Diagnosing Yahoo! Search Direct's Beta Bugs

Yahoo is trying to one-up Google Instant with its new Search Direct product by combining instant search (thank you Google) with instant answers, across 15 categories.

Although Yahoo! Search Direct is not firing on all cylinders in the Beta version, there are a handful technical errors and conceptual oddities in both trending topics and searches you might find interesting.

How it works:

When clicking on the Search Direct box, Yahoo! displays top trending searches (which peculiarly skews towards celebrities).

If Britney Spears' children or other trending searches aren't your cup of tea, you can perform a good ol' search. As you type, the related searches populate below the search bar (nothing new there). Yahoo!'s new, revolutionary feature is displaying the top three results for recommended searches in the instant answer tray (see below).

Trending Topics

Technical Bug: Related searches instead of relevant search results

There were several bugs in the trending searches section. For instance, even though you might want answers about Britney Spears' children (the top search query in trending searches), Yahoo! displays searches of other users', not valuable information on the trending topic (see below).

I'm not sure how many answers the trending search section provides. If I did want answers about what is happening with Spears' children, Yahoo! should recognize that search query is related to news and call up news results.

Technical Bug: Irrelevant related topics

If we look at the trending topic, "Zac Hanson Daughter," Yahoo! says users also searched  "mother to frances bean cobain." When I tried to figure out what the two had in common (aside from user search behavior), Yahoo! provided little help connecting the dots. The "mother to frances bean cobain" link called up a typical Yahoo! search, which said nothing about "Zac Hanson Daughter." And if users are searching for both terms, how does that help me understand "Zac Hanson Daughter?"


Conceptual Bug: Limiting choice and speed

By limiting the number of results to three, Yahoo! is cutting off potentially valuable sites ranked 4+. Although Yahoo! wants to make its version of Google Instant faster, if the site you wanted does not appear in the top three results, it actually takes longer.

Technical Bug: Not displaying shopping result sources

Yahoo! Search Direct doesn't display the vendor so hopefully you land on a trusted source, or you just wasted your time and have to perform another search. Listing the vendor is something Yahoo! Search Direct should definitely keep in mind moving forward.

Technical Bug: No cities? Seriously?

Say you want to find a coffee shop in Phildelphia, PA. Once you begin typing Philadelphia, all of the suggestions disappear. So I can get Lebron James' stats but I can't find a local coffee house, even though a search for "coffee shop in phildelphia pa" calls up local search on the SERP? Priorities.

Technical Bug: Second time's the charm!

When performing a search for "acuvue 2" the first time, websites for and are called up. However, when you click the search button and land on the Yahoo! SERP page, the top results are for shopping. If you perform the same search in Search Direct, products are displayed. Odd that the Instant Answers section would change from regular links to shopping results on the second search.

"For searches it has no answer to, it shows search links immediately in an easy-to-navigate box above a typical search-results page," reports Wired. Based on the above analysis, it appears Yahoo! Search Direct doesn't have a lot of answers (like, maps and local or even consistent answers).

It'd be great to get your thoughts about how Search Direct might help or damage Yahoo! Search. Or if you see something that's incorrect, let me know!

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Ethan Lyon
Ethan Lyon
Director, Innovation