Hand-coded shortcuts on Yahoo

We talked earlier about some of the issues with Yahoo hand-coding shortcuts for queries, and the difficulty of knowing if money was involved. Now Loren points out Yahoo has hard-coded some special behavior for the query [google]. Searching for [Google] at the Australia/NZ version of Yahoo returns “Try the new Yahoo! Search:” with a prominent search box right above the listing for Google. Interesting..

This reminds me of similar incidents from other search engines in the past. Remember when Inktomi hand-coded the result for [dumb motherfucker] so that the #1 result was a Google page about its executives? Boy, I do. That was motivating. :) Or when AllTheWeb hand-coded the results for [google] to return the phrase “Google — The Inferior Search Engine” at the top of the search results? I showed that one to Stephen Baker at FAST, and it was gone by the next day. Will Yahoo decide to keep this hand-coded behavior when someone does the search [google]? I have no idea.

P.S. I’m off to bed, but Jagger3 is coming along. I don’t know if it will be visible later today or not, but I’ll keep you posted when I know more.

58 Responses to Hand-coded shortcuts on Yahoo (Leave a comment)

  1. Stephen

    You can also Buy Google at Ebay ;) with Yahoo.

    I personally dont see this as any worse than selling advertising space (eg adwords) above company brands names. Although obviously the ATW example was below the belt.

  2. Stephen

    OOps – I meant Inktomi example was below the belt :)

  3. Chris_D

    Matt,

    There’s more. For Toolbar you also get a helpful “INSIDE YAHOO!” self promo.

    But my favourites are the helpful “Also try…”

    Try adsense or Adwords – and look at the helpful ‘Also try…’
    :)

  4. Canadian Love

    Have you tried something like [search restaurants] on google.com lately?

    Someone is “Hand Coding” the top AdWord…. Naaa… my bad… that’s not “hand coding”… you are buying it from yourself…

    Give us a break.

  5. Well done Google – you know you are number one when competitors resort to this. G must not react by doing the same.

  6. er. well, that certainly is not ok… at all.
    But, just to show: in my little country ( argentina ) searching for yahoo , it doesnt show up even in the firtst 10 results….
    http://www.google.com.ar/search?hl=es&q=yahoo&btnG=B%C3%BAsqueda+en+Google&meta=cr%3DcountryAR

    ps: this jagger affair came like a rolling stone, and crashed my head, sent us far 100 / 200 for many niche words. Sad, sad sad : ), still LOL.

  7. Aaron Pratt

    Is there a difference between “hand-code” and “hand pick”? I just can’t seem to get above these old geocities.com pages that appear to be of more value to Google than my entire site that is dedicted the same subject. The pages I speak of almost seem as if they were hand picked.

    Matt~ What do you do with the URLs that you collect at fairs (i think you mentioned this in the aaron wall interview) when you return to Google, submit them and set them free or place them? How does a website that does not have any incoming links appear on page #1 in Google?

    Yes, I agree that what the other search engines are doing is a VERY dangerous thing, please confirm that Google does not do the same.

    Thanks,

    -Aaron

  8. Harith

    Hi Matt

    My problem with Yahoo is entirely different than the one you wrote.

    When searching for google, the serps of Yahoo show http://www.google.com at the top instead of http://www.google.dk :-)

    Maybe I need to ask Yahoo to help with more hand-coding :-)

  9. Valentine

    I can’t see what all the fuss is about. It kind of makes you wonder why anyone would search Yahoo for “Google” anyway. Are they really having that much trouble finding it?

  10. Personally I think it is kindof childish for the search engines to have been doing such things — I mean it isn’t really going to help anything by doing things like that and what does it prove? If Google never does something like this (which I hope they don’t and already haven’t), then I would have to believe Google’s staff members are WAY more mature than the others and power to Google!

    Though I know it really doesn’t hurt anything, it is sad having to watch competitors act in such a manner.

  11. lots0

    If any search engine is going to hand code any part of its results it is no longer a search engine, it becomes just another advertisment.

    How ethical is it to hand code results and not inform the user?

    I think hand coding search results, by any self described Search Engine, boarders on fraud and is in part what got the FCC involved in Search Marketing in the first place.

