Life without Google: Can Yahoo regain search share?

Yahoo has a strategic plan due in 100 days and lags Google in most metrics. Yet despite Yahoo's issues it still has the No.

Yahoo has a strategic plan due in 100 days and lags Google in most metrics. Yet despite Yahoo's issues it still has the No. 2 market share in search. But if Yahoo wants to change its standing it should work on its interface a bit more.

According to Nielsen/Netratings, Google's search market share in June was 52.7 percent with 20 percent goi

ng to Yahoo (gallery at right). To put this in context, Microsoft in third place with 13 percent. Yahoo's year over year search growth is 20 percent compared to Google's 46 percent. Microsoft's Live Search grew 77 percent annually.

As Jerry Yang ponders his next move one question to consider is this: What does Yahoo have to do to boost its search market share? Given Yahoo's momentum with Panama I'd reckon search share is a worthwhile goal.

With that backdrop I tried to use Yahoo exclusively for a week in my life without Google experiment. After a few days I toggled between other search engines to compare and contrast.

My conclusion: Yahoo is No. 2 despite a user interface that at best looks like a Google me-too site. At worst, Yahoo search looks dated. In either case search properties like Answer, video and Yahoo Local don’t seem integrated. Yahoo has a choice--experiment a little like Ask.com or watch its market share erode further.

Now Yahoo's search results were comparable to what I found elsewhere. However, a search on my previous blog posts--something like "Larry Dignan Oracle fourth quarter"--gets me a direct hit on Google. On Yahoo the trip was dicier.

But that complaint is a minor one. My biggest issue is the Yahoo UI. On one hand it's simple like Google. However, I'm not seeing a lot of experimentation. If you want a mainstream search engine to push a design envelope see Ask.com.

Overall, I was disappointed a bit with Yahoo. I haven't used Yahoo to search in years--aside from a stray search here and there. I was hoping to see more oomph--something that would indicate that Yahoo could reach parity with Google. To hit that parity mark, Yahoo needs to do more than its doing.

In the end, Yahoo didn't give me much of a reason to stay and I'm certainly not sensing the urgency over search that a company like Microsoft has.

Now there were a few highlights--the video search looked interesting yet disconnected from the rest of the search tools. And Yahoo Answers is a bona fide hit. But those search properties aren’t integrated that well.

Overall, however, I wound up comparing Yahoo to Google in many cases--this is mostly because they look alike.

One habit I had gotten into was typing in an address in Google. With Google I'd wind up with a phone number and a map that was handy. In some cases, Google was the phone book for me.

On Yahoo that integration is missing. This fact strikes me as odd considering the local tie-ins are evident on Yahoo's mobile search--OneSearch. Perhaps, Yahoo would rather gain in mobile search than Web search?

Bottom line: Yahoo was a blah experience. And it needs a lot more than blah to pull even with Google.

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