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He was pointing out factors that indicate the continuing predominance of Google, and in starting to think about it to respond, I began to think about circumstances a year ago, when the discussions were quite different, with a lot centering on speculating about the expiration of the Yahoo/Google contract.
A lot has happened since then, and while Google remains leader in search and the focus of most attention, I began to wonder how much of a role and potential for influence Yahoo has, and whether we're doing ourselves a disservice by not turning some of our attention back on Yahoo (and Inktomi, possibly), particularly at this time, this year, just a few months prior to the Holiday season, known for heavy searches and more importantly, heavy revenues.
Responding to teeceo's remarks about Google pre-eminence, posting here because of focusing on Yahoo and what could be ahead:
#1. Yahoo: Simple, they use google db and there ppc deal with there partners(i.e. no google listing, no free traffic).
It's simple now, but the beginning of the Holiday shopping season is about three months off. It's up in October and explodes in November. It may not be so simple by then if we keep mind that Yahoo bought Inktomi.
#2. MSN: first 5 results are "FEATURED SITES", next 3 results are "SPONSORED SITES", finally, after all that comes your (PPI single page, sence they don't spider sites, just the page you paid for) now who is going to find you past all that FS/SS stuff? not many...
Ink still does spider sites, and many of us have pages in without paying. It may take a while, but it does happen. If we target keywords for which the Ink results aren't preceded by much else at MSN, there can still be some decent traffic, and those less competitive keywords and phrases are often very targeted and can convert decently.
It's true that MSN traffic doesn't compare with Google's, especially with AOL and Yahoo tacked on, but if - and it's a big if - Yahoo goes over to using Inktomi at some point, this will be a sorry Holiday season for webmasters who rely on seasonal upswings in their business, keep their eyes riveted on Google only, and didn't prepare ahead for "just in case."
MSN's potential for sending traffic doesn't compare with what Yahoo can do. And right now, as we speak, just a few short months away from heavy shopping season, Yahoo/SBC is aggressively promoting their DSL internet service with irresistible bargain prices, just as MSN did a while back with the rebates on computers.
The local computer stores constantly had new potential internet users shopping and purchasing during that promotion, every night. That was the chance for the not so affluent to get a bargain and be able to afford a computer and get on line. Newbies tend to use their default start page and quite often the search that goes with it. And they do make online purchases - especially expendibles.
Those newbies that MSN pulled online, and the AOLers as well - they're growing up now. Why should they pay $21.95 a month for dog-slow dialup when they can have DSL for $29.95 - and get a dynamite deal on the equipment? Just speculating, but what's to stop Yahoo/SBC from running a rebate special this year or next at beginning of the school year a bit before holiday season?
Let's face it - do people make a conscious choice to use AOL or MSN, or is it a default decision? Yahoo is accruing more and more default users of their start page(and search) as well, since the SBC deal, as the usual who deliberately search there. Darn good start page too, they're not making the same mistakes as MSN and AOL - they've done their homework.
Here's a thread from last year, before the renewal, speculating about whether Yahoo would renew with Google or go back to Inktomi. The outlook for Ink was bleak back then. It doesn't look quite the same since the Yahoo acquisition.
How does it all look this year compared to a year ago, with Yahoo quietly and aggressively edging in to try to pull away some of MSN's and AOL's ISP market share, giving search a predominance over the Directory and purchasing Inktomi? Could we be shooting ourselves in the foot by being blind-sided rather than thinking ahead of possibilities, however remote they may seem?
How long was the Google/Yahoo renewal for? When does it come up for renewal again? When they all sit down at the table to shuffle the cards again, is Yahoo holding the trump card?
[edited by: Marcia at 12:23 am (utc) on June 12, 2003]
Strongly agree that no one of us should be surprised at any turns in web search world over the next six months. Your 'heavy shopping season' observation is the best educated and most logical guess I've seen as to a possible time frame for some anticipated changes. A few things I've noted:
Yahoo is spending a bunch on their "New Search" campaign. Don't quite know what the new search is as I haven't really seen any changes as yet. Did they jump the gun, or are they in a buildup toward a Fall roll out?
Jeeves/Teoma has made some great strides in their technology and, I think, now returns some great results. Are they going to use any of the cash on hand from the recent sale of Jeeves Solutions to tell people about this? Again, possible holiday season campaign?
