Yahoo Fails to Use Search History Data

Yahoo put out a rosy headline about their new data retention policy that limits the time they store data such as search logs, page views, and ad views, titled, “Yahoo! Sets New Industry Privacy Standard with Data Retention Policy.”

Great spin, but I don’t think that’s really why they did what they did. My guess is that they did this because they couldn’t figure out a way to create value based on user’s extensive search histories. Or their returns diminished to the point of not being valuable.

I can’t figure out how it wouldn’t be valuable to keep a rolling 1-year of data. Wouldn’t it be valuable to be able to look at someone’s behavior during the same time a year before, such as the holiday shopping season, to determine what a person may be looking for?

Yahoo's Geocities Should Use Yahoo's Hosting

It’s funny how absurd web hosting data limits become if they’re not routinely updated to reflect ongoing cost decreases.

Here’s an example from yesterday:

Jason Kottke linked to a webpage that happens to be hosted on Yahoo’s Geocities free publishing platform. Personally, I hadn’t heard Geocities mentioned in years, but I suppose someone’s still using it. As you can see in Kottke’s comment, he was surprised to see that Geocities was still around too:

Kottke.org Post

Unfortunately, by the time I clicked to check out the link (probably 30 minutes after his post went live) Yahoo had disabled the page because it had exceeded its bandwidth allotment:

Site Unavailable

A quick look at the Geocities specs shows that sites are given 3GB of data transfer a month, which would be hard for a relatively low traffic site to hit with one simple link from Kottke. However, Geocities doles out the bandwidth with additional hourly restrictions:

What is my hourly data transfer limit? - Yahoo! Yahoo! GeoCities Help

Hitting 4MB in an hour wouldn’t be hard at all after getting linked to by a popular blog. That’s kind of a bummer for this publisher since he’d probably prefer to get 3GB worth of traffic when available rather than turn away thousands of people who happen to find out about your site all on the same day.

Perhaps Yahoo should check out their own web hosting offering where for $11.99 they could get unlimited bandwidth for Geocities:

Yahoo! Web Hosting: Unlimited Data Transfer

However, as Jim Ray points out, long time Kottke fans shouldn’t have bothered with this link since Jason already linked to this exact same page . . . 9 years ago.

Amazon RSS Wishlist Generator

Let’s say you have an Amazon wishlist that you’d like to syndicate onto your blog. While Amazon does provide some widgets for this, none of them are as simple as just giving you an RSS feed you can format yourself.

With that in mind, I went digging for a solution and found a few options that were close to what I was looking for on Yahoo Pipes. There were solutions where entering your wishlist’s ID was enough to generate a custom RSS feed for your wishlist items.

However, they fell short if you had more than 10 items on your wishlist.

To solve this, I cloned one of the pipes and added a field for page number, so a person can now enter which page number they’d like to generate an RSS feed for.

Ed's Amazon RSS Wishlist Generator

While this is an incremental improvement, I’m sure someone could figure out how to generate a feed that simply detects how many items you have on your wishlist and generates an appropriately long RSS feed of the results.

That’s one of the coolest things about Yahoo Pipes. Incremental improvements can happen very fast when there is simple graphical documentation of how previous versions of the program work.

So, what do you do with this feed once you have it? In my case, I syndicated it onto a page of my personal blog using a WordPress plugin called SideRSS (which is a little out of date, so there are probably many other ways to to this). This generates a clean bulleted list of the items on my wishlist for my blog so my friends and family can buy me all kinds of stuff I crave from Amazon.

A Simple Yahoo Pipes RSS Filtering Example

I don’t know if Yahoo Pipes has gained much traction since launching, but I do know that I find the service useful.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a relatively easy to use platform for creating RSS feed mashups, filters, and other related fun stuff. I say, “relatively simple” since you don’t have to be a programmer or own a server in order to create mashups, but it still has a bit of a learning curve.

Here is a very simple use of the service that I think helps illustrate the power.

There is a an online running forum called dyestat.com Track Talk that has a lot of content that’s interesting to me. However, it also has a TON of stuff that doesn’t interest me at all.

What’s nice is that there is a Minnesota-specific section to the forum. What isn’t nice is that there isn’t a Minnesota-specific RSS feed available for the forum.

That’s where Yahoo Pipes comes to the rescue. I simply took the RSS feed for the entire dyestat.com Track Talk forum, dropped that into Yahoo Pipes, added a filter for the word “Minnesota” in the item descriptions (which they happen to add to all items posted to the Minnesota sub-forum), and generate a filtered RSS feed of the remaining posts:

Yahoo Pipes Filtering of RSS Feed

This took about 2 minutes. Yahoo Pipes has given me easier access to content that’s of interest to me.

