Search Engine Wars: Yahoo! vs. Google

The gloves are off in the battle for search engine supremacy, now that Sunnyvale, CA-based Internet media giant Yahoo! has dropped competitor Google as its search technology provider. On Feb. 17 Yahoo! replaced Google’s results for its U.S.-based sites with its own Yahoo! Search Technology (YST); the company plans to begin rolling out YST worldwide to its international sites that are still powered by Google during the next few weeks. Once fully operational, Yahoo! will handle about half of all Internet searches in the U.S. through its own site and through such partner sites as Microsoft’s MSN.

The move was not unanticipated, as Yahoo! had acquired search engine Inktomi more than a year ago and picked up commercial search provider Overture Services in July. But the switch marks the unwinding of a long-term relationship between Yahoo!, operator of the world’s most-visited Internet properties, and Google, the top Web search provider. The two companies teamed up in 2002, when Yahoo! dropped Inktomi for Google. Since then, Google’s popularity has soared—the company recently reported that its searchable index now sifts through 4.28 billion Internet pages of the 10 billion currently on the Internet—and it is expected to go public this year.

What does Yahoo!’s shift from Google to its own search engine technology mean to marketers? It could mean plenty, especially to companies that have been focusing on making their content increasingly Google-friendly. According to some industry experts, marketers who rely on organic search for Web traffic (e.g., search engine optimization rather than paid placement) could see their traffic from search plunge as much as 40%.