Posted by randfish
The search landscape is changing significantly this morning, and SEOs of all stripes need to pay close attention. I’m going to do my best to summarize the impact of these changes based on what we already know and interpret what’s going to change for the field of search engine optimization and what we, as representatives of our clients and our companies, need to know and do.
Background on the Deal
First off, a few background snippets from several of the sources on this topic – SearchEngineLand’s Live Blogging Coverage; TechCrunch; ReadWriteWeb; and the new MS/Yahoo! website Choice, Value, Innovation.
- The term of the agreement is 10 years
- Microsoft will acquire an exclusive 10 year license to Yahoo!’s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo! search technologies into its existing web search platforms
- Yahoo! will continue to syndicate its existing search affiliate partnerships.
- Microsoft’s Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo! sites. Yahoo! will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business such as enhancing display advertising technology.
- Each company will maintain its own separate display advertising business and sales force.
- Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers. Self-serve advertising for both companies will be fulfilled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform, and prices for all search ads will continue to be set by AdCenter’s automated auction process.
In case that wasn’t quite clear, the big takeaway is that Bing will now power search on Yahoo! and Yahoo!’s salesforce will sell the premium (non-self service) search advertising for Yahoo!/Bing. Bing also gets access to Yahoo!’s core search technology and can, at its option, leverage that to help create more relevant results.
- Google has 78% of market share of paid search (direct quote on SELand from Microsoft)
- Bartz: Yes there are many Yahoo search employees who will be asked to take jobs at Microsoft. There will also be search employees who we look to help us on the display side. And then unfortunately there will be some redundancy in Yahoo. (Just a quick not; if you work in Yahoo! search, please email me – email@example.com – we’re hiring on the engineering team!)
- Bartz: Notes that when it comes to paid search, Panama is the provider in most international marketplaces for Microsoft already.
Danny Sullivan: What happens to other things search like at Yahoo? What powered Yahoo News? What happens to the Yahoo Directory? Is Delicious search? And what happens to Yahoo paid inclusion?
Bartz: We have full flexibility on what to do within our own sites. Paid inclusion, we’ll decide on that later.
- AdAge reports that ComScore shows Bing will now have a 28% market share when combined with Yahoo! search, though.
- ReadWriteWeb worried about this large list of services from Yahoo! that are under "search services." Yahoo! PR called them to say that "this is a consumer facing list of search-related services, like News Search and Map Search, but most of those are not or are no longer formally part of the Search Department." So, probably at least some of them are safe.
Search Query Demand Market Share
The search landscape right now looks like something between:
Market Share from the thousands of accounts served by their hit counter/referral tracking software
(note: I don’t know why it say 82% on the left and 72% on the right, but 82% appears more accurate when adding up all the other figures)
Based on data from Comscore’s June Release
We’re somewhere between a market where Google dominates 65-82% of all search queries. When it comes to referring queries that point out from the engine’s properties (Google/Yahoo!/Microsoft not searching or linking to their own content), I believe Google’s closer to sending out 80-85% of that traffic.
What’s Changing for SEOs?
Note that some of thse are speculative, while others are direct and actionable. However, until the deal actually goes into effect and is publically accessible (which could take some serious time depending on regulators), my best advice is to be prepared (and take those steps that can ensure maximum benefit once the changes go live). Remember that Yahoo! said full implementation may lag up to 24 months (2 years) behind regulatory approval (which itself could take months), so you’ve got some time.
#1 – SEO for Bing is Worth Your Optimization Effort
Even if the lowest numbers are accurate, 15% of search market share is worth the optimization effort. Bing’s algorithm, while certainly an upgrade from Live.com still has a few noticeable preferences, such as concentration on keyword use in subdomains and root domain names (Google loves exact keyword matches, but Bing really likes any keyword placement in the sub or root). Bing’s core relevancy sometimes suffers from manipulative link patterns more so than Google & Yahoo!, though, they often do a good job surfacing alternative queries and instant answers.
Bing’s results are, by default, "richer" than those of Yahoo! and Google. Although Yahoo! will be controlling the user interface on their end, it’s likely much of that "richness" will make its way into the Bing results inside Yahoo!. Bing also surfaces only the top 5 results for many queries, meaning a higher concentration of clicks on those top results.
Bing’s traffic is, in general, also more likely to convert and click on ads. Whether this is a result of demographics or of how the engine frames information isn’t clear, though we may get more insight on that soon.
