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Business, Featured - Written by on Monday, July 27, 2009 16:40 - 18 Comments

Denis Hancock
How do Yahoo! Answers get to the top of Google Search?

As we all know, Google has become rather synonymous with search on the web. What I find most perplexing about this achievement is that I often find that Google search results (as I’ve talked about before) aren’t that good – and it amazes me that someone hasn’t come up with something much better. And of all the things that bother me about Google Search results, the increasing pervalence of “Yahoo Answers” as the #1 hit has quickly risen to the top.

I started looking at Yahoo! Answers quite awhile ago because it’s a type of prosumer platform – people ask questions, and the community provides the answers. Sadly, most of the answers are terrible – and the only time people I know find value from it is when they’re looking for a laugh. Why this might be is a subject for another time. Today I want to focus on how terrible answers from the platform are bubbling up to the top of Google Search.

The last time I was reminded of this was when I googled “average baby size”. It seemed like a straightforward request for some factual information. But the top link was from Yahoo Answers. The “best answer” highlighted at the top (as chosen by voters, with a grand total of one vote) noted that the average was 6 to 8 pounds, which is quite a large range. Other answers, of which there were 5 (each with zero votes), included a variety of guesses in the same range, and a very helpful Coco who answered “Don’t know, but all the babies I’ve seen ranged from 5 to 8 pounds”, and helpfully listed his or her source (worked at group home for teen mothers).

It’s something that’s very hard for me to reconcile – how does the world’s best search engine cull through the 13,800,000 sites that have some information on this topic, and provide a top link to a site that not only fails to provide a good answer, but doesn’t appear to have very much activity related to it (i.e. the grand total of 1 vote placed on the answers)? Are that many people linking to it?

For a more humorous example, you can google “how to defuse a bomb”. Yahoo Answers is again #1 for me, and like in the previous example the question has been declared “resolved”. Which seems odd, given the best answer (as chosen by voters, with a grand total of two votes) is “Why do you have a bomb?”. At least I’ve heard a hypothesis behind this one – the site pops up on a number of “check out these funny answers” type sites, which might lead to a lot of traffic.

But still, it seems very odd. I’m curious to know if someone can explain how these sites are getting to #1 in the face of both common sense and the fact so few people have bothered to vote on the Yahoo answers. And I continue to be convinced that there must be a better way to search for things waiting in the wings so long as results like this keep popping up.



18 Comments

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Web Media Daily – July 27, 2009
Jul 27, 2009 19:07

[...] How do Yahoo! Answers get to the top of Google Search?… Wikinomics [...]

Rex Lee
Jul 28, 2009 9:51

Denis, Thanks for the post. I don’t have an answer for you, but I’ve often wondered the same thing. I wonder if the same relevancy happens if it weren’t hosted by Yahoo!? I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on user-generated Q&A sites. Are you aware of http://stackoverflow.com which appears to have much higher quality answers? There is a decent YouTube video by the stackoverflow guys talking at the Googleplex.

Alex Marshall
Jul 30, 2009 0:35

Great post.

No answer on Yahoo, but I hope someone can post on it.

Out of curiosity, I checked http://www.bing-vs-google.com to see if there was much difference on the search “how to defuse a bomb”. The results were similar, except for one – the wikipedia entry on “bomb disposal”, which did provide relevant info, was the second hit on Bing, but doesn’t turn up at all in the first ten pages of Google results.

Doddy Ali Wijaya
Jul 30, 2009 8:17

From my opinion, Google love the review, forum and “ask” or “how to” articles.

Or maybe yahoo bought the top position as and invincible advertising *LoL*

Yuan Ding
Jul 30, 2009 14:55

Denis,

Just like everyone, I’m perplexed on why such unreliable answers for bomb disposal exist on a reliable platform such as Yahoo and why it’s appearing at the top of Google searches…

I did notice that Yahoo answers had quite a bit of advertising in the side bars, so it may have something to do with pay per clicks sponsored by the marketing department.

On a related note, for anyone actually looking to solve a problem, I highly recommend http://www.wikianswers.com. It’s similar to wikipedia in that it draws on the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ to collaboratively come up with a best answer that can be improved and modified over time…to the inquiry of “how to diffuse a bomb”, wikianswers seems to be way more sensible in its response; “First of all you don’t. Leave it to an expert. There are many different types of bomb which require different techniques and skills, but it is not a case of, cut the red wire not the blue one.”

Unfortunately, it appears as #9 on Google search :S

Denis
Jul 30, 2009 16:42

Thanks for the link Rex – will be looking into it soon.

While the answer remains elusive, I’ve just realized that my best solution might be to post the question on Yahoo! Answers – at bare minimum it should get me to the top of the google search rankings :) .

Jeff DeChambeau
Aug 2, 2009 13:13

While Wolfram Alpha wasn’t the benevolent skynet I might have hoped for, it is pretty good at fact-based questions like the baby weight one. The problem is that the questions need to be worded in just the right way, otherwise the system can’t produce an answer.

It is worth noting that WA’s 7lbs average baby weight accords perfectly with the 6-8lbs #1 rated Yahoo! Answers answer.