    If this hand coding continues I do see the FCC becomming more and more involved in Search and that is not good for anyone…

  12. Doug

    Usually people do things like that when they are losing the battle. I take it as a compliment because what it tells me is they are afraid. Matt I know you are a busy dude. I have been trying to get a hold of you several times about my completely legitimate sites getting dropped. I dont even care if they rank, but for them to get kicked out of the index really messes with my hopes of getting them to rank. I know you get about 100 of these a day, but I cannot survive if I cannot be indexed. I know that no algo is perfect, but what has happened to me can not be explained and can be corrected.

  13. Aaron Pratt

    Google lets it’s algorithm do the work, if Yahoo is doing crap like that it shows they are losing the battle and are weak. You have to feel for Yahoo though, in my stats (before this update) 75% of my traffic came from Google, not an easy monster to compete with.

    It now appears that Yahoo is copying Google Adsense which brings up another idea. People are not loyal, if Yahoosense is better than Adsense they will migrate, so Google might have some competition now? Would love to hear from Matt about Yahoosense.

    And I have to admit, even though my sites are not getting great results yet (they are new) it is good to see a healthy mix of websites found when you do a search in Google after this update. I see a few novice websites (that are actually better) above major ad spammers like about.com and I praise this attempt to never forget about the small “mom and pops”.

    -Aaron

  14. Matt

    Chris_D, that’s a good way to say the point I’m making. It’s perfectly possible that the algorithms at Yahoo say that the best suggestions for “adwords” and “adsense” are “yahoo adwords”, “yahoo adsense”, or “adsense alternatives”, but you don’t know for sure. That’s why I took pains to emphasize that our query experiment was algorithmic and money was not involved.

    Daniel, I agree. I’m happy to say how things are at Google right now. At Google we don’t have the ability to say “for this web search, hand-code this result to be at the top or get a boost.” We have the ability to remove results for legal reasons (e.g. a DMCA request, which would be documented at the bottom of a results page) or to penalize for spam reasons (e.g. off-topic keyword stuffing or doorway pages), but not to boost hand-picked results.

    Aaron, when I collect urls from fairs or from trips, I definitely don’t place them in our search results. I use them as independent tests to see how well Google is doing for mom and pop shops. It’s a really good way to find sites to test if they come up for their names. But I use the urls I find on trips to evaluate, not to boost those sites.

    lots0, you raise an interesting point. I actually support Yahoo’s ability to hand-pick what to show–but I would like disclosure of when that happens or when money is involved. For example, I think it’s fine for Yahoo to do pay-for-inclusion (PFI) but I’d like to be able to distinguish a PFI url from a normal url. In the same way, I’m fine if Yahoo decides to hand-boost results for particular searches, but it would be nice to know if a set of search results was tuned by hand.

  15. Matt -

    With all due respect I see only a small difference between what Yahoo is doing by planting that box – basically an ad for Yahoo appearing at a search for Google – and the decisions Google routinely makes about adsense placements and ads, filtering out organic pages, removing sites for various reasons, adding the lightly shaded ad bar at top. Nobody’s decisions are totally divorced from revenue issues and that’s OK.

    A lack of transparency (ie knowing an ad is an ad and knowing why sites are penalized) is important and all SE’s are currently failing that transparency obligation.

  16. Has Google Ever Hand Coded a result?

    If they have, are they never going to do it in the future?

  17. Matt

    matiasn, I’ll ask someone to check it out. If someone types [yahoo] into google.com.ar, the default option is to search the web, and they get es.yahoo.com and espanol.yahoo.com as the number 1 and 2 results. Plus if you click More Results, ar.yahoo.com is number 3. Hmm. I notice that there’s an ar.yahoo.com and then I notice that yahoo.com.ar isn’t crawled much.

    Okay, now I’m debugging on the fly but I think I’ve found it. yahoo.com.ar redirects to ar.yahoo.com, so that’s where we’ll index things. The search you gave was for yahoo but only on “páginas de Argentina” (pages in Argentina). If yahoo did things on yahoo.com.ar they would be returned because of the TLD, but they don’t. And if ar.yahoo.com was hosted in Argentina then it would be returned, but the site isn’t hosted in Argentina. I can see your point matiasn, but it’s nothing that’s hand-done by Google.

