Are Yahoo and PRWeb Confusing SEO and Enterprise Search?

November 21, 2013

I get a Yahoo Alert. My single Alert  topic is “enterprise search.” I want a bound phrase match. Like the other alert services I use, there are usually some obvious “false hits.” A “false hit” is an off topic story. The problem with key word alerts is that words have different meaning. A story with the word “search” for a new president often turns up with a story about Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search system. Most of these “false hits” are easily ignored. Another problem is that some “experts” want a user to see something, so the query is relaxed. That’s a problem for me. For you, maybe not. For spammers, relaxation means more content baloney whether generated by an azure chip consultant, search engine optimization maven, or an organization desperate for visibility. In case you have not noticed, traffic to most Web sites is undergoing quite a change. One Web site owner told me, “We averaged 250,000 uniques a month in 2012. This year we are down to 48,000. What am I going to do?”

Go out of business? Change your Web site? Get a different job?

Perhaps the answer is, “Anything.

Desperation generates some darned interesting business actions in my experience.

There is another problem, particularly with the word “search.” I am interested in enterprise search, and I want to learn about new, substantive information related to information retrieval. The poor word “search” has been sucked dry of meaning. The wispy husk carries zero meaning. For most people search means Google or taking what an app delivers.

I noticed in my Yahoo Alert this morning these two items listed as the number one and number two most relevant stories for me:


Both of these are about an outfit that delivers search engine optimization services. The problem is that this sense of the word “search” is of little interest to me.

What is more interesting is that the outfit generating these items for Yahoo is called PRWeb. I don’t know much about PRWeb. My hunch is that one of the PR professionals I have used over the years knows about this firm.

I wanted to capture several thoughts about what I call “alert corruption.”

File:Gustave Dore Inferno1.jpg

Lost and desperate for relevance. Those in the woods are probably evil. See Canto One of the Divine Comedy.

First, Yahoo is not doing a particularly good job providing me with new information about enterprise search. Today I saw items related to OpenText, an outfit that owns a number of search engines. The story, however, talks about enterprise information management. I do not know what that phrase means. There was a story about Imprezzo, a company that purports to “overcome the problem of traditional text based search.” Well, maybe that is worth a look. Of the five items sent me, one was possibly of interest. Does a score of 20 percent warrant a pass or a fail.

Second, four of the items in the Yahoo Alert were from the PRWeb outfit. One thing is certain. PRWeb can get its clients’ content into the Yahoo system. The problem is that two of these stories are about practices that I find like tight shoes. I suppose the shoes look okay but I am uncomfortable. But SEO outfits and those who assist them make me uncomfortable. A buck is a buck, but content manipulation is like wearing small shoes that are damp.

Third, after 40 or 50 years of search innovation, endless surveys from outfits like azure chip consultants and morphing vendors like BA Insight, Smartlogic, and LucidWorks, I am not sure if significant information retrieval progress is evident. One would think that Yahoo would tap some super sophisticated new technology to filter out baloney, deliver on point alerts, and work with vendors who exercise some judgment about what passes for search related content.

My hunch is that PR is in a bit of a sticky wicket. It joins content management, governance, search, and Big Data. These disciplines have to find some way to call attention to themselves. Perhaps these “legitimate” disciplines should emulate the search engine optimization crowd. Visibility without a thought about precision and recall is their game.

I would like to receive alerts that actually match the string “enterprise search.” I think that is just too much for those who think that a user absolutely must have a “hit” whether that item is relevant or not.

Search and marketing may be a match made in heaven. Those who are interested in precision and recall occupy one of Dante’s less salubrious regions.

Stephen E Arnold, November 21, 2013

Ways Bing and Yahoo Are Better than Google

October 15, 2013

With 70 percent of U.S. users relying on Google, here’s a lone voice reminding everyone of the value of Bing and Yahoo. MakeUseOf asks (and answers), “What Do Bing and Yahoo Have that Google Doesn’t?” To be clear, writer Craig Snyder still believes Google is obviously the best. However, he describes a few tips the ruling search engine could pick from its rivals, illustrating his observations with helpful screenshots.

Bing’s top advantage, the article states, is rooted in aesthetics. Though Google comes up with some fun and interesting themes for special occasions, the Bing home screen is a visual treat every day. Snyder also prefers the way Bing handles image searches. He writes:

“I use Google Images frequently, but was a little surprised at how differently Bing handles their image searches. Bing Images includes ‘entity understanding,’ meaning that the search engine can interpret if what you’re looking for is a person, place, or thing and show image results more effectively based on this understanding. Bing Images filters out exact or near duplicates much better than Google. Bing even uses higher quality images as part of their algorithm.”