And now that it exists, others can use it as well or clone and edit it to personalize it for content that interests them.

Yahoo Chipping Away at Google's Market Share

This afternoon is turning out to be a rough one for Google. First, they reported less than expected earnings that sent the stock price dropping $40 as of this writing.

Then NetApplication’s monthly newsletter shipped with news that Yahoo has nipped away at some of Google’s market share:

Search Engine Market Share for June 2007

Aliso Viejo, CA based Net Applications announces June 2007 world wide Search Engine Market Share results. Yahoo, for the second consecutive month, has regained search engine market share at the direct expense of Google.

Yahoo climbed back to 12.16% market share, and the last time they had that much share was back in September of 2006. But, at that time Yahoo was on the decline in market share. Google’s US search market share has dropped to 51.53%. Net Applications has not recorded two consecutive months of search engine market share losses for Google until now.

NetApplications takes things a bit far by speculating that Jerry Yang’s recent return to CEO status has Steve Jobs-like rebound familiarity. I doubt any changes Yang’s made during his short time in his new roll can be responsible for Yahoo’s very recent success, but it’s certainly a trend worth watching.

Upload Your Pictures – Flickr Photo Sharing Explained

Explains why you should upload your photos to the web, and explains why Flickr is a good place to do this.

Please, please, please put your photos online.

Quick story:

I recently stopped by my parent’s home in search of a few pictures of their home for use in a web project I’m working on. They have lived in the same home since 1983 so they have a ton of pictures of the house from the past twelve years.

What did I have to do to find the photos I was looking for? Dig through shoe boxes and photo albums! How primitive. And to make matters worse, what else did I find in the shoe boxes? Photos of me from the past two decades! Outside of a few awkward teenage years, I don’t belong in a shoebox.

Memories Should be Easily Accessible

Have you ever taken a picture with the intention of putting it in a shoe box? Leaving it in the package from the developer? Stuck on your computer in a random folder? Trapped on your camera’s memory card? Of course not, but that doesn’t stop most of us from doing exactly that every day.

Photos Should be Shared

The photos I find most interesting are often candid shots. There is something special captured in pictures that managed to discretely document a moment in time. Posed photos simply capture a group of people trying not to flinch when the flash goes off while wondering how much longer they’ll have to smile. The problem is many of photos like this are distributed over the group of cameras that were used at any given event. Those pictures deserve each other.

How many pictures of your friends do you have that they’ve never seen? Put those photos online now so your friends can enjoy them too.

Share Photos Online

There are certainly a lot of options for uploading and sharing photos online today. I’m going to share what I like about one photo sharing service below, but this doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice. Please share your thoughts in the comments below about the photo sharing services you’re tried and loved or hated.

Flickr.com

Flickr is a web based photo sharing service acquired by Yahoo in March that lets people upload and share photos with others. It’s a popular and fast growing web site with over 1 billion uploaded photos. That’s a lot of photos, but considering that more than 1.3 billion photos were uploaded to online systems last year alone, and over 28 billion digital photos are snapped per year, it represents only a fraction of our documented world.

Here is what I like about Flickr:

  1. I can batch upload photos to the site while doing other things like writing this blog post.
  2. I can set permissions on every photo I upload. This lets me decide which photos are appropriate for my family, friends, everyone, or should remain private.
  3. I can “tag” each photo with descriptive keywords that allow me to easily search for related photos.
  4. Other people can add comments to my photos, sharing memories or perspectives of the photos I took.
  5. It gives me peace of mind to know that my digital photos are backed up somewhere beyond my computer.
  6. I can order prints for as little as $0.15 for 4″x6″ photos and pick them up at my local Target store.
  7. I can let my friends, family, or even people I don’t know print my photos without lifting a finger. 
  8. Flickr will store photos at their original resolution, so I can print photos larger than 4×6.

Does this beat the shoebox treatment? I think so. Think outside the shoebox!

What online photo services do you prefer? Which ones drive you nuts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Yahoo Search Marketing’s New Look – A Rough Transition

An analysis of Yahoo Search Marketing’s transition to 70 character character limits on ad descriptions.

