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Yahoo turns news photos into searches

Company delivers promised search market share gain in April, but only after it starts treating photo galleries in Yahoo News as search queries.

Yahoo News search
When a reader clicks on a photo gallery in Yahoo News, Yahoo is treating that action as if it was a search by inserting the title of the photo in the search bar on the left. Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Any Web publisher with a pulse knows that the best way to goose page views is to create a slideshow. Turns out it works in search as well.

Yahoo's search market share has been on a decline for several months, but the company has been promising a rebound over the last several weeks. And according to ComScore data released to financial analysts Monday, it delivered in April, gaining 0.8 percentage points of share to end the month at 17.7 percent of the market.

But several analysts pointed out that there's a catch: Yahoo's search gains came almost entirely due to its decision to treat photo galleries in Yahoo News as search queries. At some point over the last month, Yahoo changed the way it presents images in Yahoo News so that when a user clicks on a photo or gallery, Yahoo generates a "search" by putting the title of the photo in the News Search query box and adding three "related searches" links below the picture.

So anytime a Yahoo News reader clicked on a gallery--which Web publishers love because they turn over pages rapidly--Yahoo treated that act as a search rather than a request for a specific piece of content. According to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, Yahoo actually lost search share from March to April if you exclude the increase in queries generated by the move.

Yahoo didn't invent this concept: slideshows on Bing Travel, for example, are treated as searches. But Yahoo News is a huge source of traffic for the company, and photo galleries draw a disproportionate amount of clicks compared to regular news stories.

Yahoo had this to say about its move: "We continue to invest in our search experience with innovations to help people easily find information, which in turn drives greater engagement. Increases of Yahoo's search share last month stemming from related searches we display in properties like Yahoo News, are simply bringing Yahoo to parity with the way that ComScore counts searches across other Internet companies. Including these searches improves the accuracy of reported market share across the industry in April.