Search with the (Yahoo!) BOSS

As a Web activity, search remains of high interest among online consumers. And, as someone responsible for a website's success, you must understand that the better the search facility provided, the better opportunity you have to ultimately generate revenue.

There are actually quite a few solutions on the market today that can be leveraged to create a Web search facility, including the highly utilized Google Custom Search product. But there are many others such as Websolr, Searchblox and Elastic Search that are worth exploring.

All of these solutions are powerful and effective enterprise-grade products, but now there's even one more that might be of interest to the wider population of Web workers.

Yahoo has introduced three new features to its open-search Web services platform (Search BOSS - Build-your-Own-Search-Service), and in so doing may have once again found the necessary groove to endear the company to Web professionals. The Yahoo Search Boss tools were developed to address "user engagement, traffic recirculation, monetization and costs associated with maintenance" according to the official announcement.

Well, if that is what it set out to do, it is most certainly positioned to accomplish that objective. Let's look deeper into these very different product offerings and the value they provide websites, digital workers and developers.

BOSS Hosted Search

Based on the its BOSS API Service, the Boss Hosted Search product enables websites to leverage Yahoo's search technology to create their own cobranded Web search tool. The product offers several unique features including image modules, structured content and quite a few search refinement capabilities, as well as local results. The solution, which leverages Yahoo's User Intent Detection technology, can be deployed quickly through a simple Javascript integration and, thanks to the platform's global availability, developers can select the international markets upon which they want to focus.

What really separates the Yahoo Boss Hosted Search product from that of Google Custom Search, however - outside of having no traffic limits - is likely the rich Web search experience and the ability to customize the results page, matching it to the theme of any site. Monetization opportunities do exist, but Yahoo indicated that not all publishers are approved for the ad revenue share.

BOSS Site Search

Site search is a necessary and immensely important feature of ecommerce sites in particular, but also medium to large publishers with vast collections of available content. But the site search functionality built into most software platforms tends to be lackluster at best. While still in private beta, the Yahoo! Boss Site Search product could end up as a standout in the site search technology niche.

The product provides websites a means to aggregate content and apply Yahoo's search algorithms to determine relevancy. Coupled with search refiners based on site section and publishing date, users will be able to drill down into site content, increasing pageviews and improving the user experience in the process.

BOSS Shortcuts

Perhaps Yahoo's most disruptive of the three features released in December might just be Boss Shortcuts. Using its Content Understanding Technology, Yahoo identifies relevant keywords that are most likely to engage users and links them inline to content on the Web and content from your own site. The benefit of the service, outside of providing another way to engage users (which seems to be the mantra throughout this set of services) is monetization. While Yahoo's BOSS Hosted Search and Site Search products seem to offer up some interesting opportunities to deepening user engagement, it's the revenue that will clearly attract developers in the future.

Yahoo's build-your-own-search service has been around for many years but failed to capture broader use by the developer community. With more accessible options for integrations, however, the product may just be one step closer to prime time.