  18. Nice Valentine great point.

  19. Instinctive

    hmm, I searched Google for “Yahoo Image Search” and low and behold, look what was right at the top of the page (above the Y! listing):

    Tip: Looking for pictures? Try Google Images

    Pot = Kettle = Black ?

  20. Jon

    God, i love this blog.

  21. update looking quite sweet at the moment .. :)

    but when i search for yahoo in the UK I get

    http://www.zdnet.com

    http://www.redcross.org

    In the top ten .. this is way to funny

    DaveN

  22. I’ve heard about the Yahoo tricks from somewhere, but I had no idea, that it happened so many times on different search engines already :)

    Can we have a claim that Google does not have a similar practice?

  23. Your last line actually sent a shiver down my spine… jagger3…

    I’ve been doing LOTS of spam reports recently concerning adsense TOS violations. I’ve yet to see any results…

    I’ve included the words spamreport / jagger1 or spamreport / jagger2 when appropiate. Should we continue now reporting on spam sites with jagger3 or not?

  24. Walkman

    Hi Matt,
    sorry but I see no wrong with what Yahoo did (for the Google search). Everyone knows, or should know that they’re your competitor, and it’s no big deal.

    Look on the bright side: The google.country sites are virtually all identical and no dupe penalty :)

  25. The whole “hand-coding” idea is really coutner-active to any search engine, don’t you think? -What’s the point of having a search engine that is supposed to give relevant results, but in reality it is giving back human fed results?

    I do find some of the hand coding that happens pretty funny though. :) Sometimes it’s needed too, for instance the issues that google had with “hate” words and they had to put in some notices about why the results were – the way they were.

    Ok, so lets get jagger moving!
    I like my SERPs that are showing on 66.102.9.104 :)

  26. Dave

    Agree, if that’s the biggest worry around, then life must be pretty good :)

  27. Brian

    Those Yahoo results are two times better–as in 2x the number of search boxes :)

  28. “if ar.yahoo.com was hosted in Argentina ”
    ” yahoo.com.ar they would be returned because of the TLD”

    The above statement makes absolute sense, and it is as it should be…
    So how come it takes so long for sites that change hosting countries to get that change recognised by Google? If it were to be publicised to be a month, no problems, the next time you were spidered at the new location, fantastic. But that a change in July is still not recognised… please.

    Clients that I have advised about the above Yahoo logic have gone and changed hosting locations – dot com sites to be hosted in the persons country rather than the US, then months go by…

    Jagger is another botchup, but praying hard as are many others that in the next day you will have come to your senses…

    Jaggers/Daggers/Swords fly and when a chief waves a real one at such a time… Very insensitive, as humorous as it is

  29. giggle girl

    I guess I don’t understand why Yahoo’s hand coding to change the search results are any worse than Google picking particular industries to attack at just the right time of the year. Why should Yahoo have to make a disclosure? It’s not as if Google has a disclosure that says something to the affect of: “We reserve the right to screw with results and ensure that our high dollar advertisers appear in top placements in organic searches.” What’s the difference? Both approaches are done to increase revenue of the search engine company.

  30. Naw

    The case of the query “dumb motherfucker” very unethical. I’m disappointed with Inktomi.

    I like the competition Google X Yahoo X MSN, but must be clean and professional.

  31. Naw I agree… if you search for “dumb motherfucker” on MSN, you’ll see a little “MSN bombing”. :)

  32. David

    Sorry Matt,

    This is a bit off topic but I thought you will only be looking at the most recent posts.

    This is for contacting google.

    My site is a mom and pop operation and it’s seriously affecting our start up. I know that we shouldn’t have hosted within the wrong neighbourhood but we didn’t know that at the beginning . Hosting has since been changed and I haven’t heard any response from Google yet for a month.
    Thanks alot for your attention and I apologize once again for off topic comment.

  33. CC

    Doesn’t google do this as well for the query [failure]? I’m sure that they have hard coded this so the first result is the George W website rather than the true first result. Funny, but shows the childish nature of Google’s engineers.