And, of course, the big G. They've been under the gun on the webmaster side and now some concerns are appearing in the general press [webmasterworld.com]. As a searcher I've recently started using Teoma almost exclusively. Are other people doing the same? Might other people follow if Jeeves/Teoma mounts a challange? And, back to the six month time frame, is the 'upheavel' we are now seeing at Google in preparation for the challenges they are expecting to face?
Add everything else into the mix, Overture, Msn, etc., and we're set for some interesting developments.
Yahoo is spending a bunch on their "New Search" campaign. Don't quite know what the new search is...
The new search they are campaigning is the new "look" search they have. Still Google results.
Call it what you will, I think what Y is doing right now is Brilliant. You can't walk two blocks in Chicago without seeing a Y! search ad. And the campaign is really smart. Yet as JimBeetle and MFishy point out, nothing has changed. Y's default is still G. Really think about this. Spend tens of millions on ads that drive new searches to Y, when in fact they are searching the best engine in the world in G. without the user ever really knowing and within the confines of arguably the best content facility on the web. If this doesn't call into question the comparitive advantages of G, I do not know what does. Then when Y gains additional search marketshare (thereby benefiting its ad sales), they have the flexibility to lose G and bring in a new and improved Ink. Or maybe not.
Now interestingly and back to Marcia question:
The renewal of the G and Y contract took place in October. Here are the two most important features: First of all, there was no time frame mentioned in the Google deal. Second, the deal was a non exclusive.
Does Y! have a card yes. A big one. And the cash to back it up.
Ink still does spider sites, and many of us have pages in without paying
I'm one of those folks whose pages are in the free Ink category. I did not pay or submit, they just picked them up crawling.
It's true that MSN traffic doesn't compare with Google's, especially with AOL and Yahoo tacked on, ...
Maybe I did something wrong here. My MSN traffic nearly equals Google and Yahoo combined. But that's a recent development. A month or two (I don't recall exactly when) back Ink must have updated and my traffic from MSN went up by about 500%.
One way or the other I'm anticipating quite a big upheavel for this site.
You hit the nail right in the head Marcia. Like you and many others here, I strongly feel that the next 6 to 12 months in the search world, we will see some DRASTIC changes, similar to what we have been seeing these last couple of months.
There will be buyouts, mergers, new engines popping up from the cupboard, maybe one or two might even close. There is not question about it:- times, they are 'a changin
Also, I haven't heard much about how Yahoo is plagiarizing everything Google has done. The search interface, the cache, the toolbars, Advanced search, preferences, shopping, etc.
They are really trying to get people to use and stay on their site, and have the additional power of all the market data they posses, which Google doesn't.
I think Yahoo's re-positioning themselves as "Players". I don't think it'll be long before they regained searching numbers.
Now, if they just clean up the search interface a bit and make it as simple as Google's, I would see them as real contenders.
Yahoo is plagiarizing everything Google has done.
On the surface it looks as if Yahoo is playing catch up- But look a little closer an you'll see that Yahoo is chasing a different strategy, and is far ahead of their competition.
Reach out and Yahoo Someone
Yahoo has acquired companies and technologies that enable people to communicate with one another. Hotjobs.com allows people to communicate with potential employers. Then there's email, IM, and the dating services. Two weeks ago Yahoo announced a partnership with the leading internet conferencing company, WebEx. Together with Yahoo's corporate IM product, Yahoo is owning inter-human communications from the boardroom to the bedroom.
The Killer App
It has been noted that the killer apps born from the internet age have been those technologies that enable humans to communicate with one another. There is probably more email sent in one day than snail mail in an entire month.
Beginning from the Yahoo! branded broadband connection, to the pre-teens IM'ing each other to senior citizens, Yahoo has locked up, or is in the process of locking up, all internet based inter-personal communications. Why? Because human communication is the killer app of all time.
The Trump Card
Search is only a part of Yahoos larger pie. So, while Google, MSN, Overture are concentrating on search, Yahoo! is reaching for the very heart of what it means to be human: Communication.
And that is the trump card that Yahoo! is holding.
To highlight some related comments from Inktomi that I posted in the Paid Inclusion forum:
Inktomi on MSN bot, and Yahoo/Ink future...
...from an unspecified Inktomi marketing exec
- About Yahoo, he said that Inktomi would be going "live on Yahoo in the unspecified future," but wouldn't get more exact than that, except to say that "Inktomi is already live on Yahoo in some countries now."
