It's sort of like having two best friends... that are pulling you in very different, very separate directions. In the end, it may just be a matter of preference.
Instant Survey: Yahoo or Google; Which Search Engine / Online Community Do You Prefer?
You enjoy the fast paced discussion and relish in the depth of thought that is available when spending time with your first friend. But being with this friend means you will also have to be with his gaggle of other friends and you may end up being far removed from participating in the discussion altogether. But trust your friend, he means to do no evil. If you misbehave however, say for instance make an extended effort to get closer to the in crowd without being savvy enough to know the unstated rules of engagement intimately or use the tricks of the trade you have seen others use, you may be forcibly removed and possibly banned forever.
Your second friend has been around for many years and past experiences have always produced wonderful results. There are many advantages of spending time with this friend and the discussions will be diverse in nature and quite lively. It will be crowded here too but you have been invited to pay for a premium position beside your friend, actually you can pay for multiple premium positions beside your friend and his friends. Actually, if you buy one position for fifty dollars, your friend will give you another position for free! Luckily, since many interesting people will be there it will seem like more of a community – a portal for your life so to speak. Well, actually… a paying portal.
While the analogy of choosing which friend to spend time with and how the collective world of website owners interact with Google and Yahoo may not be spot on, it reveals an important question all website owners must answer: do you have a preference for either of these massive new media companies when it comes to investing your online promotional and development budget? Chances are that you do and it is important to understand that those preferences may very well impact the success of your online business. As such, it is essential to learn as much as we can about the forces (the companies themselves and their individual service offerings) pulling us in these disparate directions in order to make the right (most profitable) decision for an online business.
While this article started out as an analysis of the products both companies provide (and a cost/benefit analysis of each), it quickly morphed into an article about the differences between the two and how those differences can be capitalized upon by website owners seeking to make the most of their online relationships with Google and Yahoo. Website Services Magazine looks at the history of these enterprises and how their current service offerings impact the Web business communities at large. Simply stated, it is not a Yahoo versus Google article as much as it is a Yahoo and/or Google article.
The History and Structure of Yahoo and Google
With both companies getting their start (at least in part) at Stanford, you would think that someone at the computer science and engineering departments of that institution would consider bottling the water. Maybe they already have. You can learn a great deal about an organization by looking at how it got its start and as well as its existing corporate structure. If our intent is to learn about where our preferences reside when it comes to Yahoo and Google, the relationship between their histories and their existing structures is surprisingly transparent.
Yahoo first emerged as a personal project of founders David Filo and Jerry Yang in February 1994 as a way to keep track of their personal Internet interests. The name Yahoo! is actually an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” – which sheds some light on the value that Web community continues to place on its directory-based system – it has for the most part retained a communal essence. The Yahoo network has developed into a leading global Internet communications, commerce and media company and now offers its services (according to its website) to 345 million individual users each month, Yahoo claims its brand is the number one globally and reaches the largest audience worldwide.
While Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin may not have known then that the algorithm they developed to retrieve relevant information from a massive set of data would have any impact on the Web and media world, it undeniably and most certainly has changed the way many of us access the seemingly infinite amount of information the Internet has to offer. When it comes to pure search market share (considering search volume) Google is consistently ten to twenty percent higher than Yahoo and much more than those online destinations following Yahoo such as MSN or Ask Jeeves. This indicates its current overwhelming mainstream popularity. It is no wonder how it earned its common place in the modern lexicon.
While the history of both Yahoo and Google may not be the most important aspect of these companies, it clearly denotes the importance both place on retrieval of relevant information, and more importantly indicates how this very well may be done. In essence, Yahoo has places a great deal of value on its "officious hierarchy" while Google places value on equations to determine relevance.
The history and existing structures of these corporations merit mention if website owners are to determine how to best maximize their relationship with these Web-based organizations. If you prefer to pay for membership in a community, look towards Yahoo. If you are on the cutting edge of technology, go with Google. While history is not a concrete indicator of the Internet future, many industry experts agree that chances are slim neither Yahoo or Google will stray too far from how they got their start.
