The news that Microsoft and Yahoo will partner in search presents opportunities and challenges for search engine marketers. If you’re not familiar with the deal, in-depth coverage can be found on Search Engine Land, TechCrunch and the recently launched Microsoft/Yahoo news site.
Even though we may be two full years away from its full implementation, you can be certain that (once approved) certain changes will happen sooner than later.
Here is a short list of six key action items online marketers should consider and put on their priority list for the near future.
More focus must be placed on Bing.com search analytics
While Bing may send less than 10% of all search engine traffic today, Bing technology will power approximately 26% of the search market once implemented. Maybe more (or less) depending on yet unforeseen events play out in the search space.
I would recommend starting to compare keyword referral data, keyword visibility and user engagement between Bing and Google to determine where your site’s strengths are and where your search engine marketing strategy will need to improve.
Get acquainted with MSN search services
Unbeknown to some, Microsoft has actually made solid strides in developing search-related services for webmasters. The two key areas for SEO are Bing Webmaster Central and Bing Local Listings Center.
- Bing.com Webmaster Center allows webmasters to “troubleshoot the crawling and indexing of your site, submit sitemaps and view statistics about your sites.” It’s a developing resource with functionality similar to Google’s webmaster console
- Bing also provides a local listings center for site owners to add local business contact information, upload photos and add supplemental website information. The only glaring difference right now is that there is no ability to add/upload video (yet).
It’s unclear if Yahoo will maintain control of their own local search results but right now (in my opinion) the functionality specifically for site owners is poor at best.
Get acquainted with MSN AdCenter
Self-serve advertising for both Yahoo and Bing will be handled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform. This model should cover the majority of site owners and means those who weren’t using AdCenter as a third alternative for PPC advertising will need to get acclimated, should they want to continue showing ads in Yahoo search results.
From the paid advertising perspective, the burning question is how Yahoo will deal with Yahoo Search Submit, which allowed business owners to submit specific web addresses to be listed in the organic search results for a fee. It seems likely that this product would get canceled but it certainly could get rolled into paid services provided by Bing in the future.
Find another way to obtain competitive link data
Bing powered search results probably means that Yahoo Site Explorer will get pushed out of the picture sooner than later. If that’s the case, an easy way site owners were able to get a snapshot of competitive link information will no longer be available. Microsoft disabled link reporting a while back and Google does not report comprehensive numbers either.
Google and Bing Webmaster Centrals provide link data for sites owned by webmasters but not competitive information. Two alternatives for competitive link data today include SEOmoz Linkscape and Hubspot analytics. The Search Engine Land article referenced below mentions Majestic SEO and Exaleads as alternative ways to find competitive backlinks as well.
Start evaluating Yahoo as a user experience engine
Enhancing the user experience appears to be a focus for Yahoo site innovation going forward. In particular, we’re looking at developing more functionality using Yahoo Search Monkey services, enabling search results that incorporate video, images and discussions within web page listings. Since it was specifically referenced in a Q&A Session with Microsoft SVP Yusuf Mehdi and Yahoo EVP Hilary Schneider, here’s to hoping Search Monkey remains in the picture.
Since Yahoo retains control over the user experience of their properties (including search), it also remains to be seen how and if they decide to incorporate additional Yahoo content into their search results going forward. Examples of some of the pieces to pay attention to include Yahoo Answers, Yahoo Buzz and Yahoo content that is getting aggregated under Yahoo profile information.
Remember, Yahoo analytics reporting still matters
Finally, even though Yahoo search will be powered by Bing technology, it does not mean minimizing Yahoo as a source of traffic and keyword analysis. It’s likely that Yahoo rankings and search visibility will differ from Bing as a result of Yahoo’s user experience initiatives overladen on Bing search results.
Yahoo is still one of the top online properties available, with over 140 million unique visitors in June and only trails Google as it pertains to monthly unique visitors (according to Compete.com). That’s plenty of reason to continue monitoring traffic opportunities from the site.
References and Final Thoughts
For additional analysis and recommendations, here are two posts worth reviewing. We’ve taken some of the opinion and analysis from them to form a more complete piece, but the majority of the detail for this article was considered immediately after the Yahoo/Microsoft deal had surfaced.
- Top 10 Things the Microsoft/Yahoo! Deal Changes for SEO
- What Site Owners, Web Developers & SEOs Should Know About The Yahoo Microsoft Deal
Regardless of whether Microsoft or Yahoo played a major role in your search marketing initiatives in the past, this deal proves Microsoft’s commitment to being a player in the search market over the long haul.
Even though it would seem that Yahoo is giving up on search, they’re not giving up on remaining a viable online platform. The real question is will the deal be enough to take a larger portion of the search market from Google in the long-term.