Until MSN gets its own engine running, which could take a while, I think Inktomi is going to be very important.
martinibuster - Interesting point...
Yahoo! is reaching for the very heart of what it means to be human: Communication.
I had a conversation with a friend whose family uses AOL at home, a decision, it turns out, that was dictated by his teenage daughter. AOL's instant messaging, he tells me, is the one used by all the teenagers, so he wasn't given a choice. It sounds that though the teenagers may all be tied up, Yahoo is going after much of the rest.
2. Those switching to broadband, are experienced users and have made a conscious decision to switch. So these too can be placed in the category of those who are likely to discount default.
3. Yes, ads are all over the place. Lets see to what extent they work. I feel the Yahoo format still leaves much to be desired by most users: too cluttered. And we are not seeing any upsurge in Yahoo refferals, so we can say the ads. are NOT working.
4. Let's remember the large installed base of the Google toolbar...and for that matter the Yahoo toolbar.
5. Google is also shopping and adding new features that make users sticky.
In the short run there will a loss in results with Yahoo dropping Google, but only to the extent of present Yahoo traffic. In the medium term we may find Yahoo traffic dropping if Inktomi results are are not satisfactory.
AOL's instant messaging is indeed a communication mainstay of the teenage & early twenties crowd (being father of four of them, I speak with authority), but you don't need to have AOL service to use it. Anyone, with, any ISP, can download it free from AOL and use it. In fact, I reccomend that all old dogs learn the new AOL IM trick so they have some chance of not falling into the abyss of the Cyber-communication generation gap.
I remember a couple years ago when Yahoo switched from Inktomi to Google they did so on July 4th. Maybe because that's a slow day with lots of people away from their computers. So don't be surprised to see a switch take place on this upcoming July 4th.
Do others' think this?
Tens of Millions of dollars currently spent on new Y! search adverts, whilst G is still the default search and O is the PPC provider. (trust me the ads dont say 'search G', like aol chose to do in their ads)
a) Y trying to take away G's comparitive advantage (search) by ironically *using it* in a 'better' manner ie. destination environment --20 defualt serps instead of 10 with no interiors (user experience).
b) Is Y trying to drive critical search mass without letting users really know they are really searching G, then they will pull the old switcharoo to Ink when search users begin to convert. Thereby turning an expensive to a revenue.
c) Is it Y merely trying to promote increased PPC revenue, as this is the one number that continues to exceed revenue expectations for Y!
d) All of the above
This is just fascinating to me. My answer is d.
Not only that, but Yahoo owns a percentage of Google - long term, *if* they want that investment to pay off in dividends, they will hold until Google goes public...and then, if Yahoo sold on the open market, even if Yahoo didn't switch to Inktomi driven SERP's, it would be a clear sign they were about to make some moves.
There was a post some time back about Yahoo, Ink, Google, & the art of War [webmasterworld.com] which still makes for great reading. Though we would like to believe there may be other reasons for Yahoo to have purchased Inktomi, it may be as simple as that: a power move, to prevent another player from turning a "pawn" into a "queen" (as in chess).
Now that most of the players seem to have realized the pot is worth playing for I think the hands coming to the river are:
MS: Full House
Yahoo: Three Jacks
Google: Pair of Aces
AOL: Pair of 6's
Overture & Co: Queen High
ATW: 10 High
That leaves the 2004/2005 winner as either Yahoo or MS, but odds are in MS's favor right now. Google could come in second if it the 5th street card is an Ace, but Yahoo looks the better bet for that spot. Y! is certainly building the pot with Advertising $$$, as is MS....they have good hands and intend to buy their way to victory. Google may have the technology, but it doesn't have the Ad dollars. Will it IPO to correct that problem before it loses the chance?
Google is currently best bet for third and the others should fold so they can play another day. Overture seems to be bidding on the bluff to try to scare the big boys.....but with MS having 40+ billion in chips and Yahoo doing okay, it seems a futile strategy.
I expect the bidding to be over by early 2004 and then we get to see what that last card brings ;)
Google may have the technology, but it doesn't have the Ad dollars.
It'll be getting a whole lot of free advertising with the new AdSense program. (If it has to, it can make that "Ads by Google" line more prominent--or have it point to Google's home page.)
