Using Flickr to Optimize for Yahoo Image Search

September 19th, 2007


Originally published in Natural Search Blog

Google Blogoscoped reports that Yahoo’s Image Search now particularly likes Flickr content, so this may be incentive for webmasters to use Flickr “as a kind of Yahoo search engine optimization”. My frequent readers know that I’ve been advocating using Flickr for image search optimization for some time now, and I’ve been speaking on this subject at Search Engine Strategies conferences as well.

The Blogoscoped mention of Yahoo’s love for Flickr content is particularly timely, since Yahoo! announced back in June that they were permanently shutting down Yahoo! Photos in favor of their Flickr property, and the final closing date is tomorrow, September 20th.

Previously, I’d railed a bit against Yahoo! because I’d seen a lot of evidence that they didn’t spider/index Flickr content as well or comprehensively as Google did — altogether ironic since Yahoo owns Flickr. Just as with the anecdotal reports in the Blogoscoped post, I’m seeing nice indications that my earlier criticism of Yahoo’s lack of inclusion of Flickr content may now be completely resolved.

For instance, for experimentation purposes, I optimized a number of pictures of the picturesque Holly Hill House on Catalina Island via Flickr over a year ago. For many months, none of those pictures were showing up at all in Yahoo’s Image Search results (while, they were indexed and ranking really well in Google Image Search results within just a few weeks). Now, TWELVE of my Holly Hill House pics are appearing in the first 20 image search results on Yahoo:

Holly Hill House in Yahoo Search Results
(click to enlarge)

So, I’d say there is now even more benefit to optimizing through Flickr, since there’s greater chance of getting search referrals from Yahoo! Image Search results.

So far, I’m not actually seeing more referral traffic from Yahoo because of this, though, but I’ll soon be deploying much larger sample sets for the purposes of experimentation, and I’ll circle back around to report my statistical findings.

I can still critique Yahoo! a bit, though: images newly uploaded to Flickr seem to still have a significant amount of time before they get included in Yahoo Image Search results. Why? These images show up really rapidly via search in Flickr, so one assumes Yahoo would be able to pull those contents into their SERPs through a federated search of Flickr… The images really should be available quicker, and Yahoo should improve absorption of new Flickr images content faster.