Yahoo! Search Engine Analysis

We once celebrated Yahoo! as the end-all, be-all search engine. Today, as it accounts for less than 2% of search engine market share, we don’t monitor it as closely. But the evolution of Yahoo! was fascinating to behold, and we’re keeping our original research live on the site as a time capsule of sorts. Read on to learn more.


While it’s since been eclipsed by Google, Yahoo! grew from a small list of interesting websites into the Web’s leading site by making smart move after smart move. Acquiring companies and technology has always been part of Yahoo!’s strategy. Along the way, Yahoo! purchased several web companies, including, Launch Media, HotJobs, Overture Services, Inktomi, Kimo, eGroups, Encompass,, GeoCities, Yoyodyne, VIaWeb, Four11, and beyond.

Yahoo! appeared on the Internet first back in 1994. In the beginning, it was a spare-time project of a couple grad students at Stanford. Basically in the beginning, Yahoo! was a list of sites worth visiting, no different from the many lists of “favorite links” or “recommended sites” you see all over the Web today. The difference was, the founders of Yahoo! were faster and smarter than everyone else. Yahoo! quickly grew from a pet project to a full-fledged company and went public in April, 1996.

By the way, the founders of Yahoo!, in an interview with Terri Gross on National Public Radio in 1997, said that Yahoo! stands for, “You Always Have Other Options.” We sometimes think that the founders are calling us all “Yahoos” (see Gulliver’s Travels). Take that to your cocktail party.


Yahoo! Search

Since the beginning, webmasters have conspired to gain rankings in the Yahoo! search results and thus to gain access to the millions of people who use Yahoo! every day. (While Yahoo! accounts for only about 1.6% of global searches these days, those users are still well worth pursuing.)

Early on, the founders realized the economic value of a listing in the directory and began to charge commercial sites a $299.00 fee for “review” of their sites, while offering noncommercial sites admission to the directory for free.

For several years, Yahoo! outsourced its search technology needs to companies that focused on search so that Yahoo! could focus on other areas. First it was AltaVista, then Inktomi, then in June of 2000, Google.

Up until October 9, 2002, the Yahoo! search results were taken directly from the sites which were listed in the Yahoo! directory, and then filled in by results from Yahoo!’s search partner (AltaVista, then Inktomi, then Google). The challenge for webmasters was to get listed in the directory portion of the search results. To do that, they needed to get the Yahoo! editors to include important keywords in the title and description of the site. Webmasters in the know found it easy to get a top ranking by creating sites with URLs which included their keywords separated by hyphens and naming the sites after the urls. For example, if a webmaster wanted to win for the phrase “Java Programming” on the early Yahoo!, he or she could simply build a site at and title it “Java Programming, Inc.” Keywords included in site titles, descriptions, and urls were considered in the ranking of the results.  The key was to get your keywords into your title, which meant that you had to have your keywords in the name of your business, so many webmasters bought long hyphenated domain names and started “businesses” using the domain names as the names of their businesses.

On October 9, 2002, Yahoo! made a dramatic change to its search results, completely scrapping its previous method of giving priority in the search results to sites which were listed in the directory, and replacing its results with pure Google results. Many webmasters felt that the move made the Yahoo! directory listings irrelevant, or at least certainly not worth $299/year. Many credit Yahoo! with helping to present Google to the world and helping to create its strongest competitor.

At about the same time that Yahoo! replaced its search with pure Google results, Yahoo! began to make news with rumors that it would be buying companies and/or technology related to search. Towards the end of 2002, Yahoo! began to buy its competition. In December of 2002, Yahoo! announced that it would buy Inktomi. Shortly thereafter, Overture Services Inc. announced that it would buy AltaVista and the web search unit of Alltheweb. In July 2003, Yahoo! announced that it would acquire Overture (Yahoo! and Overture Announce Completion of Acquisition), which by that time had finalized its acquisitions AltaVista and the web search unit of Alltheweb.

Now Yahoo owns Inktomi and Overture, and thus owns AltaVista and the web search unit of Alltheweb. As of February 18, 2004, Yahoo! has kicked out Google, shut down Inktomi, and begun to focus seriously on Overture, the pay-per-click and now pay-for-inclusion search engine. Yahoo search results are now unique to Yahoo! and are drawn from data gathered from the Yahoo! spider, known as Yahoo! Slurp, and from a new pay-for-inclusion-per-click program, known as Site Match, which is run by Overture. Yahoo!’s spider behaves exactly the way Inktomi’s spider did, and Inktomi’s spider was named Slurp before it was shut down when Yahoo! bought Inktomi. If there are links to your site, it should be found by Yahoo! Slurp and added to the Yahoo! search results.

Of the search engines that Yahoo! purchased that are still running, Yahoo! results show up in those search results.

