Searching Beyond the Paid

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

2006 Mid-Term Elections and Search

Great, in-depth article by Danny Sullivan in the Search Engine Watch Blog about election coverage, or lack thereof, by the search engines. In Danny's analysis, Yahoo came out the winner, with a very cool interactive map and up-to-the-minute coverage, both of which were easily found from Yahoo's home page. Google, in an unusual role reversal, came out poorly - of course, no election-related links were to be found on their home page, and searches for phrases like "election results" turned up precious little. In fact, the first organic result was about Election 2004! The difference, Danny speculates, comes in some pretty apparent hand-doctoring of the search engine results pages (SERPs) by Yahoo.

Normally the engines, especially Google, try to stay away from such "hand jobs" in the SERPs, opting to let their algorithms do the work. At the same time, all the major engines have admitted that there are times when it makes sense to manipulate the results by hand. Seems to me that yesterday was one of those times - things were happening fast, and lots of people who aren't search engine "power users" probably turned to Google or Yahoo to try to find out the latest election results. If they turned to Google, it's likely they came away frustrated. If they turned to Yahoo, they were probably quite engaged and pleased with what they found.

What I personally find funny about all this is that it's such a switcheroo from the PPC programs. More often than not, after working in Google's PPC interface, I come away engaged and pleased; after working with Yahoo's, I come away frustrated and annoyed. Same thing with their respective customer service departments. Same thing with their "partner sites" and the ROI from them. It's nice to see the two switch roles for once.


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