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Yahoo search revamp makes results more useful

Yahoo has begun rolling out significant changes to the way it presents Internet search results, with the goal of making found items and information more immediately useful to people—including calling out entertainment and news content—and reviving the company’s slumping revenues and share of the overall search market.

“Our goal is to understand what people care about and to make it fun for them to explore the most personally relevant, interesting, and informative content so that they can get things done faster and stay in the know,” said Yahoo senior VP for search and marketplaces Shashi Seth, in a statement. “Yahoo’s new immersive Search is a cornerstone of the overall Yahoo experience.”

The new search results aim to get search users what they want in immediately useful ways: searching for entertainment and celebrities will pull up the “most important details” like images, articles, tweets, videos, event listings, and ratings right on the primary search results page. The new search results also show slideshows right above standard search results showing trending topics from Yahoo.com sources and elsewhere so users can stay in the loop.

Search results will also incorporate “quick apps” from Yahoo search: the first is a new Web app for Netflix that enables Netflix subscribers to add DVDs to their queues directly from the Yahoo search results page. Also, a new Yahoo Image Search enables users to view slideshows culled from Flickr and Yahoo’s other content sites, as well as the ability for people to view photos from friends’ public Facebook albums—assuming they’ve latched their Facebook accounts to their Yahoo accounts.

The makeover doesn’t apply just to the Yahoo Webs site: Yahoo’s iPhone- and Android-using customers are also getting “faster, more sophisticated” search results built around HTML5 technology, making rich content on finance, entertainment, and local topics more accessible.

The new tools are rolling out now on Yahoo’s U.S. based Web site, with a rollout to global markets scheduled to get underway in 2011.

The search changes represent Yahoo’s latest effort to distinguish its search offerings from those of Google and Microsoft—a task that’s particularly important now that Yahoo is wrapping up the process of transferring the back-end of its search operations over to Microsoft’s Bing. Although Yahoo controls some of the Internet’s most popular sites—like Flickr—both Yahoo’s share of the Internet search market and the advertising revenue derives from searches have been in steady decline, causing some industry watchers to question whether CEO Carol Bartz’s turnaround plan for the company can succeed.

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