Back in 2019, Ahrefs announced that it will launch a search engine.
It is 2022 and they have done it! They call it “Yep.” That is quite an unusual name, but according to Dmytro Gerasymenko (CEO of Ahrefs), it has no specific meaning.
For two years straight, the Ahrefs team worked hard to find a suitable name. The plan was to start with the name Fairsearch and later transition to Fair, but since the company failed to acquire Fair.com, they had to think of something else.
The idea for the name came when the team was watching Avatar cartoons with kids. Aang and his friends used the term ‘Yip Yip’ to make the sky bison take off. That term gave birth to the name ‘Yep.’
The team selected the name because it is easy to remember. That’s all! No other reason.
Yep Search Engine: TL;DR
- Announced on March 27, 2019
- Launched on June 3, 2022
- Image search will launch in July 2022
- General-purpose search engine
- Uses BERT and other NLP technologies
- Uses a subset of structured data
- It will offer a 90/10 ad revenue-sharing model for creators
- Uses AhrefsBot which will be replaced by YepBot in future
What is Yep Search Engine?
It is a general-purpose web search engine, and it will be available in all countries and many languages soon enough. Ahrefs spent a whopping $60 million out of its pocket (yes, no venture capital or angel investor here) to develop it.
The team positions its new search engine as – ‘Google’s competitor.’
Is it? Maybe not.
It is better to not have high hopes right away and we stick with the term ‘an alternative to Google.’
Over the years, many search engines popped up. Some died, and some still exist. They called themselves the ‘Google Killer,‘ but they never managed to do so. Ahrefs (Yep) may have a slightly better chance, but it is too soon to say.
How Does Yep Search Engine Work?
Yep is a search engine and so, quality is important, and it must be able to deliver what searchers are looking for. So, the team uses the following steps to deliver search results:
For now, Yep uses the AhrefsBot to collect website data. However, the team plans to replace the bot with YepBot sometime later. As of now, AhrefsBot crawls through 8 billion web pages every 24 hours. The only other bot that beats Ahrefs is that of Google.
What is interesting is that AhrefsBot has been doing this for the last 12 years, and all the data collected in these many years was used by Ahrefs to power the link database of its SEO tool and for offering SEO insights.
Yep updates its search index once every 15 minutes to 30 minutes. But what’s even more interesting is that they drop 20 million pages every day and add 30 million pages.
Every search engine needs to judge the quality of the website data it collects and then rank them and Yep is no different. It tries to ensure that search results are relevant to the queries, and for this, the team is building its evaluation criteria.
Here is what the Ahrefs team said on this:
What Matters for Ranking on Yep?
For ranking web pages, Yep uses thousands of signals some of which are:
- Link signals
- Content signals
- Terms in title, H1, content, etc.
- Referring anchor, and more.
Yep’s algorithms and search results are constantly being polished to give better results, but the team agrees that they are yet to reach a stage where they can compete directly with search giants like Google or Bing.
How are Yep and Google Different?
I mentioned earlier that it is wise to call Yep an alternative to Google. It will be a long journey before Yep can position itself as a Google Competitor in the search market even though Ahrefs CEO is already calling it a Google Competitor.
Ahrefs founder banks his optimism on two pillars:
Yep does not collect any personal information that includes things like age, gender, name, geolocation, etc. Plus, it will never store your search history anywhere.
But it will use aggregated search statistics for things like spelling corrections, search suggestions, and algorithm improvements. In simpler words, Ahrefs’ search engine will save certain data on user searches but the data will not be personally identifiable.
For example, it will track the number of times a word is searched for and the position of the URL or link that receives the most clicks for that search query.
What Google does is it aggregates all these data (geolocation, name, gender, IP, your search queries, etc.) and creates your profile, and then uses the data for targeted advertising. Yep will not do anything like that but it will surely collect the following information:
- The keywords you use for searching
- Language preferences
- Your approximate geolocation (scaled to a region or a city) using your IP address at the time of the query.
Before storing logs, it will remove ‘user agent’ and trim the IP address. To avoid abuse and prevent DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, the system will store hashed and salted versions of the user agent without a query and IP for 48 hours.
