Will two problematic search portals figure out how to do it right again? MSN and YAHOO!
From about 2001 to 2003 Google, Yahoo and MSN split the search market almost evenly. Since then Google has grabbed the lion's share of search traffic, while Yahoo and MSN lost searchers big time. Market share statistics vary due to whether the measurement is total portal traffic or search traffic. From E-Power's view, Google is somewhere around 70% of search marketing share. Yahoo is in the teens and MSN has single digit market share. How the once mighty have fallen!
E-Power believes Google took market share because it generates the best search results, while Yahoo and MSN delivered too many irrelevant search returns.
Can Yahoo/MSN meet the challenge to improve their search results?
Or will the two join the search engine scrapheap next to Excite, AltaVista, Infoseek and Lycos?
For years Yahoo was the premiere search engine with the best search results. It was King of Search!
Yahoo's search results suffered because it allowed black arts SEO such as IP cloaking – if the Website was willing to pay fees through the Paid Inclusion Search Submit Pro program. Consequently many questionable search results appeared at the top.
So while Google was tracking searcher behavior to let the searchers determine the most relevant search results, Yahoo was allowing dirty SEO tricks - for a price. This provided short-term monetary gain, while degrading Yahoo's search results, thus causing a long-term drop in search traffic.
Yahoo's cash generator, Yahoo Search Marketing PPC, has become a pain to deal with. The paperwork for large programs is time-consuming and the customer service is lacking when compared with Google AdWords. Plus Google AdWords tools that measure, track and improve your program are far superior to Yahoo's.
MSN's search integrity seemed to wane around the time Daniel Feussner was director of operations for Microsoft US-Speech Engineering Services and Retrieval Technology in 2001-2002. Feussner stole around $9 millions in Microsoft software. He used the money for many luxuries – a Ferrari 355 Berlinetta, a Jaguar Vanden Plas, a Humvee, diamond rings and a 51-foot yacht named the Brazilian Queen. Feussner posted pictures of his toys on his Website. He committed suicide before being brought to trial.
I always felt that the Feussner case said a lot about Microsoft. Why are its top decision-makers not the best and the brightest, with some common sense? Does being a monopoly make you competitively weak in markets where you are not a monopoly?
MSN went downhill, even abandoning its own search engine to use Yahoo's Inktomi. MSN Live returned with a search engine built on the old. Many times MSN’s search results will return 10 year old web pages. On a better note, it is improving. But it still doesn’t have search results as relevant as Google's.
That is the key.
Can MSN/Yahoo develop a search engine at least as good as Google? They can learn from Google. They can stop the nonsense from SEO black arts that no longer plague Google.
To do so, the MSN/Yahoo decision-makers need to not pursue quick money over long-term excellence. Google did not become this good overnight. MSN/Yahoo's #1 priority must be delivering the most relevant search results. Do that, then market share and revenues will follow.