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Yahoo! Axis Changes Search Experience, But Not Search Marketing

jkocher Jill Kocher, Associate Director, Search Jun. 5, 2012

Yahoo! entered the modern search app age recently with its visually engaging new Yahoo! Axis app for iPhone, iPad and the desktop. Instead of the search industry’s tried-and-true page of 10 blue links with some maps and images scattered around, Yahoo! Axis has gone completely visual and removed all traditional links in favor of site thumbnails.

Much like Google’s Instant Search feature, Yahoo! Axis displays changing search results with every letter you add to the search box. As the searcher types “top surfers,” Yahoo! Axis offers a list of potential searches that the user might be working toward, such as “top surfers of all time.” In addition, though, the search results shown change to show different website thumbnails or images and videos shown based on each new character the searcher enters.

Interestingly, Yahoo! Axis is also a fully functioning web browser app on the iPad and iPhone. It has the tabs and bookmark features you’d expect from a browser, a customized homepage, and the power to sync your browsing experience across all three screens. The desktop version is an app that integrates into the browser experience for the four major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. So the net-net for searchers is that they can start a search on their iPhone, walk into the office and switch to the desktop to continue the same search experience on their PC, and then walk into a meeting with their iPad and keep on searching on the same thread.

How Yahoo! Axis Changes Search Marketing

It doesn’t change search marketing, in a major way. Firstly, Yahoo! Axis changes the way searchers interact with search results, but it doesn’t change how those search results are ranked. As such, search marketing practices won’t change based on the app’s launch.

The visual styling of the results will likely change which results users click on, however. Thumbnails that are especially readable, understandable or visually appealing at a small size will likely draw more eyeballs and clicks than dull-looking or illegible thumbnails. So a webpage filled with gray type and no images may actually be the best source of information for a search, but the thumbnail that includes colorful imagery with the text will likely win the click.

Having given up the algorithmic ghost when it started using Bing’s search to power its own search results, Yahoo! is counting on its innovative user interfaces to bring in the customers. With Yahoo! Axis, though, it’s important to note that this is primarily 1) a mobile app, 2) from Yahoo!. Those two elements each reduce the population that is likely to embrace the technology. It relies on searchers’ willingness to search in a new and different way (visually) on their Apple devices (Android apps are reportedly coming soon), with a search brand that most don’t currently prefer.

In April 2012, Yahoo! drove just 13.5% of the searches in the U.S., with Bing driving 15.4% and Google driving 66.5%, according to comScore. As an old-school Yahoo! fan from the 1990s, I hope that the innovative visual app approach to search will pull Yahoo! out of its spiral into third place in the U.S. search engine race. Download the apps and hit the comments to let us know what you think.

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