Yahoo is to offer a free enhanced search result listing tool for websites. Yahoo SearchMonkey is an open-source application development kit for website creators and owners that will allow more detail to be listed within a standard search results page.

The development kit for the Yahoo SearchMonkey goes live today, with a consumer offering likely to be made public within weeks.

Yahoo believes website creators are crying out for a way of distinguishing themselves from their rivals without having to fork out for expensive SEO (search engine optimisation) tools or consultancy fees.

Yahoo's open-source application development kit means website owners can offer more detailed, relevant information about their business in Yahoo search results. This may include images such as logos and maps as well as pricing information, in-depth guides and times of programmes.

For websites such as magazine publishers or retailers with a portfolio of brands, links and related information can be added, with up to 10 different but related URLs trawled by Yahoo when one or any of the listed terms is entered as a search term.

SearchEngineWatch reports that, in the US, Conde Nast has already seen the benefit of this, while local search tool Yelp is another early adopter of the SearchMonkey idea.

Ideally, SearchMonkey requires a web developer to add additional information that a web crawler would not normally see and present this additional information as data services that can then be more easily picked up by search engines. Examples PC Advisor was shown for Facebook applications enable developers to add searchable information about what an app was called, a description of it and a photo of what the add-on looks like – all of which then showed up in a standard Yahoo search.

Yahoo says SearchMonkey results will not be displayed by default, but the first time a user sees a search result with an arrow indicating further information is available, clicking on that result will invoke a prompt asking whether the user would like to see enhanced results in future.

The Yahoo SearchMonkey will function as a plug-in and will enable site owners to offer structured information in an easily digestible, at a glance format that means the end users doesn't have to go trotting all over the web to get the most salient information.

For example, a film fan may type in the word 'Persepolis' and get not just a detailed synopsis of the film but also details of the director, the graphic novel's author, a list of the main stars and details of the start and end times for a screening at their local cinema along with a phone number to call to book and a map.

It will also, according to SearchMonkey developer Christian Heilmann, enable full-page reports and reviews to be served up as search results, rather than the snippets that are routinely returned when a search term is entered.

This, believes Yahoo, will help distinguish websites with deep content and mean consumers are more likely to come back to them over time since users will soon realise the information they can access is highly relevant and useful to them.

Yahoo developer Heilmann described the tool as a "secure version of PHP" and says no other site's links can be added in to them [without the developer's knowledge] and that no cookies can be added".

Yahoo's Jeffrey Revoy, vice-president of search and social media for Yahoo Europe, told PC Advisor that the move was part of a "a strategy by Yahoo to open up the network in such a way that it will offer great consumer insights". Revoy said SearchMonkey is "the first example of Yahoo opening up to developers what will be a whole ecosystem of benefits to partners".

Yahoo appears not to be intending to actively push the SearchMonkey idea to end users, preferring to let partners and web publishers promote the concept through their implementation of the open-source tool. For website owners, Revoy says the return will be in a "richer quality and higher quality traffic coming to their site".

However, it's clear Yahoo thinks it's on to a winner with SearchMonkey, predicting a huge uptake for the development kit.

Naturally, Yahoo also thinks the SearchMonkey will help it gain both loyalty and, eventually, market share with consumers – a tough ask in a market so heavily dominated by the success of Google.

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