News Null Search Results: Yahoo vs. Google

One subtle, yet important, aspect of search is how a search engine handles null search results. This is the use case when the search engine cannot find anything relevant to the user’s search query. The ability to handle this use case is important for traditional search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), vertical search (i.e. Yahoo News or Google News), or even an e-commerce site such as eBay or Amazon. 

I ran a search query in Yahoo News that led to zero results being returned. So I tried the exact same query in Google News and saw plenty of results. 

Yahoo News: 

Image

Google News:

Image

So what’s going on here? I know people prefer Google search to Yahoo search and algorithmically, one could make the case that it has a smarter search “brain”. But for one site to have plenty of results and for another to not have any results is probably not a deficiency in the search “brain” but rather the product choices for the Yahoo news search engine. 

Perhaps the Yahoo news search is looking for an exact match of all three search terms consecutively in an article i.e. “mega millions tragedy”. Perhaps Google news search is more loose and simply searches for articles that contain at least one instance of all three words, or even more loosely at least one instance of one of the search terms. 

The point is, in the case of null search results, the product is better served trying to find a partial match for the user instead of admitting defeat and returning nothing.