The New Yahoo! Search Direct: Big Brands Win, Small Businesses Lose

Last week Yahoo! announced the new and improved Yahoo! Search Direct (now in public BETA). It was a little confusing at first to see this development. The prevailing wisdom up to that point was Bing would power Yahoo! and search innovation  from them had gone the way of the dodo bird.

The new Yahoo! Search Direct is live and viewable at It really is an amazing product for users and  and for most “big brands”. As you type Yahoo intelligently show you the most likely response. Unlike Google Instant, the results are limited, but richer. For example, look at what I get on a search for Apple:

Apple Yahoo! Search Direct

Notice how comes up with “rich content” below. Also God help you if own a small company that sells Apple iPod Accessories. As you can see below, Yahoo Shopping dominates the results and rich content.

Apple iPod accessories Yahoo Search Direct

As you can see there is no hope for the independent small business selling iPod Accessories–links are to, Apple Store and all other partners in Yahoo! Shopping. It sort of makes sense to push your vertical, so I can’t blame Yahoo! Nevertheless, it really penalizes non-Yahoo! partners who might have a better fit–and would have a better chance at discovery in Google, even if it was by Google Adwords.

As I did other searches, I was confused by questionable choices. For example do a search on “Electronics”. Fry’s has that locked up.

Electronics Yahoo Search Direct

But, funny enough Best Buy comes to the top for “flat screen tv”. Good luck if you’re a small electronics store selling TV’s.

What about local? If you do a search for “Pizza”, Pizza Hut owns that slot.  Search “Pizza New York” and John’s Pizzeria comes up, no options to see other Pizzeria in New York. No maps. No button to search other pizzerias.

Pizza Yahoo! Search Direct

The end result is the big brands, the lucky brands, the Yahoo! Ad customers will own those slots. Sure to get more results you can hit enter, but I only found that out by playing around with the new interface. Nowhere does it make it understood that you need to click “search” for more results–and I am sure most people won’t. It’s not even mentioned in the explanation video (embedded below). And weirdly, the results on enter are also different: Fry’s for example falls to the fourth slot on search engine results page for the term “Electronics” (below the Yahoo! Shopping):


So the end results is the rank criteria really doesn’t make any sense. Partially I think that is because Bing! data takes over this part of the equation. But this is just my guess.

Yahoo! will be moving this new interface to all other properties, and you can be sure that some companies (like Fry’s) will see huge spike in their traffic. Others might see their traffic evaporate. From a user perspective I loved it. It was easy intuitive, and usually on the money. No scanning pages of search results for what I was looking for, and very little issue with Spam–or low quality results.In my testing over the last couple of days I’ve searched for popular items or terms–and have been happy with the results. I’m not sure how it does for discovery on a day to day basis,  for example when you don’t have a result in mind.  Nevertheless, for the few discovery searches I have done, I have been relatively impressed.

Now comes the bad news, doing SEO or Web Marketing for a small business in a competitive niche will now become harder. It’s not clear what the criteria is for how one gets in the “Rich Content” box, but if you are intent on increasing that Yahoo! number, you have to consider adding Yahoo! to your display marketing budget. If you have products for sale make sure you are on Yahoo! Shopping. Frankly, as noted by SearchEngineLand , Yahoo properties dominate. Our advice is to look at your vertical and make sure you are part of it as best as you can. Also because Bing is now fully in charge of Yahoo’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), you should consider studying  the Bing Guidelines. The truth  is Yahoo! Search Direct is a new product, so improving your placement will be a mix of hard work, testing and good luck.

To learn more about Yahoo! Search Direct, check out the official video or visit to get started in planning your strategies:

Adrian Speyer

About The Author: Adrian has over 12 years experience in Digital Marketing and Analytics. He currently works as a Marketing Manager at Vanilla Forums, a modern forum software platform that allows clients to connect and engage their communities and customers. He lives and works in Montreal.

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