A couple days ago Microsoft announced a deal with AOL to have AOL sell Microsoft display ads & for Bing to power AOL’s organic search results and paid search ads for a decade starting in January.
The search landscape is still undergoing changes.
I am uncertain to what degree they are testing search results from Google, but on some web browsers I am seeing Yahoo! organics and ads powered by Bing & in other browsers I am seeing Yahoo! organics and ads powered by Google. Here are a couple screenshots.
Comparing The SERPs
Notable differences between the versions:
|top ad color||purple||blue|
|top ad favicon||yes||no|
|clickable ad area||all||headline|
|ad label||right of each ad near URL||once in gray above all ads|
|ad URL redirect||r.msn.com||google.com|
|ad units above organics||5||4|
|ad star rating color||blue||yellow|
|Yahoo! verticals like Tumblr & Answers||mixed into organic results||not mixed in|
|footer “powered by Bing” message||shown||missing|
When the Google ads run on the Yahoo! SERPs for many keywords I am seeing many of the search arbitrage players in the top ads. Typically these ads are more commonly relegated to Google.com’s right rail ad positions.
The Google Yahoo! Search Backstory
Back in 2008 when Yahoo! was fighting to not get acquired they signed an ad agreement with Google, but it was blocked by the DOJ due to antitrust concerns. Unless Google loses Apple as a search partner, they are arguably more dominant today in general web search than they were back in 2008. Some have argued apps drastically change the way people search, but Google has went to great lengths to depreciate the roll of apps & suck people back into their search ecosystem with features baked into Google Now on tap & in-app keyword highlighting that can push a user from an app into a Google search result.
In Q4 last year Yahoo! replaced Google as the default search provider in Firefox in the United States.
And Yahoo! recently signed a deal with Oracle to bundle default Yahoo! Search settings on Java updates. Almost all the Bing network gains of late have been driven by Yahoo!.
A little over a year ago Yahoo! launched Gemini to begin rebuilding their own search ad network, starting with mobile. In their Q1 report, RKG stated “Among advertisers adopting Gemini, 36% of combined Bing and Yahoo mobile traffic was served by Yahoo in March 2015.”
When Yahoo! recently renewed their search deal with Microsoft, Yahoo! was once again allowed to sell their own desktop search ads & they are only required to give 51% of the search volume to Bing. There has been significant speculation as to what Yahoo! would do with the carve out. Would they build their own search technology? Would they outsource to Google to increase search ad revenues? It appears they are doing a bit of everything – some Bing ads, some Yahoo! ads, some Google ads.
Bing reports the relative share of Yahoo! search ad volume they deliver on a rolling basis: “data covers all device-types. The relative volume (y-axis) is an index based on average traffic in April, therefore it is possible for the volume to go above 1.0. The chart is updated on a weekly basis.”
If Yahoo! gives Google significant share it could create issues where users who switch between the different algorithms might get frustrated by the results being significantly different. Or if users don’t care it could prove general web search is so highly commoditized the average searcher is totally unaware of the changes. The latter is more likely, given most searchers can’t even distinguish between search ads and organic search results.
The FTC was lenient toward Google in spite of Google’s clearly articulated intent to abuse their dominant market position. Google has until August 17th to respond to EU antitrust charges. I am a bit surprised Google would be willing to run this type of test while still undergoing antitrust scrutiny in Europe.
Choosing to Choose Choice
When Mozilla signed the deal with Yahoo! & dumped Google they pushed it as “promoting choice.”
A cynic might question how much actual choice there is if on many searches the logo is different but the underlying ads & organic results are powered by Google, and an ex-Google executive runs Yahoo!.
“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” – Henry Ford