Friday, 15 August 2008

What do Yahoo! Think You're Doing? (Part 1)

My mantra is to maximise potential in everything I do. I cannot stand to see businesses fail to capitalise on the opportunities that are available in their sector. This is particularly pertinent in the online world; Why is Friends Reunited not the success Facebook is? Why have online retailers not reacted better to Amazon's entrance and rapid growth in their sectors? And why do Virgin brands not dominate the SERPS?

With this in mind, I cannot understand why Yahoo! can't make any money. As an advertiser that invests considerably in paid search, I am willing Yahoo! and MSN to make inroads into the dominance of Google and reduce users and advertisers dependence on one engine. However, I continue to be frustrated with their inabilities to invest my budget prudently and effectively.

Exasperated at my efforts to get any answers from Yahoo! let alone any resolution to these issues, I want to highlight some of the ineffective elements to advertising with Yahoo! other advertisers with a view to putting some pressure on the internet giant to pick up the ball they have so clearly dropped.

I have been writing this post for the past few weeks and it is now turning into a thesis entitled "The ineffectiveness of Yahoo! search marketing for advertisers". Therefore, for the sake of my readers, I have split this post into three parts.

Part 1. Partner Sites

When you sign-up to Yahoo! paid search program, you sign up to have your adverts showing against keywords that users are searching for. If desired you can also sign up for the Yahoo! Content Network so that your adverts appear on websites with relevant content. These are the two options that Yahoo! tell about on signing up for a search marketing account:

There are two ways in which Yahoo! Search Marketing displays search results across their network – Sponsored Search and Content Match."

There is however a third option that Yahoo! keep relatively quiet. Partner sites use listings taken directly from the Yahoo! index to show alongside relevant content. An example of such a site listing can be seen on the results pages for price comparison site TravelSupermarket. These adverts are shown as they are targeted to the users search criteria. I am not signed up to the Yahoo! content network however, these listings are being provided by Yahoo! search.

This problem is exacerbated when you dig further into the sites that Yahoo! class as partners. For example, This site is not a search site. It is a spam site that is built with the sole purpose of making the owner money in a similar fashion to AFD. It offers no value to user. It is not search advertising, it is content advertising.

The bad news is that there is no opt out of this scheme. If you sign up to Yahoo! paid search, you are automatically defaulted into their network of partner sites. This is really poor for the advertiser. Not only are they forced to advertise on spammy websites but the metrics on standard keywords are influenced by the performance of these sites. When trying to optimise keyword performance on Yahoo! these sites must be taken into consideration.

For example, how does a site optimise for the keyword "car insurance" when the performance will vary so wildly across traditional search and these partner sites. Worse still, it is not possible to track these sites individually, so I cannot differentiate between the performance of "car insurance" as a partner listing on the desirable domain and the less desirable

Not many advertisers even know that these partner sites even exist. Others are more vocal about it. I would urge every advertiser to stop worrying so much about the amendment to the Google trademark policy and contact their Yahoo! representative about this scheme and ask them what value they see in advertising here.

Part 2 will focus on Yahoo! Mappings.

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