On the other hand, Yahoo’s strengths seemingly lie everywhere but their search functionality. Snyder complements the site on its start page, which presents quite a bit of well-organized information at a glance. He also wonders why Google has yet to offer suitable alternatives to Yahoo Local, Yahoo Answers, or Flickr. The article concludes:

“In my opinion, it’s not even worth questioning that Google is the best search engine you’re going to find. However, some of us are looking for more. Yahoo! offers a better homepage. Bing looks fresher and offers a more promising approach to searching for images. There’s more out there if you’re looking at the grand scheme of things, and it’s important to stay tuned in with what the other search engines have to offer.”

At least, as Snyder notes, such features from competitors keep Google on its toes. Though it would still lead the field, he suspects it would not be as good without the prodding from its rivals. I suppose that’s what healthy competition is all about.

Cynthia Murrell, October 15, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Alert Relevance: Off the Rails?

October 10, 2013

I signed up for alerts via the service. My topic has been “enterprise search.” In the last month or so, I have noticed that the Yahoo alerts are cheerleading for an outfit called Here’s a snap of the alert I received today:


The top hit is not about enterprise search in my traditional context. The “enterprise search” refers to’s ability to push content to the top of a results list. On one hand, manipulations that give a company focused on spoofing results pride of place in an alert is evidence that Yahoo and other systems cannot detect methods of manipulation. On the other hand, the ability a marketing manager struggling to “prove” that his/her efforts are of value to a company will want to hire these manipulators as quickly as possible.

What does this type of “alert” manipulation suggest to me?

First, the notion of relevance is completely subverted from objective results germane to a query. That’s too bad for those who don’t know the difference between a relevant result and an off-point result.

Second, the endless discussions about whether the results lists bias one site versus another or boost one concept in relation to another are irrelevant. The systems seems to be more under the control of the spoofers than the folks responsible for the search system. I hope self-driving automobiles work better.

Third, the hype about systems understanding context, semantics, and personalization seems to be either unworkable or too expensive to implement. Enterprise search does not connote SEO or search engine optimization to me. Why am I seeing these results?

Answer: One more example of search becoming less and less reliable and useful. You can set up a Yahoo Alert and judge the utility of the service for yourself at

Stephen E Arnold, October 10, 2013

The New Yahoo: A Logo and Pressure on an Executive

September 5, 2013

Yahooooo. I read two stories about the grandma of Web sites. The first was “Introducing Our New Logo!.” I like the exclamation point. The logo is okay, but it seems to be cosmetic. When I was in Portugal in August, Yahoo would not render 70 percent of the time. Why? I am no rocket scientist, so I suppose I could blame it on the hapless Portuguese connectivity providers. But Gmail worked about 90 percent of the time, so maybe the problem is Yahoo’s. Will a new logo address the time outs? One hopes.

Then I read “Pressure Mounts on Yahoo’s De Castro.” No exclamation point after Yahoo, however. The main point of the write up in my opinion was:

Sources close to Yahoo say that De Castro is feeling increasing pressure to deliver better ad results, as the blustery exec has found himself on the outs with CEO Marissa Mayer. There even has been talk that De Castro could be gone by the end of the year, according to numerous sources. The big knock against De Castro is, despite Mayer’s string of mobile acquisitions, lots of positive press and the massive Tumblr deal, the companys ad business has languished in a marketplace that is enjoying robust growth. Particularly alarming is that Yahoo’s display business is getting hit on both the branding front and programmatic, which would theoretically be a De Castro strength, given his Google background.

My thought is that a new logo and creating discomfort for senior managers adds a different octave to the Yahoo yodel. Do I hear a screech? No, no. The sound is what I hear when one of the goslings tries to:

  1. Figure out which page will display when accessing
  2. Looking at search results which have modest relevance to the query
  3. Scanning a shopping search result.

I hope that the new logo and excellent management will make the Yahoo yodel more melodious for the fellow in Big Bear, California.

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2013

Sponsored by Xenky. Oh, wait. I am Xenky.

Yahoo Bids Goodbye To Microsoft

May 22, 2013

When Marissa Mayer took charge of Yahoo, she flipped the failing company upside down with strategic changes and she is about to make another one, says CNet in the article, “Yahoo Reportedly Looking To Dump Microsoft Search Pact.” Mayer has been unhappy with Yahoo’s partnership with Microsoft and has been searching for a way to end the arrangement.

