Create a niche search engine with Yahoo! BOSS

The Yahoo! BOSS API allows you to access the Yahoo! search index with new levels of freedom. You can rearrange the results, change their look, have unlimited requests, mash the results with other resources, and you don't even have to let people know that Yahoo! is powering the page. Many people are busy mashing the BOSS results with internal data sets, proprietary logic, and new visual interfaces.

BOSS is perfect for creating a niche search engine. With just a few tweaks, you can create a site that is finetuned to your particular subject. This article will walk you through some of those options.

Any Volkswagen afficianado can tell you it is difficult to find good information in search engines. VWs unfortunately do not have unique model names. Searching for information about a Rabbit, Bug, Beetle, and Golf is frustrating. You have to dig through thousands of results about insects, mammals, and Tiger Woods [sample unfiltered search result (.xml)]. However, we can create a killer VW search engine with just a few BOSS configurations.

First Steps

You'll need to apply for an application ID to create your own BOSS-based site,. Get one at the Yahoo! Developer Network. It will only take a few minutes and you can update your information later.

This article will display suggested api requests. Replace "your-BOSS-app-id" with the ID you receive from the previous step.

Site-Specific Search

This is the easiest configuration. Let's assume you want to search within a single site, such as BOSS recognizes many of the search filters you would use in any search box. This includes +, -, "", and site:. Let's make a web service request that searches only the official VW web site.

The key here is the query. We will take the user's request and add "" [ sample site: search result (.xml)]. >(.xml)]

Define Your Pool of Expert Resources

The site-specific filter is going to limit the usefulness of your site. Let's open the results to a wider range of resources. The "sites" query param lets you define a list of sites for BOSS to search through. While BOSS can handle tons of sites, you are limited by the length of a url in the request. To be safe, keep your list to no more than 30.

The BOSS team is evaluating options for massive lists. However, this isn't an issue for most niche search engines.

The pattern is pretty simple. Insert a sites query param that equals a comma separated list of urls. Here's a very brief list of VW experts for this demonstration [ sample sites based search result (.xml) ]:,,,

Now that you've created a set of experts for VW news and information, you can create a second group for parts and stores. This is how you can quickly create sub-categories in your search site.

Refine Your Search Results

As mentioned earlier, the Yahoo! BOSS API recognizes most of the advanced search filters. Let's see how we can start making our results even more specific. These can be used with either of the above techniques.

Tag Search

While BOSS does not have a tag search function, you can use the inurl: filter to get a similar functionality. This will work especially well if your set of resources includes blogs; which have the tag as part of the url, i.e. [ sample inurl: search result (.xml) ]. Notice how the display url in the sample xml has the query term wrapped in b tags. BOSS results make it easier for your visitors to recognize the filter results.,,,

Title Search

You may find better results by using the intitle: filter instead. This will only return pages that have the query in their title.
[ sample intitle: search result (.xml) ],,,

Get Related Sites

Now let's add another layer to your search results. We can make a secondary request for each result to find related web pages. This would have some performance impact, but could be done as an AJAX request after the page has loaded.

We will use the related: filter. Let's grab this result from the above intitle: search result: We will now create a secondary request for this url to find websites that are related to it. [sample related search result (.xml)]

Start Innovating

You've now created a set of authorities on your niche subject, you've given the user the ability to fine tune the results, and you've triggered a secondary request for related web sites. Next steps: offer multi-language support, display news and images for the query, use Yahoo! Pipes to mash the results with other services. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.


Ted Drake

Yahoo! Paris