Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Yahoo! Launches Search Enhancements

The news search engine features that we wrote about at Yahoo! in early August are now live on their site. The enhancements include Yahoo!'s Search Assist, which is an improved version of their search suggestion feature, and a number of new Yahoo! Shortcuts. Shortcuts are self contained information widgets that appear at the top of results for certain searches and draw content from other Yahoo! properties.

In addition to the Shortcuts we talked about in August for music, movies, travel, and images, Yahoo! has rolled out a handful of additional Shortcuts for topics like sports, business, health and events. The sports Shortcut, like the one seen below, is especially useful to a fantasy sports addict like myself. Unfortunately, it isn't triggered for all players. For example, a search for New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter brings up a Shortcut about him, but a search for teammate Robinson Cano does not. My guess is the decision whether to launch a Shortcut is based on search popularity rather than player stats (so some good, but less popular players are passed over).

Yahoo! has also announced deeper integration with images, video, and audio. Audio and images seems to be generally handled by Shortcuts -- such as the Yahoo! music and Flickr widgets I discussed in August, though sometimes Flickr results will also now be integrated further down into searches. The video search integration, however, is far more intriguing.

Yahoo! is now including videos in main page search results and letting them be played directly on the search page. Google has done this for a few months with YouTube, but Yahoo! is taking it a step further and allowing video to be played from a variety of video sharing sites.

Yahoo! says the reason for the new search features is to get users the results they're after in a single search. According to a study done by Harris Interactive for Yahoo!, 99% of adults use search engines to find information and content on the web, but only 15% of those searches are successful on the first try. The rest require 3 or 4 additional searches to find the information they're looking for. This "search fatigue" is frustrating for people, and Yahoo! hopes that by improving their search engine and hopefully finding information for searchers on the first pass, it will result in more return users.

"We know that consumers want a complete answer, not a bunch of links," said Vish Makhijani, general manager and senior vice president of Yahoo! Search in a press release, "and the changes we've made are focused on getting people to the best answer -- whether it be a Web link, photo, video or music clip -- in one search."

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