    End of the day, you need to be able to manually change the ranking of results. In the Yahoo! search result URL you used to be able to determine if the results were modified (or harmonized). Now the result URLs are obfuscated. Google definitely does the same, but is more clever about hiding it. How else can you return a relevant result for [to be or not to be] on either search engine (BTW Yahoo! Search has a better and more relevant result)

  34. Tony

    Another search which I think shows that google doesn’t tamper with the ranks is “free email” no quotes on google it shows yahoo in number1 position, while gmail is around 23 (which BTW was around 9 before Jagger started) also I notice google pay themselves for ads for that search as well. On yahoo the same search shows Yahoo on number 1 and gmail is around 5?

  35. craig

    Google does actually stoop to this level.

    Try searching “stock photos” and you will see:

    Tip: Looking for pictures? Try Google Images

    What we are talking about is the abuse of the SERPs — whether Yahoo is doing it on Google searches to promote itself, of Google is doing it on searches relevant to its own business units, there is no difference. They are both abuses.

  36. Harith

    Good morning Matt

    Any Jagger3 DC?

    Thanks.

  37. I’ve made numerous contacts to report obvious spam to google and now wouldn’t you know I get bumped for being squeaky clean, and this yahoo (for lack of a better word) is using all types of doorways, dupe content and even serving spiders completely different content. Ironically Yahoo has no trouble either, with any of this sites techniques.

    I sure as hell hope Jagger3 is addressing such spam and violation of TOS issues. Perhaps the PR update?

    *mumbles incoherently*

  38. Stephen

    Come on Matt – we know you suffer from Insomnia – J3 expected soon ?

  39. Dave

    RE: I know that we shouldn’t have hosted within the wrong neighbourhood but we didn’t know that at the beginning . Hosting has since been changed and I haven’t heard any response from Google yet for a month.

    Do you really mean host with a “bad neighbourhood”, or linked to a bad neighbourhood?

    Regardless, about the best that can be done is a TOTAL clean-up of ALL black hat stuff and then submit it for reinclusion.

  40. Matt

    Stephen, I did a quick update about the J3 timeline. B00MER, definitely do a spam report with the Jagger keyword. People are tackling those.

    Craig and Instinctive, I believe Google is looking for words like “photo” and “image” and offering a tip to try image search. The query [Britney photo] also offers the “Tip: Looking for pictures? Try Google Images.” So Instinctive, I believe that we’re keying off the word Image in the query Yahoo Image Search. If you do the query [Yahoo Search] you don’t see it either. We’re not keying to the word Yahoo, just trying to offer a tip for people who use “image-related” words.

    Quadszilla-Seoblackhat, I believe I answered your question in my first reply: we remove urls from legal or spam reasons, so that can cause results to be modified. But we don’t have the ability to pick or boost the results for a search. Which hopefully also answers Artem’s question and Search Engine Web’s question: no, the results for [sex] are not hand-picked on Google. It’s algorithmic.

    And that also answers CC’s question: no, we did not hard-code the top result for [failure] or [miserable failure]. See http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/09/googlebombing-failure.html for more info.

  41. Matt – it’s nice to see you spending time answering all these questions.

    I have a quick question that is slightly about jagger -

    How quickly does region based sites (ie .co.uk) sync with the .com site in regards to updates?

    The reason I ask this is because I thought all my xmas’ had come at once on monday and then today (also the day my boss comes back – actually did you know this? does goole know that much? ;o) ) we’re back to where we started. I must admit we’re still in a lofty position anyway and have no real quarms about the search in my field I just thought it was strange.

  42. Pete

    Of course the real question is why do people use a search engine to find another search engine?

  43. lots0

    Then Matt said, “At Google we don’t have the ability to say “for this web search, hand-code this result to be at the top or get a boost.”

    Hmmm, but could you say this page is getting a hand tweaked PR boost?
    No answer expected… ;-)

  44. craig

    Matt — you said:

    “Craig and Instinctive, I believe Google is looking for words like “photo” and “image” and offering a tip to try image search.”

    I maintain that Yahoo is looking for words like “google” and offering a “tip” to try Yahoo search.

    What’s the difference? Google is placing this “tip” above the #1 position. Both engines are trying to funnel traffic based on search terms. White hat? Hmm…

  45. David

    I hosted with a bad neighbourhood even if I resubmit the site for reinclusion, the site has already been blacklisted. As such, it cannot be possible that the GoogleBot will come and index my page again.

