Why SciFi fans should care about Microsoft Yahoo! search deal

If you’re not investing in tech companies or involved in the search engine marketing industry, you may not have heard that after 2 years of wrangling, Microsoft and Yahoo! finally reached an agreement on how to share search resources.

I have explained why I think this deal is important to science fiction fans in a discussion of the Microsoft and Yahoo! search deal at SF-Fandom.

Let me reiterate some of those points here. I encourage you to drop by the forums and share your thoughts, or leave a comment on this blog.

Science fiction and fantasy fans like to create Web sites. Unfortunately, many commercial operations like to crowd fan sites out of the search results. Those commercial SF sites (or entertainment sites) are just trying to make a buck off our passion. I have on occasion consulted with such companies for search engine optimization but I really don’t like the way they crowd fan sites out of the search results.

The search engines themselves are mostly responsible for letting made-for-advertising, database-driven sites clutter up search results. Real science fiction fan sites are hard to find in Web search unless you look past the first page of results.

However, today there are four major search engine algorithms. That is, the search results for many queries differ if you look at Ask.com, Bing.com, Google.com, and search.yahoo.com. For example, let’s look at the generic query for “Scifi fan site” (admittedly not something you or I would normally search for):

Those search results will change over time, but today as I post them there are some common listings between them and many different listings. That is how Web search has been for many years. Most people, if they are dissatisfied with what they find in a search result, will either change their query, change the search engine they are using, or both.

So if you’re a science fiction and fantasy Webmaster you have a chance to be found in major search results because the search engine algorithms and databases are unique enough to provide some variety.

Unfortunately, fewer than 50 million people use Ask each month. Compare that to about 60 million people using Yahoo! search, 100 million people using Microsoft search, and 145 million people using Google search. Google is the worst about promoting irrelevant crap sites to the top of its search results (partly because of people like me, who walk all over Google’s easily manipulated algorithm).

The new deal announced by Microsoft and Yahoo! calls for Yahoo! to drop its own proprietary search index and algorithm and just serve Microsoft’s search results. Yahoo! has done this in the past. Years ago it partnered with Inktomi, Altavista, and Google before finally developing its own search engine.

On the surface this arrangement might look like it’s a good thing. Microsoft certainly stands to make a lot of money from the deal because Yahoo! will manage advertising sales for both search services and Microsoft will get a cut from Yahoo!’s advertising. Both companies undoubtedly expect their combined inventory to drive up advertising costs for their customers.

But you and I will have one fewer search engines in which we can be found. And the commercial Web sites will have one less reason to focus solely on manipulating Google’s search results.

Maybe you don’t really care about search engine traffic. After all, that’s an arcane field. But if you create a Web site, even just a blog, don’t you want other people to see what you have done?

I believe that the Microsoft and Yahoo! deal violates at least one antitrust law, and may possibly violate others. Besides my post at SF-Fandom I have also written an article at SEO Theory (a professional blog for search engine marketers) about my Microsoft and Yahoo! antitrust concerns.

It IS possible for you to participate in the approval process for this deal. You can express your concerns directly to the United States government (and, I believe, also to the European Union).

If we lose Yahoo!’s unique search database and algorithm, we as Webmasters and searchers will be deprived of variety and choice. Both companies say this move will benefit consumers but I just don’t believe that to be true. They are trying to increase the amount of money they make from advertisers. They are not trying to advance the field of Web search.

Take some time to think about this deal. Take some time to think about sharing your opinion. But don’t just limit yourself to your blogs. After all, you don’t know how many people will find you in the search results.

You can be pretty sure you have a better chance of reaching the government directly than indirectly. I explain how to contact the U.S. Department of Justice in the SEO Theory blog post.

This deal WILL affect you. Don’t wait to find out after the fact before taking action

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