Another way to determine our personal preference is to look directly at the available relationships Web surfers have with Yahoo and Google. Doing so will reveal our preferences when it comes to general use and how that impacts your decision when it comes to investing time or money in the individual services these companies provide.
General Users (Web Surfers)
You can learn a lot about both Yahoo and Google simply by using the dizzying array of services they provide the greater online community. While both offer valuable tools and services that can be customized to satisfy individual Internet users’ needs, it is near impossible to determine the preference the majority of end-users actually have. Thanks in great part to its established structure as a comprehensive “Life” engine however, Yahoo may have the upper hand in many respects – at least at this point in Web history – in terms of pure numbers.
Yahoo has for quite some time boasted a robust system that caters to its end-user community; providing a popular email system, elaborate personalization features for members’ homepages (which can include anything from custom RSS feeds, stock quotes, photos, calendars, etc). The past year however has seen Google gaining ground in the same end-user market and is attracting them at a modest clip as well with Gmail (Google’s email system), Google Talk and more recently its own personalized homepage feature for end-users.
While most, if not all, website owners use at least a few of the offerings provided by Google and Yahoo it is important to stay aware of new developments if one hopes to capitalize on the continually expanding array of services and the opportunities such growth and innovation enables. While there is a great deal more that could and possibly should be discussed when it comes to the products that Yahoo and Google provide end-users it should be sufficient to say that thanks in no small part to their innovation – both are destined to stay at the forefront of the Web for a long time to come. While your preference for either Google or Yahoo may not matter in the grand scheme of things, there is no denying that the lion’s share of your Web budget will be dedicated to attracting users from their establishing communities.
Search Results – SEO/SEM
While website owners may receive better results from their search engine optimization/ marketing campaigns from one of these networks more than the other, natural (organic) listings continue to be the main source of website traffic for most – which means that it is important to put aside any personal predisposition you have established about the quality of such traffic and understand more about how results pages are organized if you plan on maximizing an online search spend.
Search, or the act of seeking out information from websites on the Internet, continues to be a main source of ‘Net identity for both Yahoo! and Google. End-users are searching the Web with great frequency to locate information that impacts the purchasing process and to touch the pulse of the ‘Net as a whole just to learn more about the topics that interest them. The untrained eye (in the case the average Web surfer) may not be able to tell the difference between the SERP’s (search engine results pages) if all branding was removed, but many website owners and Internet industry experts certainly can. Website Services Magazine conducted research on two completely disparate topics (Hurricane Katrina and Phentermine – a popular dietary supplement) using Yahoo and Google SERP’s to learn about the general differences between the two. Here are the results and a brief analysis:
Search for Hurricane Katrina:
Google SERPS: In our study, two sponsored results were provided by Google. Topping the natural results was a link to Google News and three recent news items about hurricane Katrina. The first organic result was from the National Hurricane Center, second and third results were from redcross.org, fourth result from Wikipedia, fifth result from donate.msn.com, sixth result usafreedomcorps.gov, seventh result from firstgov.gov, eighth result from unitedway.org, ninth result from redcross.org and the tenth result was from a Yahoo storefront set up for donations. Sponsored links also flanked results.
Yahoo SERPS: Preceding both sponsored and organic results were recommendations to try alternate keywords. Topping natural results were three sponsored results which were followed by news results from Yahoo! News. The first organic result was from louisiana.gov, second from fema.gov, third from firstgov.gov, fourth from bushclintonkatrinafund.com, fifth from deadlykatrina.com - a weblog covering the aftermath of the hurricane, sixth was a link to Yahoo! News Coverage of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, seventh result was from Nola.com (the Times-Picayune newspaper site), the eight result was from the Biloxi Sun Herald, ninth was from wikipedia.org and the tenth result was from ABC News. Yahoo results were also followed by three sponsored listings and flanked (to the right) by additional ads.
