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Yahoo! Search Marketing – The Final Insult

The clock is ticking… and soon the final curtain will come down on what was the founding father of PPC – Yahoo! Search Marketing (nee Overture).

All we can say is: the end can’t come soon enough. The clunky interface was delivered late and was dated even before it was birthed. Little was done to improve it, and as Google evolved and Microsoft entered the market, there it stood, stuck in time.

However, that was just about bearable as long as the performance worked. But, as the months went by the slide continued… 20%, 15%, 10% … now about 5% of Google’s reach.

Yet, this article is not about that… What has become increasingly unbearable is the active encouragement of click misbehaviour on Yahoo’s part. We won’t use the word ‘fraud’ for fear of litigation – but let’s call it click ‘flawed’.

We give you a tale of increasing desperation which has led to the final insult as Yahoo! enters it’s last days.

‘Off Site’ Advertising

It all started with the ‘Content Network’. The aim was simple – a search engine only has a certain amount of traffic, but by allowing other sites to carry pay per click advertising then there was more opportunity to earn.

Both Google and Yahoo created ‘content networks’ (Google’s was renamed ‘Display Network’ a couple of years back) where website owners could carry their adverts and earn from clicks out from visitors to their sites.

Naturally, the traffic from these sites wasn’t as valued (or as valuable) as clicks from search and therefore both Google and Yahoo! (and subsequently Bing) enabled advertisers to set a different bid level for Content Network clicks.

Everyone’s a winner, aren’t they… ?

The Start of the Slide

However, it wasn’t really fair. Google with a larger market share, better advertising technology and more marketing muscle (and brains) was soon able to offer third party sites much easier integration, more transparent reporting and, ultimately, better returns.

Few sites remained in the Yahoo! content network. So, Yahoo! did what seemed to be the honourable thing – they shut the network.

Well, no, they didn’t really. They just closed ‘that which they call the content network’. And then they expanded their Search network to include ‘partners’. But didn’t inform advertisers – after all, a search partner is still a search supplier, aren’t they?

And advertisers wouldn’t really know the difference…

And Google was doing it, weren’t they?

When is a ‘Search Partner’ Really a Search Partner?

Well, Google does have ‘Search Partners’, BUT there are a few important points to make about the Google Search Partner Program and what it means for advertisers:

  1. You can choose whether or not to advertise on search partners in any Google campaign
  2. You can easily split out and report on performance of search partners with Google
  3. You can easily list those partner sites which are not working and delist your advertising on them
  4. Google police their search partners very carefully and only deal directly with the partner site themselves

However, whether under-resourced, or underhand, Yahoo! didn’t really do any of these things. If you advertise on Yahoo! search, you get search partners and can’t choose not to advertise on search partner websites. The reporting of the search partner performance is difficult to split out and compare, listing the different sites is awkward and then you have to de-list them one-by-one.

And, the final straw, they didn’t police. At all. In fact, they did the opposite they aggressively promoted themselves to try to build their network. Not just directly to sites, but also through third-parties.

How do we know? Because we’ve been approached by many intermediaries who re-sell Yahoo! search partner status and then target whatever phrase you want – or rather, whatever phrase they want you to carry (for maximum revenue).

Watch Your Yahoo! Spend Closely

Suffice to say, as the final termination approaches, they have become more and more lax and Yahoo! is in a mess. We’ve had two clients who have been hit by sudden surges of clicks with absolutely no reward or positive outcome.

So, watch your campaigns closely, particularly any in which you’re bidding a decent amount. If you see sudden spikes or sustained surges in traffic, please investigate thoroughly… and if this article has tipped you off, please share it: others need to be wary.

We all want competition to Google, we want a competitive marketplace, but for months Yahoo! has been playing a dangerous game – biting the hand that feeds it: the advertisers. We will not forget.

And, because of recent experiences, as one of the last agencies with advertisers on Yahoo!, we’re more than happy to switch the lights out. In fact, they’re going out early.