Recent reports suggest that Yahoo may be applying the old saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” to their business strategy. Yahoo recently restructured their partnership with Microsoft. Now that Yahoo is free to control more of their own search, they are experimenting with other search providers. Yahoo has confirmed reports that they are doing tests with Google powered results on Yahoo search pages.
Yahoo has made several big changes in the past few months to better align their offerings with demand and to try new things to improve the platform. Since Yahoo restructured their deal with Bing a few months ago, they are now allowed to use other search providers for up to 49 percent of their results.
The tests were first reported on last week when Aaron Wall of SEO Book spotted the new search result pages. Yahoo has since confirmed that the test is taking place, but elaborated no more than that.
“As we work to create the absolute best experiences for Yahoo users, from time to time, we run small tests with a variety of partners including search providers,” the company said in a statement to SearchEngineLand. “There is nothing further to share at this time.”
The changes to the Yahoo search result pages that are testing Google go beyond different links in the results. Aside from using the Google search algorithm, the Yahoo pages will be formatted to look more like Google search results.
The differences are subtle, but small changes in color and formatting can have a significant effect on click through rates on pages and ads. For example, on Bing, the top ad is colored purple and it includes the favicon of the page. Google’s top ad is colored blue and it doesn’t contain the favicon.
For all other ads, Bing has the entire area of the ad clickable, whereas Google shrinks the clickable area to only include the headline. Google also has fewer ad sitelinks per page than Bing. And in another small difference involving color, the rating stars in Bing ads are blue and the ones for Google are yellow.
The change to a more Google-like formatting may be a requirement for using Google Search tech, but it also shows the importance of user experience (UX) for designing sites that get people to click on ads and content. Bing’s structure is a lot more ad heavy than Google,and that may work in Google’s favor. For example, showing too many ads can frustrate customers or slow down their browsing experience by loading ad scripts. A lighter touch can lead to happier users who are then more likely to engage with ads or promoted content.
Though it’s not certain that Yahoo will decide to partner with Google for some of its search results, the potential benefits for Yahoo are obvious. Yahoo has already managed to increase their mobile search revenue by moving away from Bing, adding the power of Google results to their offerings could greatly increase their revenue for the percentage of Yahoo searches that use Google.
Another factor to keep in mind is that Yahoo can choose which searches to do with Google and which to do with Bing, so long as they use Bing 51 percent of the time. This means that Yahoo can push more of their high value searches to the provider that provides them the best ROI.
For more news about Yahoo, read this article on a recent Yahoo study on how consumers use email.