Yahoo and over-achievers

May 25th, 2007 by Joost Schrier

For some of the websites that we work with there are notable differences in the way they rank in Google and in Yahoo. For instance; a website might rank well in Google for a specific search term and be 10 to 30 places lower in Yahoo, or the other way around.

The problem lies in the fact that the search engines are fundamentally different and, because they don’t tell anyone how they work, nobody really knows what all defining factors are for ranking. So, the result is: everybody’s guessing at the differences between Google and Yahoo and nobody’s sure about how to rank well in both at the same time.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about possible reasons for the big differences between Yahoo and Google. One such discussion over at webmasterworld had some very interesting points about why it is so difficult to rank well for both search engines at the same time.

Some of the people in this forum talked about how it seems like Yahoo is giving preference to websites that have invested in PPC marketing. Luckily this train of thought was derailed pretty quickly because it is very difficult to imagine that Yahoo would do something like that (and it would become very ugly fast if they would do something like that).

Another viewpoint was whether or not Yahoo punishes websites whose webmasters have been ‘trying too hard’. The example given is of pages that have titles that are similar to their heading (<h1>). A simple test to check this is to search for a very specific phrase which can be found in the title tag and heading of a page and see where your content ranks. We did this for the phrase “moving a domain to a different server” which should lead to a post we did about this subject. On Google it does lead to the post, but in Yahoo it is nowhere to be found (except for a page on digg for the post).

We did not do any extensive testing to (dis)prove this, but this doesn’t sound good. If it is true it would mean that Yahoo is going against logic. If your page is about blue widgets, it makes sense to have this phrase in the title and in the H1-tag. A lot of things in onsite SEO come from what makes sense in document structure and usability. A search engine penalizing websites for logic, that doesn’t make sense in our book.

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