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Optimize For Google or Yahoo?

Written by search engine optimization consultant Blake J. Discher.

Generally speaking, it’s difficult to optimize a website for multiple search engines. This is because each engine utilizes its own, top-secret, proprietary search algorithm. Almost everyone knows that Google is the number one search engine followed by Yahoo! Search, and then Bing. (72 percent, 15 percent and 9 percent respectively for the four weeks ended January 2, 2010. Source: Hitwise) So naturally most decide they should be optimizing their sites for Google, but this may not always be the correct decision. Just as in life, there is no one single “silver bullet” solution to web marketing. You really need to consider what search engine your potential customers are likely using.

Think about it. Google has a clean user interface, this morning it’s just a text entry field, and two buttons: “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky”, the latter takes you immediately to the website of the first organic (non-paid) listing. Yahoo! Search on the other hand, is a “portal” in that their home page is loaded with information.

If you’ve heard me speak about web marketing at a convention, you know I like to use my dad as good example of why you might want to optimize for Yahoo! When his high-speed DSL was installed, the company had some sort of deal with Yahoo! which made my dad’s browser’s start-up page the Yahoo! homepage. It will remain that way forever. Why? Because he has no idea how to change it! And because he likes it that way. It’s his “ticket” to internet and from the Yahoo! homepage he can do a lot… check on his stocks, get the latest news, weather, and so on.

But what does this mean for you? Most web usability experts say that corporate America utilizes Google for search because of its “strictly business” interface and individuals use Yahoo! because of the multitude of options at its homepage. Because I do a lot of SEO work for photographers, I’ll use that industry as an example.

If you are a photographer who specializes in corporate or editorial photography, it’s very likely your potential clients will use Google to find you and you should be optimizing for that search engine. If on the other hand you photograph weddings, it’s possible the mother of the bride will use Yahoo! Search on her home computer to help her daughter find a photographer and you should optimize for it. (My dad uses Yahoo! Search for virtually everything!)

Every time a potential client calls you, be sure to ask them how they found you. If they say “on the internet” follow up by asking which search engine they used. Next, I blame my “web guy” for wanting to know what search phrase they used. Something like, “You know, I’m in the midst of a website design and my web guy was asking what search phrase people use to find me. If you don’t mind, would you tell me what phrase you used?” So far, no one has refused. Over time you’ll have gathered valuable information: which search engine most of your customers use most and what search phrase they’re using. (BTW, I ask everyone that calls how they found me and even if it wasn’t via search, I still ask what search engine they use most.)

Armed with that info, you can tweak your SEO strategy so that you are hitting the largest pool of potential customers. Good luck!

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3 comments
  1. Blake J. Discher says: June 7, 20112:17 pm

    Very true Peter. Analytics can help to a certain extent but you’ve hit the nail on the head… what phrases are your clients using that you’ve not thought of to optimize for. Only way to know is to ask your existing clients what they might use to find a photographer. Mine have been helpful and it’s a good way to get inside potential buyer’s heads.

  2. Peter Panayiotou says: June 2, 201110:54 am

    Of course, the REALLY valuable insight would be to somehow learn what search engines & phrases are used by the people who DID NOT contact you because they didn’t find your website.

  3. uberVU - social comments says: February 12, 20107:29 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by blakedischer: When it comes to SEO, should you optimize for Yahoo! or Google? http://ow.ly/16FYl

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