Longtime Microsoft partner Yahoo tests search with Google

Yahoo not packing it in with Microsoft Bing, but trying out other search partners

Just months after Yahoo extended its long-term search agreement with Microsoft, Yahoo is testing a search partnership with Google.

Actually, Yahoo is keeping its options open and testing search with a number of partners.

"Yahoo has been struggling to recapture growth for a long time," said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst. "If they can partner with Google and search, that may be able to help them grow their site in other areas. Like it or not, Google is the king of search."

A Yahoo spokeswoman confirmed to Computerworld that the company is testing search results and ads from several companies, including Google.

Google confirmed the same thing.

Neither would add any specifics about the potential deal.

The Yahoo and Google test partnership first came to light when SEOBook reported on Wednesday that it had seen some Yahoo search results and ads coming from Microsoft's Bing and others from Google search. The online publication also printed screen shots.

Just this past April, Yahoo and Microsoft announced that their nearly six-year-long search partnership.

That amendment to their original deal, which was inked in 2009, gave Yahoo more wiggle room in their agreement. Now Yahoo can update its "search experience" on any platform.

At the time, Yahoo noted that it would continue to offer up Bing search results and Microsoft ads, though the company did not say if Bing would continue to be its sole search engine or if it would handle even the majority of its search traffic.

This could have been a bigger blow to Microsoft if former CEO Steve Ballmer was still at the company's helm, according to Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group.

"Search doesn't appear to be as strategic to [current CEO] Satya Nadella so this move could drive him to pull back further on this effort," he said. "Yahoo could be using this test as a way to get Microsoft to sweeten its deal. Nadella isn't a huge fan of this expensive war on search, though, and has been cutting resources to the effort. So if that's the goal, it could backfire."

Bing has been making some headlines lately.

AOL, which recently scooped up some of Microsoft's digital advertising business, also replaced Google's search engine with Bing.

And Microsoft recently sold its Bing Maps business to Uber, with Nadella saying he wants to put more focus on the company's core businesses.

For Kagan, he thinks a deal with Google could be a boon for Yahoo, which has been struggling to pick up extra market share in a search arena dominated by Google.

"Yahoo might be taking a join-them-rather-than-fight-them position now," he added. "If Yahoo can use Google search, then maybe they can start to grow once again. This could be the best news for Yahoo's growth in a long, long time."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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