Also, there are no cookies used by Yep until you decide to change the default settings of the search engine. Plus, since Ahrefs has its own search index, Yep does not use APIs from Google or Bing and other third-party search engines. This means that they don’t share user data with anyone else.
Revenue Sharing Model
Ahrefs plans a 90-10 revenue-sharing model that sets it apart from every other search engine in the world. Initially, Ahrefs referred to it as profit-sharing, but now they prefer “revenue-sharing.”
The plan here is to give away 90% of the advertising profits to the creators who make search results, that is, content publishers.
According to Dmytro Gerasymenko:
He further adds:
A more detailed explanation of the revenue sharing model is found on Yep website, and here is what it says:
Why This Revenue Sharing Model?
One of the biggest problems with Google is that it displays content right in its search results. This means that users don’t really need to click on the links. This translates into fewer visitors to websites. This loss of traffic translates into a loss of revenue.
Plus, Google directly earns from ads on its SERPs, and never shares the earnings with people who publish content. This explains why Yep is focusing on the model.
Yep Will Pay Content Creators 90%, But How?
The Yep search engine is a 90/10 revenue-sharing creator-friendly search engine. This means that of every $100 Yep receives in advertisement revenue, Yep will put $90 into the pockets of creators and keep $10 for itself.
Yep is busy drafting the specifications, but the idea is it will need publishers to perform identity verification by signing up for an account and then add a tag to their web pages. This will probably be an HTML tag.
Interestingly, not everyone will receive the same amount. The link getting the most clicks will receive the maximum share of the revenue.
How will they know which link is getting the most clicks?
Simple! They will collect all the data.
The Ahrefs SEO tool also shows that data with a metric called ‘Traffic Share by Pages.’
It clearly shows the traffic share for each URL for any given keyword. Here is an example:
For a search engine, collecting the ‘traffic share’ data will not be difficult at all!
But what about those who publish on platforms like Medium?
Well, Yep is considering that, too! Platforms like Medium may add the revenue share ID of their users and also their own ID and they may have the rule wherein they keep 20% for hosting services and pay 80% to the users. Such platforms will add this rule in the markup and Yep will follow!
Yep Web Search Engine Technical Details
- One data center in Singapore.
- 1,000 servers in the data center are responsible for processing petabytes of data that include web pages, links between those web pages, and search index.
- 2 x 100GB connection powers each server.
- Multiple GPU cards in some servers to train big transformer models.
- By the end of 2022, they plan to launch a data center in the USA.
Pros & Cons of Yep Search Engine
- It is free to use.
- It focuses on privacy and never collects user age, gender, name, and geolocation.
- It offers search suggestions.
- It offers to search on Bing, Google, DuckDuckGo, and Mojeek.
- Shortly, it will introduce its much-touted revenue-sharing model for content creators – something that other search engines do not offer.
- Search results are not always accurate, but they are refining the results more and more.
- It still doesn’t have an image search feature (they will introduce it in July 2022).
- It doesn’t have features like ‘People Also Ask’ and ‘Related Searches.’
- It uses AhrefsBot and is yet to introduce the YepBot.
- It provides stale news results.
Yep Search Results
Yep SERPs are quite minimal.
As of now, there are only two options – web results and news results.
Image search will be added in July 2022.
A quick query for the keyword ‘Joe Biden’ revealed a very minimal search page quite similar to the ’10 blue links’ of the good old days, but not a very polished one.
It did throw in ‘sitelinks’ similar to what Google does.
We also have a “knowledge box” pulled from Wikipedia. However, note that this box doesn’t have an official name, yet. Instead of ‘knowledge box,’ Ahrefs may decide to call it something else.
Plus, there is also an option for searching on other search engines.
What you will instantly notice is that there is no PAA (People Also Ask) box.
Scrolling down to the bottom of the SERP shows that there is no Related Searches option as you can see in the image below:
The real bummer is the ‘News’ search.
Yep will show you ‘stale results.’
The most recent news I found was from two days ago.
Compare that with Google:
The most recent news I found related to Joe Biden was published an hour ago and news directly about Joe Biden was published only 36 minutes ago.
Now, remember that Ahrefs’ search engine is still in its Beta stage. There is a lot of polishing to do and the team is working on its algorithms.
So, you can expect things to change later. But that is going to be one heck of an uphill journey!
