Ahrefs recently announced its new privacy-focused search engine called Yep.
The search marketing community responded on social media with enthusiasm for the project but there were many questions.
We passed along those questions to Ahrefs and the CEO, Dmytro Gerasymenko, offered answers.
My first question was about the name of the search engine itself. Branding and choosing a domain name is an important process and it’s always interesting to learn how companies approach this important step.
1. What is the meaning behind the choice of the word Yep for the name of the search engine?
It doesn’t have any specific meaning but is a nice, short, and easy-to-remember name. You won’t forget “Yep”, right?
Choosing a name for the search engine was quite a struggle.
We checked hundreds of ideas in the last 2 years. Initially, the team settled with Fairsearch dot com, with plans to transition to Fair.com. But we couldn’t get Fair.com.
Yep itself came up the first time when we were watching the Avatar cartoons in which Aang his friends used the phrase, “yip-yip” to make their sky bison take off into the air.
2. In an article published on Medium (Investor money vs. public interest: did Google fail to build a non-evil platform?), you cited Google’s Featured Snippets as an example of how Google provides answers without leaving Google’s website.
Does that mean that Yep is committed to showing search results in the classic ten blue links style?
I don’t think it is possible to serve customers well and grow market share with just 10 blue links.
What we are committed to is that search engines generating revenue from ads should share revenue with creators whose content they benefit from.
In other words, if we select some content to be shown on a search results page, we will also use it as a signal that the content is helpful, and its creator deserves to be compensated.
3. The post on Medium cited the example of a blogger who teaches “how to build container gardens” as earning as much as $4,000 per month. Is that a realistic example of how much an average top-ranked site about container gardening may earn from Yep?
It is hard to say about average. Content should be compensated based on its impact.
If we look at Google, they make $150B+ a year from what is called “Google Search & other” (Alphabet 2022 Q1 Results PDF)
Let’s imagine that Google suddenly introduced a 90/10 profit share model. So they would distribute $135 billion among creators every year and leave $15 billion for themselves.
How would you distribute $135 billion to content creators if you were the one making these decisions?
We can start a thought process from a simple one: Wikipedia is a very big and an obvious contributor to Google’s success.
Content from Wikipedia serves maybe 5% of what people are searching for. If it is really 5% then maybe Wikipedia deserves to get 5% of $135 billion or $6.75 billion for all the contributions.
News as a whole may be 10% or $13.5 billion.
With the average salary of a journalist in the US around $50K per year, this is enough to pay the salary for 270,000 journalists.
For example, Washington Post hires around 1,000 journalists, so you can imagine that 270,000 is a big team.
If we talk about niche topics like gardening. Gardening as a whole might be just 0.01% of what people are looking for (I am just guessing the percentage, I don’t know the exact one).
If it is 0.01% we could dedicate 1/10,000 of $135 billion to support creators who write about gardening. This is $13.5 million for gardening content.
Inside the gardening topic, it might happen that one resource will hire a big team and cover any possible topic serving 50% of search intent, and get $6.75 million.
It is very unlikely that we could get 1,000 resources each having exactly the same impact and get $13.5K each.
4. There are many in the search community who have expressed enthusiasm on Facebook and elsewhere about Yep and want it to succeed.
But there are some in the search marketing community who have expressed the opinion that $60 million dollars for a search engine is not enough to compete against Google.
What is your response to those who feel that Yep is underfunded?
Competing with a huge corporations like Google, while sharing 90% of revenue, we obviously did not pick an easy way, and I understand people’s sentiment.
At the same time, I believe that what we are doing is important, and is worth the risk.
Being a bootstrapped company, Ahrefs possesses the option to promise a 90/10 revenue split and stick to it.
Any venture-funded or well-funded company will have a list of investors pushing to grow revenue perpetually and at some point, it would be 85/15 split, then 80/20, and so on.
$60 million are the funds we invested in the Data Center in Singapore. We are already working on a 4x bigger one in the US.
Anyway, the success of the new search will depend on users’ interest. If our ideas convince thought leaders that supporting creators will make the Internet better for everyone, maybe users will give it a shot.
5. Some in the search community have shared their opinion that it’s hard to get people to change their habits. What value-add does Yep offer that will compel users to switch from Google?
Bootstrapping is hard until it works.
The revenue share model is a very powerful tool to attract informed people.
We would expect bloggers asking their readers to switch to Yep and a snowball reaction. The more users search on Yep, the more creators earn.
One day, someone will tell their friend that their mother publishes a blog and receives a revenue share from Yep, and it will change that one person’s choice.
Users may get tired that their favorite news source shows twice more ads on Google than on Yep, and will switch the default search on their devices.
6. Why does Yep show links to Google and Bing in some of the search results?
Yep does not yet provide the best results for all kinds of queries. But we want people to try setting it as a default search engine.
These links are supposed to help if Yep did not serve you well.
Our thinking is that we better give a fast option to look in another search engine than making people change the default.
7. Will Yep participate in IndexNow?
Yes, we plan to participate.
8. What do publishers and SEOs need to know about optimizing for Yep?
Create useful content for people
9. I noticed that for some local searches that surface spam in Google those same queries don’t show spam in Yep.
Does Yep focus on spam like spammy links and spammy content?
We are improving algorithms all the time to boost good content, demote the spammy pages and diminish the impact of spammy links.
10. Does Yep use BERT and other NLP technologies?
Yes, we closely follow the latest developments in ML applied to language processing to pick and combine applicable ideas and approaches.
11. Your privacy page states that Yep doesn’t store search history or IP address.
Does that mean that anyone who uses Yep can be assured of 100% privacy, with nothing stored on a users computer as well as nothing stored on Yep servers?
It is not “nothing stored” but it is “as little as possible stored” to make the system work.
We remove the user-agent and trim IP before storing logs. We also use a salted and hashed version of IP and User Agent without a query for up to 48 hours to protect from DDOS and abuse.
Since we have our own search index we don’t call third-party APIs and don’t share any of your information with third parties.
I believe that Yep is the most private search engine at the moment, and we want it to be this way.
12. Will Yep ever show rich results like for recipes?
Yes, we are improving the look and convenience of search results pages all the time.
13. Does Yep use structured data?
We use only a small subset of it yet.
Yep Search Engine
Yep is putting its money where it’s mouth is when it comes to “do no evil by pledging to give back to the content creators that make search engines possible in the first place.
In a way, the sensitivity to the role of content creators is not surprising because Dmytro Gerasymenko, as CEO of Ahrefs, has a close working connection to the search marketing community.