For those who do not know, Yahoo! Answers is (quoting their official blog) “a place where people ask each other questions on any topic, and get answers by sharing facts, opinions, and personal experiences.”

I hadn't paid much attention to Yahoo! Answers until Danny Sullivan talked about it recently at the May SES Seattle Conference. Danny wrote an excellent overview of Yahoo's “social networking” vehicle, but my focus in this article will be somewhat different.

There is a huge amount of inaccurate information online about search engine optimization. SEO is a very challenging / ever-changing topic for a newbie to understand. The neophyte frequently doesn't realize that much of the SEO information on the Internet is either incorrect, outdated or biased. Although online resources, such as forums, offer accurate information about SEO (if you look hard enough or get your question answered by a trusted member), most are very intimidating for people seeking out the basic knowledge that the regulars already possess.

Wouldn't it be nice if basic (and more advanced) SEO information could be asked and accurately answered in an open, stress-free online environment? Perhaps Yahoo! Answers is such a place.

So, I joined the party and started asking some basic SEO questions:

Will I get better search engine rankings by manually submitting my website or by using submission software? (Note the cached page…if a question doesn't receive a “best answer” which mine didn't, it gets deleted.)

What's the best way I can get my new poker website to the top of Google?

These are typical newbie questions I asked in the hope that an SEO expert would set me straight by offering the following correct answers:

  1. It is not necessary to submit websites to search engines, and even if you did, submission has no effect on any rankings you might receive.
  2. Furgetaboutit.

Unfortunately, nobody in the Yahoo! Answers community answered me thusly. I concluded that newbie SEO questions, asked by me or by others that I surveyed, attracted answers that tended to perpetuate the already high level of SEO misinformation. People who leave such answers also tend to drop large numbers of self-serving links in their posts.

I got much better answers when asking more advanced questions:

What was the effect of Google's “Florida” update on SEO methodology?

I immediately got a relevant on-topic answer with an on-topic authoritative link.

What is Latent Semantic Analysis and how relevant is it to search engine optimization?

A very challenging question and while nobody answered it directly, at least I got directed to the on-topic Wikipedia page.

For fun, I asked some non-SEO questions and learned quite a bit from doing so.

Ginger or Mary Ann?

At SES Seattle, Danny mentioned that Yahoo! Answers would be integrated into the Yahoo SERPS. But how much strength would they be given?

Someone else who asked the same question as I landed in Yahoo's Top 10. How long the question will remain so highly ranked remains to be seen. While I don't expect a Yahoo! Answers result to rank that highly for an ultra-competitive e-commerce term, if you are targeting some specific “long tail” keywords, I think it would be a worthwhile exercise to answer question(s) relevant to them. In your answer, I would make repeated use of your terms in a manner consistent with good writing style.

To sum up, SEO's will need to understand how to optimally work with Yahoo! Answers as part of their overall search engine strategy. As more SEO's begin to participate in the process, hopefully they will contribute to raising the quality of answers currently given to people asking SEO questions.

By the way, I didn't get to choose a correct answer to my last question, but I would have definitely chosen…Ginger.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

June 20, 2006

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.

Search Engine Guide > Todd Mintz > Ginger or Mary Ann? Yahoo! Answers.