Both companies made the deal in good faith:

“The two companies entered into a 10-year search partnership in 2010 in which Microsoft would power Yahoo search and Yahoo would become the sales force for Microsoft’s premium properties. However, the relationship hasn’t yielded the revenue-per-search guaranteed by the partnership, prompting Microsoft to extend the RPS guarantee for another year, Yahoo disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday.”

Microsoft failed to hit the RPS targets and Microsoft keeps seeking extensions in hopes to generate some profits. Mayer wants to grow Yahoo, she does not want to remain stagnant which is what the deal is bringing. Yahoo still considers Microsoft an important partner, but back in 2008 Google courted Yahoo with an ad-search deal and they may come back. Yahoo will probably find a way out of the deal and if the purpose is to make money, which Google is good at, Yahoo just might join the Google family. Is it time to drink the Kool-Aid?

Whitney Grace, May 22, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

Yahoo and Walking a Tightrope: Ms Mayer as Elvira Madigan

February 13, 2013

Elvira Madigan was a 19th century tightrope walker, immortalized in a film I saw when in graduate school. Is Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer’s the 21st equivalent. Instead of doing a freestyle slacklining, the chief Yahooligan may be attempting to work with both Facebook and Google.

Tricky stuff.

To get the basic idea of the new Yahoo tactics, navigate to “Yahoo CEO Says Microsoft Search Deal Underperforms.” With Yandex gaining momentum and the Google getting its mojo back, Yahoo should be concerned about the Bing search deal. The Thomson Reuters’ report included this useful sequence:

“We need to see monetization working better because we know that it can and we’ve seen other competitors in the space illustrate how well it can work,” Mayer said of the search deal with Microsoft. Yahoo and Microsoft entered into a 10-year search partnership in 2010, hoping their combined efforts could mount a more competitive challenge to Google Inc, the world’s No.1 search engine. But the partnership has not lived up to expectations. Google remains the dominant search engine, with a 66.7 percent share of the U.S. market in December, almost unchanged from its 66.6 percent share two years earlier, according to online analytics firm comScore.

Underperform, therefore, seems to be money, not precision, recall, or whizzy Bing features.

I also noted the Bloomberg story “Yahoo CEO Mayer to Cement Facebook Ties While Pushing Mobile.” The story said:

Enhancing social features is crucial to Yahoo’s success, Mayer said, as she reinforced her preference to partner with companies like Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook rather than build expensive new products. “One of the things that people really want to do is share their interests with their friends,” she said. “We need to have sharing built as a fundamental component.”

Makes sense. Most of what Ms. Mayer does makes sense, including the decision to bail out of the “controlled chaos” of her former employer.

My view is that balancing can be tricky when some of the folks holding the tightrope may let go.

Stephen E Arnold, February 13, 2013

Yahoo Back On Search

February 11, 2013

Before Google came into the spotlight, Yahoo used to have a series of commercials where its subjects were put in hilarious situations they wanted to get out of. By using Yahoo search, they were able to find a solution. At the end of every commercial a yodeler yodeled “Ya-ho-oo!” Everybody was “yahooing” and everyone thought Yahoo was number one. They were wrong. Computer World reports that Yahoo wants to snatch the crown, “Yahoo To Focus On Search—And Google.”

Marissa Mayer the Yahoo CEO plans on taking on Google in Internet search. She became the CEO after a successful career at Google, but Yahoo pulled her in to save its floundering tail. Mayer more than anyone else, knows what it means to take on the search giant. Yahoo needs to do something very new and very bold to have the smallest glimmer of hope in competing. Mayer will focus on building technology to improve search results and to extend the reach to desktop/mobile device users.

“’There’s a lot more potential here,’ Mayer said. ‘Overall, search is a key area of investment for us. All the innovations in search are going to happen at the user interface level going forward. We need to invest in those features, both for desktop and mobile [devices]. I think both ultimately will be key plays for us.’”

The new strategy does not call for the end of the Yahoo/Microsoft partnership, Mayer instead hopes Bing will help Yahoo. In 2010, Yahoo ditched its own search engine for Bing. In order to even make a dent in the market, Yahoo needs to grasp onto something that Google misses. Yahoo stinks and needs help. A former Googler is pulled into help. Talk about knowing thy enemy.

