Is Yahoo a better search engine than Google?

Years ago, when the search engine category was a lot more competitive, I did a lot of comparing between contenders. For awhile HotBot was ahead, then AltaVista, then AllTheWeb/FAST… Not necessarily in that order, but you get the point.

Then Google won. Huge. They were just bigger and better than everybody at finding nearly everything.

But lately Google has frustrated me. When I do lookups for subjects, it gives results that include misspellings and other approximations, even when I use the “advanced” settings. Worse, it’s been useless at something it used to do perfectly: find old blog entries of mine.

For example, when I was writing this post about cameras and lenses, I wanted to see what I’d written on my blog back when I first picked up my Canon 30D. I kinda remember that it was in early ’06, but beyond that I wasn’t sure how to go hunting, since Google seems to have lost track of that blog, even though its archives are online with inbound links. See, my old blog was moved off of weblogs.com and mothballed (with welcome help from Dave Winer) at the domain doc-weblogs.com. Some links got 404′d, but Google re-made enough connections so that people could at least search for specific words and strings and find stuff. But somewhere along the way, that ended. When I looked for doc searls tamron zoom canon lenses on Google, I found page after page of nothing.

So I went where I haven’t gone for a long time: Yahoo, and did the same search. Voila! The blog post I wanted to find was right up top. That rocked.

I just repeated the experiment with the same two searches, and found that Google has caught up, and now lists what I was looking for in the first page of the 17 results it brings up, with yesterday’s post pointing to it as the top result. Obviously Google followed the link and indexed the old page.

So I decided to do a search for another day in that same time-frame, for another bunch of words that only occur on that day’s blog postings. The day I chose was Thursday, May 18, 2006. The words I searched were doc searls rob cottingham profitable tragedy. Google found nothing, but gave me three pages of results, including misspellings of Searls. Yahoo delivered four results, including exactly the page I was looking for. In fact, every test I do, for every day of my old blog, brings up a Yahoo result. (One sample.) To Google, my old blog pretty much doesn’t exist unless there’s a new inbound link to one of its pages.

Obviously, Yahoo is doing a better job of following links here.

And that means it’s doing a better job — to me at least — of competing with Google than most folks give it credit for.

My hat’s off to them.

59 comments

  1. Rob Cottingham’s avatar

    Just glad I could help. :-)

  2. Pragmites’s avatar

    One reason that i can logically think of for a site not showing up is Google’s ranking methodology. It is common knowledge that they use a number of parameters to rank a website on a search engine results page. One of them happens to be the number and quality of links pointing to your website as well as content. Since some of your content has links to spammy sites, your importance in the eyes of Google falls considerably.

  3. Jeet’s avatar

    I know that at one point of time google was MUCH better than any existing search engine. Be it inktomi or alltheweb or yahoo. But right now google is probably as good as google and only reason why google (even youtube) gets more searches is because google has become synonymous with search. Having themselves as default search engine on firefox and safari has also given a major boost to their popularity.

    That aside, I see that Yahoo’s search has actually improve a lot and in some cases (like the once you pointed), it outperforms Google.

  4. Dick’s avatar

    In the past few months I have added things to my web site and then checked each day to see how long it takes the various search engines to find them. The results are pretty consistent. It takes Yahoo about 7-10 days to index any new item I add to my site. It takes AltaVista about 9-12 days. It takes Google 3-6 weeks, and many things I have added 6 months ago Google still can’t find. Many of these items are historic artifacts that have unique phrases associated with them. I can search for those unique phrases and Yahoo and AltaVista find every one. Google finds some of them, but only after many months or years.

    The problem with all of Google’s algorythmn and page ranking nonsense is that people just want to find what they are looking for. Yahoo and AltaVista find what one is looking for, especially if it is a unique phrase on the internet. Do a Google search for these unique phrases and you get zero results.

    I also recently discovered that when searching images for ideas on how to build something, Yahoo was the winner because it included a great many Flickr images of things that people had already built. I was looking for ideas on building my own big-screen TV stand. Google only found manufacturers’ images. Yahoo found dozens of images of home-built TV stands.

  5. qb’s avatar

    Got to say I have the opposite experience. For example, I was searching the site that compares al-mahdi with antichrist (specifically the site al-mahdi.atspace.com). Searching al-mahdi in Google gives it at second place. Searching Yahoo! gave me nothing. Even when I typed the entire address, it only links to articles that include it, but never the site itself. Guess the site got dropped from Yahoo!

  6. George O'Rourke’s avatar

    My preference has always been to search Google for information, and Yahoo for images. I tend to find that even with specific .jpg or .gif file names, Google still tends to find it helpful by giving me hundreds. I think the point of which is better is kind of of a moot point though, as the vast majority of your leads are still gonna come from Google.

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