Yahoo! turns to people power

Yahoo! is overhauling the search engine concept by asking users to answer each other’s travel questions as well as looking for them online.

The search engine has more than 460 million unique users a month worldwide who it believes can be used to answer travel-related questions.

Yahoo! Travel Europe general manager Tim Frankcom said: “With a community as large as ours you are likely to get some good responses. For example,” he told delegates, “one question that might be asked could be: ‘Where’s the best place to ice-skate in New York?’

The question section will compliment the existing natural search on the new Yahoo! Answers product.

However, the pay-per-click sponsored links will remain, with advertisers promoting their services based on the related questions. Frankcom believes the questions model has the potential to be more successful than the traditional search engines. He claimed it could help advertisers get closer to the travel-buying public.

“The web is more than just distribution – it’s about communities. Yahoo Answers turns our users into editors and publishers of content. There are opportunities for advertisers if they are able to engage with the consumer.”

Frankcom told delegates at the Eye for Travel conference in London the system will help Yahoo! Travel evolve into a Web 2.0 company.

Meanwhile, Frankcom allayed fears Yahoo Answers spells the end of organic search. He said the traditional search engine would survive.

“Without natural search you do not have a search engine,” he said. Frankcom believed consumers would stop using a search engine as their first port of call online if all results were paid for.

Google head of travel in Europe Esteban Walther hinted it has plans to overhaul its search engine. “We are putting more effort into improving it and creating more personalised search,” he said.

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