More to the point is the question of whether ad campaigns in traditional media can sway users who already are online. TV commercials, radio ads, diskette mailings, etc. may be effective in attracting new online users (e.g., entry-level dial-up customers), but let's not forget that Google became the #1 search engine without an ad budget.
That whole urban myth about 'without an ad budget' is a joke - they paid for searches as well, perhaps it was .03 cents per search when you used their search box?
I forget the amount, but I'm pretty certain they had that program, too.
Though you have a good point about traditional media might *not* be able to sway users their way, however, it may have an impact on 'joe user' who might not understand all the implications of chosing one search engine versus another.
It is not a question of whether Google has an Ad budget, it is a question of whether they have a comparable one, or even one where they stand a chance of competing against such heavy weights in the advertising arena.
MS has proven time & time again that it doesn't need the best products to win. The list of examples is endless.
>More to the point is the question of whether ad campaigns in traditional media can sway users
I have to assume those spending the $$$ know what they are doing and measure the results. To assume MS, Yahoo and AOL spend the money on a whim is highly unlikely. I'm sure they spend several million on just measuring the results of the campaigns.
Is the butterfly Ad targeting new users? Seems to be targeting AOL users to me? The Yahoo search Ad has to be targeting Google users. It is much easier to sell to an existing market. I think we will see more of the "New super Yahoo search" type ads in the traditional media from others in the near future. I'll bet we see MS go for Google's throat on search products just the same as they are going for AOL's on ISP's.
>let's not forget that Google became the #1 search engine without an ad budget.
Google snuck in and caught the competition sleeping with its search product. Others have done it before, Netscape, Wordstar, WordPerfect..etc, but once MS sets it eye on a goal it tends to be relentless. It doesn't back out of much, it still thinks WebTV is going to be a winner.
Word of mouth is a great form of free advertising, but it is not easily controllable. It can hurt you as fast as it made you a success. The competition are awake now, and the game is on.
Brett Tabke said elsewhere here at WebmasterWorld that Google paid him (through Burst, I believe) about $15K in 1999 for banner ads on SearchEngineWorld.com :)
I thought we were talking about consumer advertising, not business-to-business advertising. Still, if you want to include trade advertising in the discussion, that's fine with me: It just goes to show that Google was able to drive word of mouth through the strategic expenditure of limited ad dollars while AOL, MSN, Yahoo, etc. were spending millions on traditional consumer media.
MS has proven time & time again that it doesn't need the best products to win.
The MSN online service, the X-Box, Microsoft games and other CD-ROMs (with the exception of Flight Simulator), and any number of other Microsoft products and services have been also-rans. Expedia didn't keep Travelocity from taking a good share of the online travel market.
Microsoft couldn't even make MSN a success when it was an integral part of Windows 95 with an icon on the desktop.
Contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, Microsoft is not invincible. (If it were, my industrial-strength hosting service would be running IIS on Windows NT/2000/XP instead of Apache on BeOS!)
I host on Linux/apache also. MS got off to a bad start in that arena with security blowouts, but that tends to be par for the course for them. It seems to take them a while to get to grips with how to play new games.
As for search, it appears that if you ask Google Answers what the most popular search engines are they reply with the following:
Nielsen NetRatings Search Engine Ratings February 25, 2003
Ask Jeeves 9.9
Nielsen numbers never add up to 100% because they measure market reach. But I thought it was an interesting answer from Google Answers! Apparently Nielsen hasn't released any newer numbers?
Whether these stats reflect any of ours is another issue, they are close to mine for the top 3, AOL downwards seem to have disproportionably more market reach than CTR.
MSN has the big cards. Gates is such a control freak that in the future the MS desktop OS will take control of what you can visit on the web.(among other things) This has Yahoo/AOL scared. Look for the beginning of things like this in the next MSOS.
Yahoo/Google has almost the rest of the deck. (if they choose to play/merge) What if they just put Ink on the shelf and shut it down, then Google stops all content feeds except to Yahoo. I don't think ATW will play with MSN or AOL. That would leave the Teoma engine to support the fill, but really it does not have the quality/speed to accomplish this right now. With the right AD/PR campaign, could that just put Yahoo back in the driver seat they had 6 years ago?
maybe, just speculation.