We at SEOmoz will certainly be doing more work to provide insight into how Bing ranks results and where it differs substantively from Google. You can go play around with results here or here. I strongly suspect there will be more SEO focus overall on Bing in both R&D and active practice.
#2 – We May Lose Yahoo! Link Data
The largest two providers of link information to SEOs today are Yahoo!’s advanced search queries and Yahoo! Site Explorer. If these go away, which seems likely with Bing, since Microsoft removed the link query operator’s functionality a few years back (and Google torched theirs nearly 5 years ago), we’ll be left with very few sources of link information. Obviously, SEOmoz itself provides Linkscape, but we’ll be likely to offer a slightly deprecated, free version of that tool if/when this happens. Exalead.com still does provide link data, though not as richly as Yahoo!
This change would likely see the rise of more propietary link indices as well as the breaking of a large number of internal and external tools that rely on Yahoo! for their link data. We may not know for sure for some time to come, but it may make have a substantive impact on the link research landscape.
#3 – PPC Consolidation
Right now, many companies and agencies exclusively use Google AdWords. I think both Microsoft and Yahoo! are counting on a lowered complexity and barrier to entry with only two major search engines making a compelling case that one should, at the least, participate in the two leading platforms for search. I suspect more people will buy ads from MSN AdCenter, which is likely to increase ad relevancy, quality and competition. The days of low cost traffic via AdCenter and Yahoo! Search Marketing may be nearing an end (unless market share slips so far that they become largely irrelevant, but that seem unlikely, at least in the short term).
#4 – Bing’s Webmaster Tools Are Important
If you don’t have an account with Bing Webmaster Tools, now is the time. Although not yet as robust as Google’s, Bing WMT is working hard to catch up and even surpass their rivals with features that will prove valuable for webmasters on all platforms. The data you get from Bing WMT will also be important for conducting better organic SEO campaigns on that engine and seeing how Google & Bing may view your site differently.
#5 – Yahoo! & Bing Local Become More Essential
We’re still not 100% sure of the status of local search – according the ReadWriteWeb piece, Yahoo! may consider this a "consumer service" and not part of core search. However, if Bing is serving up local listings in the search results (as they do now), Bing’s local registration is going to become very important for local businesses. Check out Bing Local and their local listing center in the near futuer if this impacts you.
#6 – Bing Will Get more Spam
With greater search share comes greater spam attempts. Google’s still a ways out in front in terms of catching and discounting manipulative practices, but Yahoo! has been a close second for some time. I’d expect that Bing will recruit a number of the staff and algorithmic work Yahoo! search has done on this front, but they should also expect serious spammer attention to be focused their way. The loopholes that Google’s closed will still likely be open on Bing for some time to come and spammers will use the chaos that comes from a merger to exploit these.
#7 – Bing Will Get Lots more Data
Bing’s going to know a lot more about you. Perhaps not as much as Google, but with Yahoo! analytics, Yahoo!’s database of profiles, Yahoo!’s behavioral targeting and their own research, Bing’s going to be a close second. This should, conceptually, help improve core search and may pave the way for greater advances on the personalization front, too.
#8 – Important Yahoo! Properties May Dissappear
As Danny Sullivan and ReadWriteWeb noted, we’re in some danger of losing stalwarts like the Yahoo! Directory, Delicious (which has often been seen as an alternative search play), Yahoo! Maps, SearchMonkey & BOSS (two of the best search apps out there). It’s still speculative, but by watching the activities inside Yahoo! over the next 3-6 months, we’ll probably get a lot more insight about who’s headed to the chopping block.
#9 – Yahoo! Maintains UI Control for their Search Experience
This means that Yahoo!’s results ordering, layout, sidebars and searcher focus may continue to be unique from Bing, thus requiring that SEOs still pay attention to the differences in the two engines and optimize accordingly. It will be tough to know the extent of Bing’s integration until it launches, but there’s a lot of room for variation, which means complexity for SEOs.
#10 – Yahoo! Will Become a More Powerful Content Competitor
With Yahoo! out of the core search business, many people, myself included, expect them to focus even more on the content side of the business. That means properties inside Yahoo! News & Media Group are going to get more attention and more investment. If you’re competing with Yahoo!’s content now, that battle may get tougher in the future.
I have no doubt that this quick analysis doesn’t cover every important aspect of the deal for SEOs, and definitely appreciate any comments you have that can help to provide further insight. Once again, the SEO field is proving that if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.
More: continued here