SEO for Yahoo

While most any search engine discussion tends to just focus on Google for its sheer domination in the marketplace, ignoring Yahoo would not be a smart choice. According to Comscore, Compete.com and Hitwise Yahoo holds approximately 20% of the US search engine market share – a very large number. Yahoo, unlike Google is also a content provider and therefore has bit of a different approach to search and the SERPs (search engine results pages) than does Google. By the way, YAHOO stands for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” – how’s that for a mouthful?

Yahoo started out as a web directory service that was hosted on Stanford University computers back in 1994. After building it up for awhile Stanford was eventually able to get about $3 million in outsides investment capital for Yahoo and they subsequently acquired Rocketmail which later became what is currently known today as Yahoo Mail. Oddly enough from 2000 to 2004 Yahoo actually outsourced it’s search capabilities to Google, before Yahoo and Microsoft began to see just how important the search marketplace was actually becoming. Yahoo continued to grow, evolve and refine its search via acquisition of Overture and Inktomi which eventually both merged into what is now simply Yahoo Search.

Yahoo still has several key differences from Google from structural and philosophical standpoint. For example, Yahoo still maintains a directory and a paid inclusion program called Yahoo Search Submit. The Yahoo Search Submit service has two different levels – Basic and Pro – depending upon your budget. The Basic version is for small sites and low budgets and allows submissions of up to 5 URLs while the Pro version is for corporate clients that have a minimum of $5000 to spend (yeah, it’s that pricey). It is commonly thought that the inclusion of Yahoo’s Search Submit might actually be hurting their SERPs because it forces Yahoo’s algorithm to be biased towards these clients and Yahoo apparently lets these big dollar clients get away with some Greyhat things like cloaking that would otherwise be considered “shady”. Another major difference in Yahoo’s approach is noticeable in how they include their PPC ads into the SERPs. Yahoo shoves 4 to 5 ads on top of the organic results which tend to make their results less information derived and even, perhaps, less relevant.

As Yahoo’s history started out more as a content creator and search portal, they still have a significant bias in that direction. Yahoo has many content products – Yahoo Answers, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Real Estate, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Lifestyle and many others as well. For better or worse, Yahoo tends to be biased in its SERPs towards its own content sources; this can affect your rankings as well.

The fastest and easiest way to get your site into the Yahoo SERPs is simply to join their Yahoo Search Submit program and pay to submit your site. They will send their crawler to churn through your site and get it reviewed by one of their on-staff reviewers. Yahoo tends to show its content roots in its algorithm and heavily weighs onsite SEO optimization, paying more attention to it than Google. Yahoo also has a different philosophy than Google when it comes in backlinks. A site that has a high number of incoming backlinks (even if they are not the high PR variety links that Google links) will do better in Yahoo than it will in Google. Yahoo doesn’t seem to give nearly as much credence to link quality that Google imposes. So this becomes a delicate dancing act between optimizing your site for Google versus Yahoo. Too many spammy links will hurt your Google rankings, so be careful.

Yahoo tends to be much easier to get rank for via their more lenient linking policies than Google. Yahoo doesn’t seem to pay much attention to link age or link domain age either which makes it much easier for a new site to get quick rankings. Yahoo does apparently put some weight on both site and domain age, but not nearly so much as Google. Yahoo tends to allow you to get pretty aggressive with your onsite optimization of the page and targeting of anchor text on inbound links – much more so than Google – but you have to be careful. If you optimize too much for Yahoo you may end up hurting yourself in the Google SERPs.

Yahoo also does more human review of the sites than does Google. For one, it is quite a bit smaller than Google, so this is more feasible. But Yahoo generally has a more human touch than Google because of its directory heritage and the fact that the Search Submit process requires human review as well. Yahoo is also known for human review of very popular categories like credit cars or Viagra – this can be a good or a bad thing. High quality sites will tend to get a boost from this human review, while others may get kicked to the back of the line. No one knows the exact procedure for Yahoo human review, but it is far different than that of Google. Google tends to rely 100% on its math algorithm and then kick out certain sites for human review as they are flagged. Yahoo may actually ignore the algorithm entirely and do manual placement – exact information is unknown, but testing has led to these speculations.

The bottom line is that while it may be easier to get rankings for Yahoo, it is also far more subjective. Secondly, while aggressive SEO efforts for Yahoo will likely bring about very quick and positive results in their SERPs, keep in mind that they only hold 20% of the market share and you will likely be hurting your SEO efforts on Google. As always, the best approach is probably a more balanced approach of trying to pick up Yahoo traffic while not doing anything to jeopardize Google results. Your best bet would be to seek the advice of a highly qualified SEO expert with experience in Yahoo and Google.

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