Google Search Engine Vs Yep Search Engine
Can Yep Compete with Google?
Alphabet’s yearly revenue is over $150 billion and most of this comes from Google search. If Yep can take even a 1% market share, it will become a Decacorn with yearly revenue of $15 billion.
That sounds great, but how easily can Yep do that?
Google has “demand” and it capitalizes on that. There are at least two reasons for that demand, which include:
Google offers many features for FREE. Privacy definitely is not the strongest suit of Google, but if privacy was really such a big deal, DuckDuckGo should have taken a massive market share. Unfortunately, DuckDuckGo clocks approximately 15.7 billion queries a year, which Google achieves in just 2 to 3 days.
But Google offers many more features that people love including things like ‘featured snippets,’ ‘people also ask,’ ‘related searches,’ and so on. To become a strong competitor, Yep must offer everything while upholding user privacy.
Google offers an entire ecosystem of apps and services without tapping into other providers. What’s interesting is that those apps and services are FREE, too! Gmail, chat, multimedia, text results, direct answers, calendar, Google Drive, office suite, local search, navigation, and so on.
Without such services and apps, Yep cannot generate enough demand so easily. All those services that Google offers are ad-supported and people are happy about that even at the cost of their privacy. When Yep talks of 90% revenue share for people who publish content, it is not hard to assume that, it must charge for those services.
Yep’s approach to changing the status quo of the ad-supported search experience is a noble one, especially for creators, but problem is that of driving enough demand. But that is not going to be easy.
One route that Ahrefs can take is to establish partnerships similar to what Google did. For instance, on iOS, Google is the default search engine and for that, Google pays billions to Apple.
Of course, creating an entire platform that becomes the gateway to different apps and services is yet another way, but that will require some aggressive marketing on Yep’s part to position itself as a better option.
Either way, it is a tough journey ahead, but not an impossible one. If Ahrefs manages to generate enough demand, it can surely take a bite out of Google’s massive market.
The Current State of Yep
Yep is a new search engine launched only on June 3, 2022. At the time of this writing, it doesn’t have enough traffic (that, not many users are using it, and hence, almost no demand).
Here are the traffic stats from Similarweb:
Similarweb doesn’t show data for a website have less than 5,000 visitors.
Semrush provides a much clearer estimate of traffic, and according to Semrush, Yep currently has 1,900 visitors a month.
Compare that with the other major players like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Google receives 44.2 billion visits a month, followed by Bing at 1.6 billion visits a month. DuckDuckGo registers 597.8 million visits a month.
Yes, those are only estimated numbers, but that’s good enough to give you a clear idea of how far Yep needs to go to even think of becoming a strong competitor of Google.
What is Ahrefs’ Ultimate Goal?
Ahrefs’ aim was to tag a larger company such as Microsoft to bring this revenue-sharing model to fruition. However, such big companies are not ready to adopt the model and are happy with their ad revenue model. Thus, the company decided to do it by itself and intends to spend tens of millions of dollars in the coming days to aggressively promote Yep. Interestingly, many of those promotional campaigns will target publishers.
Yep Search Engine FAQ
Yep is still actively working on its algorithms to reduce spammy links and demote spammy content while promoting the good ones. It will take some time to deal with spam, but Yep is on the right track.
Yes, Yep uses BERT and other NLP technologies. The team closely follows all developments in machine learning applied to language processing and they apply various approaches and ideas that are applicable to the search engine. Over time, it is expected that over the next few months and years, the Yep team will polish and improve the application of NLP technologies.
Not entirely! The team has only applied a small subset of structured data so far. This means that there is still enough scope for improvements.
According to Yep, any person, brand, website, or publisher is considered a creator.
Don’t expect to see that anytime soon. Only when the team is happy with the quality of organic search results, they will announce PPC advertising.
What Google is today, did not happen in a day. It took years of refining and polishing. Yep deserves to be given that chance. The stripped-down SERPs aren’t really that bad, especially if you are not worried about the freshness of the news results.
While I am being optimistic, I must say that Ahrefs has a lot of work to do before Yep emerges as a powerful competitor to Google and convince people into ditching the Big G.
Until Ahrefs manages to create a huge demand for its search engine, I don’t think creators will earn big.