Can you imagine an army general telling his troops during a battle that they’re changing course, but some will stay on the same course, and he may change his mind about the new course at any time? It’s inconsistent and doesn’t give the troops a vision they can rally behind. That’s the kind of message Yahoo Search Marketing sent today to their 100,000+ advertisers when they announced that they’re changing the display of their ads.

Yahoo has announced plans to shorten the number of characters they display on pay per click ads within search results. Is this because shorter is better? That’s not entirely clear.

From today’s Yahoo Search Marketing’s newsletter to advertisers:

A new look is coming to the Yahoo! search results pages that will translate into more clicks for your listings. On January 18th, Yahoo! will debut a streamlined design that will make the search results displayed on Yahoo! even easier for consumers to read. Our research has shown that by improving the search experience in this way, advertisers can generally expect to see an increase in clicks, while maintaining their conversion rates.


Great opening, but things get muddy in the details:

  1. Yahoo states that their syndication partners plan to continue displaying full ad descriptions. If shorter descriptions receive more clicks, thus revenue, why would their syndication partners stick with the status quo?
  2. Should advertisers now write 70 character descriptions, followed by bonus copy for Yahoo’s partner sites?
  3. Transitioning thousands of ads to the new 70 character limit could be a tedious task for advertisers. Should they let Yahoo crop their current ads or spend the time rewriting their ads?
  4. Complicating things further, Yahoo states that they will, “fine tune the exact character count that we believe works best for advertisers and search users.” How is an advertiser supposed to write creatives for a moving target?


Takeaways:

I think Yahoo Search Marketing is moving in the right direction, but the transition announcement lacked the leadership and decisiveness I’d expect from a company of Yahoo’s stature. Yahoo’s advertisers are their troops, and are looking for direction on how they – in partnership with Yahoo – can reap the best return on their ad spend. Tell them what works. They’ll do it.

Questions:

Is Yahoo Search Marketing really doing this to make their system compatible with Google Adwords? As more advertisers use the Google Adwords API to manage their campaigns, wouldn’t it make sense for Yahoo to make it as easy as possible for advertisers to push the same ad copy to both ad networks? Does Yahoo consider accommodating Google AdWords advertisers a winning business strategy?

What do you think?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Online Competitive Research

Five tips on how to efficiently conduct online competitive research.

Are you interested in keeping tabs on your competition, but just can’t seem to find the time? Here are a couple competitive intelligence time savers we use and frankly can’t live without. Here is a concise summary for those of you who are too lazy to read all five tips: Subscribe to search results using RSS readers. If you don’t know what that means, buck up and read on to improve your competitive research efficiency.

  1. Use Google Blogsearch: Search for your arch nemesis’ name on Google Blogsearch to find the latest dirt on the blogs about him. Here’s an example search for Google employee, Matt Cutts.  (In this case, I’m searching for someone who usually has something interesting to say rather than for an arch nemesis). Imagine if there was famous rugby player by the same name. That would lead to a lot of false positives in my stalking efforts, so I’d add a negative for the term [-rugby] (without the brackets) to the search to filter the other Matt Cutts out of the results. [Trivial side note: As of this writing, Matt Cutts has only been mentioned once on a blog post that incluces the word rugby: 3,173 vs 3,174 mentions.]
  2. Use Persistent Searches: Too lazy to run that search on a regular basis? Subscribe to blog search results by clicking one of the Atom or RSS links at the bottom of the results page. Paste the resulting URL into the RSS reader of your choice. A few popular readers today include Bloglines, News Gator, My Yahoo, and Google Reader. Here is a link to Matt Cutt’s blog search RSS feed’s URL. [Note: If you want to to straight to the source to find out what makes Matt Cutts tick, check out his blog at: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/.]

  3. Use Technorati: Who is linking to your competition? There are quite a few tests for this, but Technorati is particularly interesting because it reports what blogs have recently (we’re talking minutes here) linked to a given site. For example, this search for www.technorati.com on Technorati reports 118,022 links to Technorati.com as of this writing, including 17 new links in the past 10 minutes. Discovering who is linking to a site, and clicking to read the associated commentary is a great competitive research technique. You can also use it to measure how “important” your site is vs. your competition based on Technorati’s link metric.

  4. Use Technorati Watchlists: Too lazy to run the same search twice? That’s not laziness. That’s a sign of efficiency. Simply click the Add to Watchlist button on Technorati’s search results page to save it to your personal watch list.
  5. Subscribe to News Search: Too lazy to read blogs, but have time for news stories? Search Yahoo News or Google News for your favorite newsworthy term, then subscribe to the results. Google currently lists their subscribe options on the left column of their site, and Yahoo’s are on the right. Yahoo’s recently added blog search results to the right column of their news results page, so they have a 2 for 1 search offering.

