ADOTAS – Yes, Yahoo still cares about search. Yes, Microsoft powers the back-end and the search algorithm through Bing, but Yahoo still manages the front side and, in effect, can innovate user experience, argued Shashi Seth, senior vice president of Search Products, during a press conference debuting the Internet portal’s Search Direct functionality.
As any chef will tell you, presentation counts — Yahoo has shown it cares about user’s search experience through innovations such as the accordion-esque category slides on top of the results page.
Search Direct is its most ambitious foray yet. It seems to combine a technology similar to Google Instant with page previews — except the top results and previews appear in the expanded query box next to the drop down menu of top searches. As Seth explained, many users won’t even have a need to leave the query box. The search team is striving to make the appearance uniform across all devices, possibly setting up Search Direct as a standalone app for tablets and smartphones.
As for differentiating from Google, Seth opened with what appears to be Yahoo’s new tagline for search: “Answers, not links.” Gotta admit, that’s a nice little slap to Google, whose search quality has been in question due to its over-reliance on trusting links.
The Yahoo team also highlighted its speed by conducting 50 searches in 30 seconds. “It’s gotta be the fastest thing you’ve ever seen,” Seth said numerous times, adding that Yahoo has ordered third-party verification of its speed versus Google.
Of course, if searchers never leave the query box, doesn’t that kind of screw over paid search advertisers? Well, that’s where things get very interesting. Though the Yahoo Search team is still working out the details, sponsored text results may appear in the top window, but there’s the promise to go farther with display advertising — potentially with optimized creative offering deals.
Say what you want about Yahoo’s search, but it’s agreed the portal has got display chops. Recently acquired dynamic creative pro Dapper has the ad tech know-how to help offer some impressive units. In addition, Yahoo wants to integrate video advertising into the query window.
Direct Search will roll out across all Yahoo properties in the next few months, and should be available on the Yahoo home page in the U.S. right now. Seth promised that the direct functionality will be available anywhere a Yahoo search box is installed. Relevant tweets already show up in Direct Searches, and posts from Facebook friends should appear in the coming months. In addition, updated versions will have the personal histories of Yahoo users integrated if the user gives the thumbs up.