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Yahoo Ascending: Why Marissa Mayer Will Have a Happy New Year

David Leonhardt

They say you always remember your first time. I did not even notice mine. It was only the second time when I noticed something was different. It took me a moment, but then it hit me — I was searching Yahoo, not Google.

Firefox had updated my default search engine.

I knew this day would come. I spend enough time keeping up with the Web that I knew Firefox was ending its 10-year marriage to Google in the USA and eloping with Yahoo for US-based searching (no divorce in Europe — the Internet makes strange bedfellows). I just didn’t know that it would affect my default settings.

So the deal means that not only will all new Firefox downloads come with Yahoo as the default search engine, but so will all current Firefox installations. Or does it? There seems to be some disagreement on this point.

Just how much of an advantage does this give Yahoo? Well, that is somewhere around 10% of the market. It is not a lot, but it is not a little either.

Consider that Yahoo’s share of the US search market in August was reportedly 10%. The implications of this deal are that Yahoo’s share of the search market should possibly double, depending on how much overlap there already was between Yahoo searchers and Firefox users.

How many Firefox users will switch back their default to Google is anyone’s guess. For that, we will have to wait for January numbers to come out. Unfortunately, there is no data available since December 3 on this Google search. And if I do the same search on Yahoo ... well, good luck.

My bet is that most people won’t switch back because most people are not all that web savvy, and Yahoo gives good enough results. People tend to stick with defaults unless the default fails them.

Does that mean Yahoo will revert to crawling the web again, something that it stopped doing when it agreed to show Bing-sourced results in 2010? It sounds like that is not in the cards, and it is only likely if Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sees a profit in such a move.

For those of us who run websites, this is huge news. Google has held a near monopoly on search for most of the past decade. That has allowed it to grow careless about all that “Don’t be evil” ideology, leaving webmasters with not many options for search traffic. If Yahoo can push its market share to 20%, and Bing retains its 20% share, Google will still be the boss … but at least it will look a little less like a monopoly.

The question is, how is all this playing out on the ground? I took a look at the traffic data in Google Analytics. In theory, all our Yahoo traffic should be on the rise. I took a look at four sites I have access to in Google Analytics, from October 1 through December 30:


What do your analytics show? If they confirm what I am seeing, I would love to know. If your Yahoo visits are increasing, I would be even more excited to know.

No matter, Marissa Mayer will still be smiling. Last year she conquered Tumblr by buying it. This year she knocked Google off Firefox. What might she have planned for 2015? Only her dog-walker knows.

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Kristi Hines
My traffic from Yahoo seems to be the same or lower for my four most popular sites compared to last month and last year. Maybe it will bump up going forward. :)
David Leonhardt
Kristi Hines
Let's hope. :-)
So, my blog seems to garner more traffic from twitter feeds (thank you all for doing so). And, my corporate websites are about split between MS and Google, with Yahoo barely an afterthought. Let's hope this helps that aspect.
Thanks for bringing this to my attention, David.
David Leonhardt
Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
So far, no big difference. But maybe the new Yahoo traffic doesn't go to blogs?
Gail Gardner
Other search engines would do well to make additional agreements to serve as the default, but it seems strange that Bing sends so little traffic when they should be the default search engine for all devices running Windows. I agree with David that most people don't know how to change their default search engine so at least they won't be changing back to Google. Yahoo has consistently done the wrong thing starting with ruining their Yahoo Ads trying to make them look like Google and running off serious spenders in the process. I'd like to be optimistic about them, but Bing has a better chance than Yahoo to take at least some of Google's monopoly away. I wish an independent search engine with their own crawler would get serious about promoting themselves. I'm not sure there even is one.
David Leonhardt
Gail Gardner
Hi Gail. We have seen a couple search engines like that - Duck Duck Go and Blekko come to mind - but none of them have quite made it.

Yahoo is crawling out from a very deep hole, and I am impressed with how far they have come so far. I think most people had written them off a year or two ago.
Thanks for writing on this David, as it is something important to consider. I remember a blog a wrote a tad over a year ago regarding Bing as the default browser for Siri for the iPhone device, and also Bing being incorporated so heavily in console based browsing on the Xbox 360 (and now Xbox One) console. I thought I was so wise and forward thinking at the time.

Let's see. how can I put this delicately? Ummm, my projections sucked, and that is putting it mildly. Admitting failure in that instance was not fun, but I have been right on other occasions too. I will be curious to see how this ultimately plays out, and thanks for a well written piece.
David Leonhardt
Rob Wilson
Hi Robby. Thanks for the feedback. Making predictions is always somewhat of a crap shoot. I have been bold in the past, but on this one I am going to be timid. I certainly do not see Yahoo replacing Google any time soon, but I am very impressed with what Yahoo is who knows?

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