Enough already. Congratulations on reading this far. Maybe you’re not as lazy as you thought?

Feeling energized? Give the above tips a try, or share your own online competitive research tips in the comments below.

Yahoo Acquiring Del.ico.us Explained in 6 Easy Steps

Yahoo acquires Del.icio.us. What does that mean for social bookmarking?

There is interesting news coming out of the social bookmarking
market today:
Yahoo
Snaps up Del.icio.us
.

What the heck is social bookmarking?

Social bookmarking is basically a web based bookmarking service on
steriods. It gives users the ability to access bookmarks from anywhere and
share web pages that has been deemed “bookmarkable” by its network of users.

What kind of name is del.icio.us? Pronounced “delicious,”
del.icio.us is both the company name and domain name
(http://del.icio.us)
of a service that allows people to bookmark web sites to an online account
rather than to a favorites folder in their web browser. The service was
created in 2003 by Joshua Schachter and turned
into a company in 2005. While del.icio.us certainly has a tasty sounding
name, that’s probably not why Yahoo bought them.

What does del.icio.us do?

  1. Online Bookmarking: Saving bookmarks online
    allows users to access them from any computer and from any browser. As
    I mentioned in a
    previous
    post, bookmark syncing is a big challenge for people who use more than
    one computer or browser. However, rather than attempting to sync bookmarks
    between multiple computers and browsers, users simply work from a
    single repository of bookmarks accessible from any internet
    connection.
  2. Bookmark Tagging: Have you ever started reading something
    really interesting, run out of time, decided to bookmark it, but then
    couldn’t remember what you called it or what folder you saved it in?
    del.icio.us addresses this common challenge by using bookmark tags. Every
    time you bookmark a site to del.icio.us, you can add keywords (tags) to the
    bookmarked web page to help you categorize that page in your del.icio.us
    account. Tagging is far superior to folders because it allows users to
    bookmark the same web page to many “folders.” For example, a person adding
    this blog post to del.icio.us might tag it with terms like [del.icio.us
    yahoo bookmarking acquisition]. That person could later retrieve this post
    within their del.icio.us account by clicking on any of those four tags.
  3. Bookmark Sharing: Bookmarks posted to del.icio.us become
    part of the del.icio.us community. The bookmarked web pages are ranked based
    on how many times a page is bookmarked by del.icio.us users.
    This helps address one of the toughest questions faced by web
    users today: “What’s worth reading?”

    Searching del.icio.us by a tag that interests them, or clicking
    del.icio.us’ “Popular” link will guide people to interesting content fast
    using the power of deli.icio.us’ network. Once one person ads this blog
    post to del.icio.us, other users of del.icio.us may also stumble upon it,
    read it, and decide it’s bookmark worthy, thus increasing the popularity of
    this post for the terms it has been tagged with.
  4. What does Yahoo gain from this acquisition?: Yahoo is
    already a player in the social bookmarking game through their
    Yahoo
    MyWeb service. While actually superior in some ways to del.icio.us –
    Yahoo allows users to set permissions to bookmarked pages, so you can decide
    what’s public, private, or somewhere in between while del.icio.us’ system is
    only open to the public – they dodn’t have
    the fast-growing network del.icio.us has been able to quickly acquire.
    Perhaps Yahoo has learned how hard it is to catch up once a
    company manages to gain a foothold in a network-effect web model?
  5. A Killer Application Bundle?: If Yahoo manages to create a
    bundle of irresistable applications that are truly integrated (one
    login) into their Y! platform, they may manage to lock in users for a good
    portion of their daily web browsing. A killer combination of great
    social bookmarking, a top of the line RSS reader, and fast / relevant search
    could entice many web power users who’ve called Google home for the past few
    years to reconsider their web browsing behavior. Will Yahoo be able to pull
    it off? The speed and elegance of the del.icio.us integration into
    Yahoo’s properties may show us how serious they really are.
  6. Who else is a player in social bookmarking? Temporarily, it
    looks like Yahoo has cornered the market, but Google does have an
    online
    bookmarking service
    tied into their personal search system. If Google
    enters this game, it will likely be an extension of that service.
    Microsoft’s Windows
    Live
    will likely offer a competing service in the near future.

What do you think?

Are you a del.icio.us or Yahoo MyWeb user today?

What do you like about the services?

Who else will become a player in this market and when? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below.