If you visit Yahoo Search right now from a location in the United States, the chance is high that you get more ads on the search results page than organic results.
A search for laptops, for instance, returns five ads at the top that fill most “above the fold” space, and another batch of ads below some organic results in the middle. The sidebar is filled with ads as well and nothing else so that all above the fold content with the exception of the Yahoo Search interface is made up of advertisements.
The following screenshot highlights the above the fold layout.
Searches for “TVs,” “flowers,” “patio” or “football jersey” use the same ad-heavy layout. Yahoo Search does not use it for all queries right now though; a search for Apple returns Apple’s website in the top location, and the same is true for other company searches.
It appears however that if you search for something that you can buy online or offline, the chance is high that the new ad-heavy layout is used.
Both Google Search and Bing return fewer ads, but they do use the same layout. Ads are displayed on top of organic results and in the sidebar.
My favorite search engine Startpage displays ads on top of organic results as well, but it adds a different background color to the whole unit so that it is super easy to distinguish between ads and organic content.
Yahoo Search’s new layout has additional issues besides that it displays too many ads. The advertisement is not distinguished enough from organic (not paid) results. The only indicator of ad blocks is the “ads related to” line at the top of the block, and the horizontal line at its end.
Ad units use the same layout as organic results, and they are not highlighted as ads in any way. Bing and Google Search add “ad” next to the URL so that users can distinguish between ads and organic content.
This method is not super obvious either, however, and the layout of ad units is designed to drive more clicks to these units.
Yahoo removed the indicator as well so that it is impossible to tell if an item is an ad or not. Don’t believe me? Let’s play a quick game of ad or no ad.
Here are a couple of elements that ad units use that organic results don’t on Yahoo Search:
Yellow star ratings.
Links directly underneath the unit that use little whitespace.
Yahoo Search has a share of about 5% of the global search market according to NetMarketShare’s statistics. Only Bing with roughly 7.92%, Baidu with 10.44% and Google with its dominating 74.54% have more market share.
The new Yahoo Search layout is limited to some regions. It is active in the United States, but not in Germany.