Whitney Grace, February 11, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

Key Yahoo Traffic in Steady Decline

January 23, 2013

Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer has a big hill to climb. Just as she is working to woo investors, recent statistics present some troublesome numbers, we learn from “Mayer’s 10X Challenge: Yahoo’s Homepage, Mail, and Search Traffic Show Significant Year-Over-Year Declines” at All Things D. Yes, that search thing is one of the issues; email and the customizable homepage are the other primary problem spots. The article informs us:

“Private stats from comScore show that those three areas have continued their longtime decline over the last year, in some cases dropping significantly. In November and December, for example, compared to the same two months a year ago, U.S. search was down 28 percent and 24 percent respectively, while mail was down 16 percent and 12 percent.

“This matters a great deal, since the troika of homepage, mail, and search have been the critical driver of the Yahoo value ecosystem for advertisers.

“The impact of those drops is felt all over Yahoo, whose music, movie, games and travel site have also seen massive drop-offs in traffic year over year in those same months.”

Though the drops in search and email were steep, the home page seemed to stabilize a bit, and Flickr has increased its users by a handsome 37 percent. That could have something to do increased support the CEO has been showing for that project.

Flickr, however, is not enough to save Yahoo, insists Swisher. She does give the company credit for other moves it has been making to refresh its offerings, like a new version of Yahoo Mail and a homepage redesign that emphasizes its mobile and social facets. Will it be enough to keep Yahoo near the top of the heap?

Cynthia Murrell, January 23, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Yahoo Reveals Our Curiosities

December 28, 2012

It is time once again for Yahoo’s annual Year in Review report, in which the company shares the most popular searches performed with its engine during the preceding year. Search Engine Land gives us the lowdown in “2012 Yahoo Year in Review: Over 500 Top Searches in 50+ Categories.”

Writer Elisabeth Osmeloski emphasizes the role of Vera Chan, Yahoo’s senior editor and Web trend analyst, who has been compiling these lists since 2005:

“[Ms. Chan] clearly enjoys looking for the ‘why’ behind some of these popular search trends. Every year, Ms. Chan hosts a press conference call to share insights and give some context around these searcher behaviors, as she explains that we now live in a ‘Freakonomics’ world — and people like Nate Silver are bringing new meaning to number crunching — she’s clearly one of the people making sense of ‘big data’ at Yahoo.”

So, how do they do it? The company describes its methodology:

“To develop the Yahoo! Year in Review, Yahoo’s  editors analyze Yahoo! Search queries based on a number of factors, including absolute volume and the growth from previous periods, to see which themes and trends bubble to the surface. Individuals and their Search queries always remain anonymous. Top searched refers to searches with the highest volume. Spiking refers to searches with the greatest change from one year to the next.”

It looks like users spent 2012 focused on some pretty highbrow topics. Ha, just kidding! While we did look up important stuff like elections and the Colorado wildfires, there are also top-rankers like “honey boo boo,” “gangnam style,” and “Jackson family fight.” It really is an interesting compilation, and you could spend a lot of time perusing the results.

Yahoo breaks popular searches into categories, and this year there are more classifications than ever. There is, of course, Top Searches Overall (not surprisingly, “election” won first place). Some other interesting categories include Top Obsessions (“iphone5″), Top Searched Memes (“kony 2012″), and Top Job Searches (“work from home jobs”). Check out the article for more curious groupings. Or groupings of the curious, if you will.

Cynthia Murrell, December 28, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Google Yearns for Yahoo Partnership

October 4, 2012

There has been much talk in the tech community about Apple’s public diss of Google with the launch of its own map service and the subsequent neglect of the Google Maps feature the company had been using. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt spoke about this change at a recent Nexus tablet launch, but perhaps made a more shocking statement about a coveted partnership. We learn in the Forbes article, “Eric Schmidt Says Google Would Love to Replace Microsoft as Yahoo!’s Search Partner,” that Google is very interested in replacing Microsoft’s Bing in a search engine partnership with Yahoo.

We learn in the article:

“Of course, Schmidt was involved in the discussions between Yahoo! and Google in late 2008 after the Microsoft buyout fell apart and before Carol Bartz approached Steve Ballmer to do a deal.  Google and Yahoo strongly wanted a deal done, but the government said no. […] Several people who cover Yahoo have stated in very strong language that, although the search partnership with Microsoft has been a failure, there is no way that Yahoo could do an alternative deal with Google due to regulatory issues.”

With the marked drop of Yahoo’s search share, the situation is much different than it was in 2009 and reportedly Yahoo could end the deal with Microsoft as early as next year. We may learn more as the new Yahoo CEO (and former Google exec, to boot,) Marissa Mayer preps her presentation on her plans for innovating search at Yahoo. We are left to ponder until then if a deal with the Goog is in the mix.

Andrea Hayden, October 04, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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