Yahoo to Battle 'Web Search Fatigue'

Exterior view of Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Paul Sakuma

Yahoo is making Web search faster by introducing new ways of predicting what users are looking for, while seeking to keep pace with rivals by including video, audio and picture results as answers to text searches.

The company said the new features it announced on Monday were aimed at better understanding the intention of users conducting particular types of searches and to get them to the information they desire within a single search.

Yahoo said it was trying to combat what it calls "Web search fatigue." Research conducted by Harris Interactive for Yahoo found that roughly 15 per cent of online adults find what want on their first search while most need three to four searches.

Yahoo is seeking to stem the steady gains Google, the dominant supplier of Web search, has made in market share for most of the past two years. Market research firm ComScore said Google's share grew to 56.5 percent of the U.S. Web search market in August, up 1.3 percent from July.

Yahoo Search Assist suggests related concepts to instantly refine a search, drawing on the wealth of information Yahoo has about what users across its sites are saying when they comment upon Web links, photos, video or the like.

Search Assist is designed to be especially helpful when a person is searching for information on an unfamiliar topic. The feature senses when a searcher needs help with a search and it appears as a drop-down menu under the main search results box.

For example, a user seeking information on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown might see suggestions about Gordon Brown and Scotland, Gordon Brown and budget or Gordon Brown and Iraq.

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In addition to the new Search Assist feature, Yahoo Search has also combined searching for links to video, audio and photos with traditional text links it has long offered.

Google, IAC/InterActiveCorp's and Microsoft introduced similar features earlier this year on their rival search services.

Yahoo is tapping the millions of tags users contribute on its properties such as photo-sharing site Flickr to improve the relevance of its general search service.

The company is looking to take advantage of sites it has acquired in recent years including Flickr, bookmark categorization site and the internally created Yahoo Answers to enhance Yahoo's general search.

"We hope the data in those Web sites will help make Web search better," Vish Makhijani, general manager and senior vice president of Yahoo! Search, said in an interview.

A third feature Yahoo is introducing is Search Shortcuts which are designed to help consumers save time when searching for popular categories such as events, music, movies, travel, sports, health, shopping, businesses and restaurants.

Yahoo Search Shortcuts weave in ratings and reviews, photos, official Web sites and other potentially useful information to augment a consumer's search on these topics.