Search for Phentermine:
Google SERPS: Google provided three sponsored results for the Phentermine search term and returned over 6.2 million results in .17 seconds. Search results (at least on the first page of natural results) were all updated within seven days (fifty percent within the previous 24 hours). Search listings also included Google’s similar pages feature which returns links from sites that are related to the result. In this study, the “similar pages” feature worked only sixty percent of the time and stated the search did not match any documents (other listings) associated with the sites.
Yahoo SERPS: Yahoo also provided three sponsored results (and two sponsored results at the end of the organic listings) for the same search term and returned a reported 35 million results in .02 seconds. Topping non-sponsored listings was a shortcut to the Yahoo! Health Drug Guide. Embedded within fifty percent of the natural results was a link to the Yahoo! category for Adipex-P (the official name for Phentermine) suggesting that Yahoo results rely in part on the directory categories.
The SERP analysis of “Hurricane Katrina” and “Phentermine”
What stood out about results for the search term “hurricane Katrina” at Google was the amount of duplicate results (redcross.org) and links to directly competing sites MSN and Yahoo. What stood out about results for the search term “hurricane Katrina” on Yahoo! were the lack of duplicate results, the availability of newspaper related links as well as government (state, local and federal) sites. When it came to “Phentermine” both search engines provided quality results for a highly competitive keyword and included within the SERP’s links to sites providing definitions and articles as well as a link to Medline Plus (a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine). It was interesting that one listing at Yahoo included an XML link for one site in addition to its general home page – indicating that it fully intends to provide end-users access to RSS feeds through natural/organic listings in the very near future.
Advertising & Paid Marketing
Website owners, marketers and advertisers have indeed felt the draw towards the advertising and paid marketing solutions provided by Google and Yahoo. Both networks provide exceptional solutions to draw traffic to websites through various means such as the popular bid for placement (pay per click) advertising model as well as directory listings. Taking a closer look at the individual programs offered by these organizations may assist website owners attempting to determine which one fits within their corporate budgets and of course their personal missions and mindsets.
Yahoo! Search Marketing and Advertising
Yahoo! features a broad collection of search marketing and advertising services for websites to promote their products or services to local audiences and the online population in general using Yahoo! directly or one of its affiliated sites. The multitude of service offerings makes Yahoo! Search Marketing a bit confusing to novices, but a clear understanding of these services will benefit anyone interested in generating consumer traffic on the Web. Yahoo! secured its place in the advertising world with its purchase of the then leading bid for placement advertising network in Overture. While the integration has been relatively seamless and the result for advertisers continues to be of a beneficial nature, questions regarding customer service abound. Yahoo Search Marketing relies in great part in two programs - Sponsored Search and Context Match. Sponsored search displays business listings along search results on sites such as Yahoo, MSN and Altavista using a bid per click model. Advertisers can extend their reach with its ContentMatch program which displays advertising listings alongside relevant content from Yahoo's extensive publisher network. Advertiser can also opt to participate in its Search Submit Express program which is a combination of a paid inclusion (within natural results) a per click fee.
Many advertisers opt for Yahoo’s Directory Submit program. Approximately five years ago getting listed in the Yahoo! directory was essential for generating traffic to your website. Five years later not much has changed – except the price. For two hundred and ninety-nine dollars you can have a website reviewed for possible inclusion in the popular directory – something which was identified in the previous section on Search and SEM as something which very well may influence position on Yahoo’s natural search results. While there is no guarantee that a site will be included in the directory, most serious website owners are more than willing to fork over at least that amount for inclusion even if it means just a few visits, as the weight of that link is immensely important for search engine optimization purposes. Yahoo also features programs for advertisers seeking to reach online buyers through its Yahoo Shopping and Travel sections.
Google Advertising Programs:
When it comes to online advertising there are alternate solutions to Yahoo array of services. Google’s Adwords program enables businesses to connect with consumers searching for products, services or information through a bid for placement or pay per click model (something which consequently Yahoo! owns the patent on) – but which Google has refined, and some would argue improved upon. Adwords is Google’s sole source of advertising revenue and is unique in that how much a campaign costs depends in large part on the advertiser and how much that advertiser is willing to pay.
