets, and doesn’t seem to take European – not least UK – markets seriously.
This has to be a serious business mistake because the UK and other European economies such as France and Germany are among the world’s most powerful.
Google reported this quarter that 51% of their profits were from overseas operations. 97% of Google revenues comes from its Adsense model, used on its own search and partner sites. Yet the Yahoo Publisher Network remains available only in America.
Perhaps if Yahoo were to open its mind a little and apply an approach of focusing on providing a great user experience, it might become a more serious competitor.
ADDED May 1st: Google’s Eric Schmidt is interviewed by CNBC and makes the important statement:
the Internet is growing faster outside the United States than in the United States. Also advertising online growth rates are higher outside the United States than they are in the United States.
You’ve got–and of course you have a weak dollar strategy–because the US has
a very weak dollar–so that also helps. For all of those reasons, revenue
outside of the United States should grow dramatically over the next while, and
Are you listening, Yahoo?
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