Russian Expert
Aug 3, 2009 2:13

To Denis.
Denis, Google search engine is based on another idea. That is the answer. It is not an artificial intelligence. You cannot ask it questions. All you can is to type a phrase or word, that may appear in the body of some sites. And it cannot provide you with the best answer. It is up to you, to find and choose between the options that Google provides you with.
“and provide a top link to a site that not only fails to provide a good answer”
It happens because of SEO (search engine optimisation). Companies and other small and medium businesses use all methods to make their sites appear on the top of pages of search engines.
For more you can read here:
http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2006-02-04-n60.html

treatment
Oct 7, 2009 12:05

Yeah, I totally agree with you on this one. It always seems that Yahoo answers is resting snuggly at the tippy top of Google these days, even when the answers aren’t the most informative. I thought Google and yahoo were enemies…but guess not! :) -Sheila

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Nov 19, 2009 17:58

,[...] http://www.wikinomics.com is another must read source of information on this issue,[...]

Google Farmer
Dec 31, 2009 12:06

Might have something to do with the domain being Spider Friendly, constant spiders updating the index files for Yahoo!, practically zero 404 files, robot.txt files operational and correctly graphed, the algorithm data cache is superior, continuous usage and mainly, the major keywords used in practically every link within answers.yahoo.com. Keywords such as who; what; when; where; why, proceeding or followed by repetitious keywords and the actual keywords or tags are all loaded within the Yahoo! Answers domain directive actions, showing that a question, a search engine gives you a site for answers.

Thankfully, answers.yahoo.com on Google’s top suggested resulting inquires isn’t as perplexing as it seems being it’s giving you an answer at a domain that beings with “answers.” The Google Spiders can’t give you what your looking for. That’s why it’s called a search engine, you search for it. Also, the Advanced Options can eliminate answers.yahoo.com from showing any results. It
s perplexing to me on how some people know how to breath….

working gloves Manufacturers and Exporters
Jan 2, 2010 19:52

Google search engine is based on another idea. That is the answer. It is not an artificial intelligence. You cannot ask it questions. All you can is to type a phrase or word, that may appear in the body of some sites. And it cannot provide you with the best answer. It is up to you, to find and choose between the options that Google provides you with.
“and provide a top link to a site that not only fails to provide a good answer”
It happens because of SEO (search engine optimization). Companies and other small and medium businesses use all methods to make their sites appear on the top of pages of search engines.

Boxing products Manufacturers
Jan 2, 2010 19:57

Just like everyone, I’m perplexed on why such unreliable answers for bomb disposal exist on a reliable platform such as Yahoo and why it’s appearing at the top of Google searches…

I did notice that Yahoo answers had quite a bit of advertising in the side bars, so it may have something to do with pay per clicks sponsored by the marketing department.
http://www.tompako.com.pk/
regards,

I
Jan 5, 2010 16:49

Google doesn’t give Yahoo Answers the top search, however Yahoo Answers is one of the many top search sites as a choice, while offering plenty of other popular sites which result in other questionable solutions. If you want to complain about Yahoo Answers, here is an idea, stop using it. Really? Is it that hard? I am not a fan of Yahoo Answers, which is why I don’t use it. How It Works is addicting, even Wikipedia, but still not every place is going to be 100% correct 100% of the time.

Last thing, I Google’d your question. Came up with Babycenter.com with a very informative week by week chart until and after birth. Using Google isn’t rocket science. Write something else I can laugh at. Please. I’m desperate to laugh at people.

Denis Hancock
Jan 7, 2010 10:52

I,

I believe you may have missed the point of the post, which is rather simple. Google is considered to have the best search engine. In turn, you would expect it to yield good results when you do a search. I have found, as have many others (some in these comments, for example), that Yahoo! Answers often come out on top of the Google rankings for particular searches, even if those answers are terrible and the question has had limited activity on the Yahoo! platform. That is weird. It has nothing at all to do with me using Yahoo! Answers, which I don’t. Nor an inability to find a good answer on the web, which I did.

On an interesting side note, I’m sure you noticed this post was from July 2009. I find it interesting that when I do that same search now (January 2010), the Yahoo! Answers link does not appear on my front page.

I
Jan 9, 2010 4:43

To Denis Hancock

By no means was I intending to drop a bomb on your lap, when your article is true and informative again opening the creations of the web. How I got to this article, blog or whatever, is entirely unknown to the actual exacts what what is certain is from a google search. What is clear, is I read it and all the other comments. Which is where my laughter starts.

“Write something else I can laugh at. Please. I’m desperate to laugh at people”

Seemingly thought right, however worded wrong. Rather, “Write something else so I can laugh at people in the comments.”

Either way, the negativity is poised towards the people who use Yahoo Answers and feel it is inaccurate…. because it is. That was my target.

Me
Feb 9, 2010 17:44

I can’t stand it when yahoo or wiki answers appear in search results!! I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’d be better off making up an answer to any question I have than to depend on what’s posted to any of the “answers” sites.

Michael
Jul 14, 2010 12:41

I discovered your page today because I was searching for some way to block Google from displaying Yahoo Answers pages, which uniformly contain incorrect information (in fact, it seems that the more highly-rated the answer, the more likely it is to be wrong).

It’s like having Fark come up for every single search — less than useless.

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