Yahoo has begun using itstechnology by default to give more prominence and potentially usefulness to search results involving LinkedIn contacts, Yelp reviews of businesses, and local companies.
Most of Yahoo's search results are a plain, textual list of Web sites. SearchMonkey, though, lets Yahoo's servers present some results with richer accompanying information, such as product prices at Amazon.com or movie critic ratings. If it works out as promised, that could make search results more useful, keep searchers coming back for more, drive more traffic to those sites that take advantage of SearchMonkey technology, and help Yahoo compete with Google.
The hitch for most companies that might want to use SearchMonkey to gussy up their own search results on Yahoo, though, is that they generally must convince users go to aand enable that specific SearchMonkey behavior. But on Thursday night, Yahoo switched on three SearchMonkey options so all searchers will see enhanced results from Yelp, a site that lets members review restaurants and other businesses, Yahoo Local, which connects people with nearby businesses, and LinkedIn, which lets members keep in touch with contacts.
SearchMonkey relies on "semantic Web" technology that's designed to label Web site information with tags computers can process, giving more structure to the data.
Yahoo said on its Search blog Friday that it's judicious about which SearchMonkey applications it chooses to switch on.
"Before making an application 'default on,' we require a few things: access to the site's structured data through semantic markup or a data feed, a well-designed and broadly useful application, and positive user metrics," said Amit Kumar, director of product management for Yahoo search.
And when Yahoo tested the applications on a subset of users, it found good results.
"To understand how a SearchMonkey app affects user metrics, we generally expose a small percentage of our users to a default-on experience and measure if and how it changes their usage. We started with Yelp, LinkedIn, and Yahoo Local because they were among our first partners to share structured data," Kumar said. "Our tests uncovered that users found these apps useful; in fact, in some cases, we saw a lift in click-through rate of as high as 15 percent."
Update 4:17 p.m. PDT: I removed an earlier illustration that didn't in fact illustrate SearchMonkey.