    For manual reinclusion to be removed from the black list, i haven’t yet heard from Google.

  46. It s sad indeed to see hand coding on ANYTHING. Cause it goes against the little democracy (sortof).
    And that will go like chocolates, you take firts one, then nonstop!

    i think it should be fair, relevant on top, ads at the side ( this adv pages at the top are not cool also )

    If iajuuu yahoo starts selling top positions, this will finish with the complete first page to sale…

    So, IT IS worring that tendence, cause it will kill the little ones.
    our case , of course, but of many other, too.

  47. Seg

    Hi Matt,
    are those ones hardcoded :
    http://www.google.com/search?q=new+york+paris ?
    When you’re looking at a search engine with Yahoo, they show their product… When you search some towns in Google, we see some ads… Are both rlevant ?
    Isn”t it all about money ? What is the average CPC for the booking flight stuff ? ;-)

  48. Dave

    I believe if Google hadn’t come along, Yahoo and MSN would be selling all places in their index! Min PPC would be a LOT higher too.

    Google turned the SE arena on its head when they came along.

  49. dmo

    I dont think so it is too bad, I mean yahoo has a legit right to promote itself to you.

    As long as the search is not ad laden it is ok…

  50. (sorry, this is a duplicate post from end of the day yesterday…thought I’d try one more time to get a response…)

    Matt,

    Two quick things:

    1. When filing a reinclusion request, one receives an email which begins: “Thank you for your note. This is an automated reply to your inquiry about your site’s inclusion in the Google search results. We’re always working hard…”

    It’s hard to tell whether one needs to reply again to get the request considered…or whether just the filing the initial request is enough. Can you clarify?

    2. I’m guessing this isn’t your area…but this slow loading ads thing is killing me. I have to load my pages 7-8 times before they will come up…and Adsense ads appear to be the problem. Certainly this is costing both me AND Google money.

    I wrote to support and recieved these two apparently contradictory responses in the same email:

    “Yesterday evening we encountered technical difficulties with our ad servers, and were unable to serve targeted ads to your web pages for a brief period. This problem should be entirely resolved by tomorrow. If you continue to have problems after that date, please let us know.”

    “Our engineers quickly resolved the issue, and ad serving has returned to normal.”

    Of course, I can wait until tomorrow to see if it’s resolved. But there has been NO improvement from what I’ve seen so far. They DO know there’s still a serious problem, right?

    Thanks!

    c-

  51. Matt

    Then lots0 said “Hmmm, but could you say this page is getting a hand tweaked PR boost? No answer expected… ;-)”

    I’m happy to answer that: no pages receive a hand-tweaked PR boost.

    craig, to me the difference is that we thought that for words like image and photo, it might be useful to suggest doing an image search. I doubt anybody was anticipating the query [yahoo image search]. But Yahoo clearly did extra work for the specific query [google] to offer the search box right there on the page.

  52. || I would have to believe Google’s staff members are WAY more mature than the others ||

    Who ever said we were mature here at Y!?

  53. “But we don’t have the ability to pick or boost the results for a search. Which hopefully also answers Artem’s question and Search Engine Web’s question: no, the results for [sex] are not hand-picked on Google. It’s algorithmic.”

    Thanks for the statement, I’ll try using it as an argument in some forum/blog discussions :)
    It is so amazing to have a real insider’s opinion. Even if it is very unofficial

  54. Brad

    Do you ever whatch The Apprentice on NBC, and how at the end of each show they tell you a Yahoo keyword to search for? Keywords such as “apprentice movie” or “apprentice car” … usually based on the product featured on the eppisode task.

    This proves that YES .. Yahoo does hard code search results!

    Why would they advertise keywords they were not 100% sure what results it would return?!

  55. Google is sounding more like a religion than a search engine. They define what is “natural” and what is not.

  56. Matt,
    Please hand remove all sites but mine untill I rank #1 on google for insurance, loans, cars, webhosting, online casino and possibly Carmen Elektra. In exchange I will tell you a secret that no one else knows about my friend Tom.

  57. Hi Matt,

    I don’t know on what moral grounds you blame Yahoo for this editing when you are editing a whole country like China!

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