After submitting a few keywords, advertisers are required to choose a maximum cost per click – a major point of confusion for those just starting out with Adwords. Essentially, once you have decided on a maximum cost per click (CPC) Google’s traffic estimator returns “estimates” on how much you might pay per day for the keywords you have chosen. If you determine (based on the information Google provides) that there are too few or too many clicks at too high or too low a CPC you can recalculate the estimates. The down side of the Adwords system is that you simply do not know at the outset (or ever for that matter if you do not track individual keywords) what you will actually be paying for an individual keyword, which turns many advertisers off completely from using the system to its full capacity. The upside is that you more often than not will not be paying the full price you indicated and are able to modify the maximum CPC of individual keyword bids at a later time.
Google also features a program which enables advertisers to appear on individual sites in the Google content network – a collection of sites that partner with Google to publish advertisers’ ads on a CPM basis starting at one dollar per thousand impressions. An additional benefit provided with Google Adwords is the ability to use image based ads (banners of various formats) instead of textual ads.
Now that you know…where will you go?
It can not be emphasized enough that Yahoo and Google are the premier online advertising and marketing networks on the Web for a very specific reason – they are simply the best at what they do. If you have a preference when it comes to where you spend your promotional budget it may be wise to investigate how the individual offerings provided by each of these companies can impact your businesses bottom line.
Affiliates (Publishers) & Partners
The main draw to the Internet for many website owners is the ability to generate revenue. While both Google and Yahoo provide advertisers and marketers an opportunity to drive traffic to their site and in turn make sales at that site, both provide very different opportunities when it comes to monetizing on the Web traffic website owners receive.
Only Google provides an affiliate program for the mass of website owners in its AdSense program. AdSense delivers text and image ads that are contextually targeted to a website and its content. Affiliates essentially earn a percentage of what an advertiser bids – what that percentage is however is a major point of contention. Websites that receive over twenty million page views per month can request Google’s Premium AdSense services which offers more flexible ad formats, advanced filtering and additional monetization options. Some of Google’s premium partners include Amazon, The New York Times and AOL. Google also offers a domain parking program for those sites which receive more than 750,000 page views per month.
Yahoo’s suite of affiliate programs is in line with its existing community-based business model. While Yahoo is testing a contextual affiliate program of its own (at the time of writing of this article it had not been released to the general public) its partner/affiliate programs provides website owners with a satisfactory array of programs to promote and from which to generate revenue, including Personals, Small Business, Autos, Search Marketing, HotJobs and MusicMatch from Y! Music. Unlike Google's do it yourself approach, Yahoo has partnered with Commission Junction (cj.com) to offer their affiliate/partner programs - something (including third-parties) which may deter many affiliates from promoting Yahoo products as the revenue is invariably split between the players.
When it comes to which affiliate offering in general website owners prefer to integrate within their own sites, it depends in great part on what that site is about. If website owners are content to just sit back and watch the money roll in, Google AdSense may be the right decision. For website owners that prefer old-school affiliate programs where you must roll up your sleeves to make the sale, Yahoo is better choice.
Google at this point is the clear leader among the two if not the leading provider (at least in pure numbers) of affiliate solutions. The online world is anxiously awaiting Yahoo's full force entrance into the affiliate industry with a contextual market program as at this point its failure to attract this valuable community may have set it back a few paces. For Yahoo, catching Google will be an exceedingly difficult task.
Which way are you being pulled? And does it matter?
It is near impossible to deny that both Yahoo and Google have had a immensely positive impact on the Web community. Both provide an easy onramp to the information superhighway, both provide advertisers and marketers methods to drive traffic to their sites and profit from the traffic they receive whether that is through innovation and existing development. If you feel as though you are being pulled towards one more than the other, that certainly may be the case. If you are community based and enjoy working with others over a broad array of subjects, Yahoo is probably for you. If you like to go it alone and are perpetually on the cutting edge of all things technically savvy then Google is probably right up your alley. If you find that you have a preference for one of these online destinations more than the other, investigate the resources each provide; you may just find that your preferences are actually very different from what you currently practice.