The Evolution of Yahoo! Search

June 5, 1996: Yahoo! announced that it would feature AltaVista search technology on
Read: Yahoo! to Feature Digital’s AltaVista Search Service In Its Internet Guide.
(Lasted 2 years)

May 18, 1998: Yahoo announced that it would rely on Inktomi search technology to sort the Yahoo! directory and to provide supplemental results to Yahoo! search.
Read: Yahoo! Selects Inktomi As Its Default World Wide Web Search Engine Partner.
(Lasted 2 years)

June 26, 2000: Google proudly announced that it had replaced Inktomi as Yahoo!’s search engine provider.
Read: Yahoo! Selects Google as its Default Search Engine Provider.
(Lasted 3 1/2 years)

July 10, 2000: Srinija Srinivasan, vice president and editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Inc. proclaimed “Yahoo!’s new features, advanced search technology, and complete integration of Google‘s search engine provide Yahoo! users with the most comprehensive and accurate search results on the Web.”
Read: Yahoo! Enhances Search and Directory Capabilities.

November 13, 2001: Overture gained a foothold which would eventually enable them to become one of the Web’s strongest cashflow companies, and then be purchased by Yahoo! outright.
Read: Yahoo! Forms Alliance With Overture (Formerly GoTo) to Launch Sponsor Matches Program for Search Results.

December 28, 2001: Yahoo! increased their one-time fee of $299 (which guarantees that an editor will review your site for inclusion in the directory) to a recurring annual fee of $299.

April 25, 2002: Yahoo! announced that it had extended it’s deal with Overture, just about the same time that Google was announcing that it had closed deals with AOL and others to provide sponsored listings.
Read: Yahoo! and Overture Extend Pay-For-Performance Search Agreement.

October 9, 2002: Yahoo! dramatically altered their method of providing search engine results by providing direct Google results to all searches, largely eliminating the Yahoo! Directory’s influence on the Yahoo! search results.
Read: Google Drives Yahoo!.

December 23, 2002: Yahoo! announced that it will acquire Inktomi search.
Read: Yahoo! to Acquire Inktomi.

March 19, 2003: The purchase of Inktomi was finalized.
Read: Yahoo! and Inktomi Announce Completion of Acquisition.

July 14, 2003: Yahoo! and Overture announced that they had closed a deal under which Yahoo! would acquire Overture outright for $4.75 in cash plus 0.6108 in shares of Yahoo! stock for each share of Overture stock. The deal was being valued at 1.63 billion dollars.
Read: Yahoo! to Acquire Overture.

October 7, 2003: Yahoo! completed its purchase of Overture Services, Inc. for approximately 1.83 billion dollars in stock and cash.
Read: Yahoo! and Overture Announce Completion of Acquisition.

February 18, 2004: Yahoo! once again replaced its search engine, this time replacing Google with technology it controls as a result of its purchase of Inktomi and Overture.
Read: Yahoo! Introduces More Comprehensive and Relevant Search Experience With New Yahoo! Search Technology.

March 2, 2004: Yahoo! publicly unveiled its new plans for integrating pay-for-inclusion-per-click results into its new search. The program will be run through Overture.


Yahoo! Search Engine Analysis


Not-for-profit organizations only. Otherwise, find the best subdirectory on Yahoo, and pay. If your site is commercial, or if your company is for-profit, then you must pay. If your site is non-profit and you want a listing in a non-commercial area, be prepared to wait for months, or even years. It’s worth a try though. Every once in a while, Yahoo! lists non-profit sites within a few weeks.

Pay them.

Yahoo! is pretty much the most well known directory on the Internet, though the directory isn’t widely used since the search results are pulled from the Yahoo! Slurp database instead of directly from the directory.

On February 18, 2004, Yahoo! released its own search engine, which is very similar to the Inktomi search engine Yahoo! purchased in December of 2002. The Yahoo! search results are drawn from an index of websites either spidered by the Yahoo! Slurp spider or submitted to the Overture Site Match program. Just like Inktomi did for years, Yahoo! is mixing freely spidered search results with pay-for-inclusion-per-click search results. They claim that all sites are treated equally, whether they are paid listings or freely spidered listings.

The benefit for the pay-for-inclusion-per-click listings is that the sites get spidered every day. That enables the webmaster to make minor adjustments every day in order to improve his or her rankings.

Yahoo! search results are unique to Yahoo! as of this writing, but Yahoo! spokespersons have stated that soon Yahoo! will be powering the search engines of all the properties owned by Yahoo!, including Alltheweb and AltaVista. Yahoo features Overture Pay-Per-Click listings (the top 3-6 bidders) at the top of the results page under the heading, “Sponsor Matches” and at the bottom of the page under the heading, “More Sponsor Matches.” As of March 25th, 2004, Yahoo! search results are being fed to Alltheweb. As of April 5, 2004, Yahoo! search results are being provided to AltaVista. The AltaVista search results match the Yahoo! search results.

Is Yahoo still important to my site – if I’m purely B2B?