The trump card is in how they play the public ignorance.
percentages, you make some great points, but I just have to say something about the point you made regarding web server software. "MS got off to a bad start in that arena with security blowouts" I really don't think that was the issue. I believe it was more of the fact that IIS just does not have the functionality, speed, or stability you have with an Apache/*nix combo. Maybe in the future MS can catch up, but right now they just don't have a comparable product. I hope this does not come across the wrong way to those using IIS, but I honestly believe the success of that product is users ignorance of what is possible with a web server.
or is it some can't live without a mouse? (ducking the thrown stones) ;)
I think we are largely on the same page.
Personally I won't go to IIS until it is stable, hole free and offers comparable functionality to Linux/Apache. All the reviews I read say it is better, faster and more functional.....but I ain't convinced yet.....and as you can probably tell I have nothing against MS per se.
I host with Rackspace, they tell me I should switch to IIS, MS is a customer of theirs, don't read too much into that though, I think they are fairly independent.
Maybe 12 months from now I will be a happy MS server customer....I try to keep an open mind...just not comfortable with the switch right now!
>The trump card is in how they play the public ignorance.
Jeeeeeeeez, now there is a simple statement of truth if one ever existed!
Google is standing fast maintaining the ole_college_boy great search image and putting their Adwords and Adsense out there to monetize. Right now it looks like they're standing fast and sending their product out - reaching out as far as they can send it.
Yahoo, on the other hand, seems to be pulling it all in. At the time of the jobs acquisition there was an article that quoted one of their people (can't find it - might have been Terry Sempel) as saying that their intention long term was to bring as much as possible in-house.
They've brought in dating (big $ for them), jobs, broadband/ISP, and purchased search for themselves. It stands to reason that even though it's been relegated to the back room for now, they'd still have to keep the Directory from going totally stagnant - which could explain why some commercial sites have been reporting being added without charge, without paying for Business Express.
Maybe that's also why Inktomi is adding pages at the rate they are - to avoid stagnancy. But can we count on that forever? How long will that go on until it's pulled back? Until Fall holiday shopping season maybe?
If Yahoo wants everything inhouse, which is where it looks like it's headed, why couldn't they use Google and Inktomi results simultaneously like some meta search sites do (Mamma), or like Hotbot with the tabs, until it's all in place and ready to roll out for a full transition.
It's doubtful there would be a move away from Overture for PPC - and as far as image search is concerned, there's been another one around for a while:
As far as I know, I think AV was the only image search around 5 years ago.
Yahoo! is reaching for the very heart of what it means to be human: Communication.
And spreading out to further intrench branding. The Directory was what gave Yahoo the original branding, and it stands to reason that the more they have under their own roof the wider their branding reaches - even if it starts to reach cartel proportions.
I like simple OT points....it started off well, but seems to have lost its way.
So maybe we can take a vote on the subject at hand? How many think the following have the trump card or are holding the winning hand?
Press 1 to vote for Google
Press 2 to vote for Yahoo
Press 3 to vote for MS(N)
Press 4 to vote for Overture(& co)
Press 5 to vote for ATW
Press 6 to vote for someone else(none of the above)
All conjecture aside, maybe we can get a true feeling for the future of SE's :)
And getting more to the point is the last paragraph of Marcia's post:
How long was the Google/Yahoo renewal for? When does it come up for renewal again? When they all sit down at the table to shuffle the cards again, is Yahoo holding the trump card?
Speaking only for myself, I think that this would become a very boring thread if it became a hundred posts declaring votes for one search engine or another.
Speaking for myself, I would prefer to see a discussion. So if you feel you just HAVE to place a vote, perhaps it may be more appropriate to sticky percentages with that information.
Just a friendly heads-up.
All the players will act according to their individual natures, locked in their cultures.
I believe that G is devoted to its stratospheric tech arc with no plans to become any kind of portal, or any kind of final product, except by virtue of delivering the market's most perfected, personalized, user experience drawn algorithmically on the fly from the data mass. If their tech ambitions result in such breakthroughs (again) then they could so easily surpass any consolidation ventures of the other players (again). Google surpasses by orders of magnitude, or not at all. If not then not.
Yahoo!'s declared love is for subscribers - they want customers for life, dynastically even. This game is not exclusively being played in Search, although search matters to us so critically - search happens to be one of the services that pulls people. I don't believe that Y seeks increased market share, per se, quite so much as it seeks to increase its subscriptions, securing lifers. That's their lodestone.
I agree with the thought that human communication is the true pot on the table. I also think this round is a battle, not the ultimate war.
Don't have answers, want more opinions :)