If I were Yahoo Chief for Search Engine Marketing

Yes you read it right, what if i were Yahoo chief for Search Engine Marketing…
Well there are a couple of things that i would put as highest priorities

1. Improve Ads Targeting

Danny Sullivan wrote about how poor Yahoo Ads Targeting is and i couldn’t agree with him more.
For those who don’t know what ads targeting is: it simply means that if an advertiser bid for the keyword “flower”, he/she has an option to show ads to people who types in “red flower”, “flower in singapore” etc…
Technically this is what Google calls Broad Match, and Yahoo calls it Advanced Match.

Back to the topic of poor Ads Targeting, while i appreciate that implementing expanded match or broad match might be hard for multiple languages and Yahoo reached its limit even with English, i still do not understand why Yahoo Panama (code name for the “new” Yahoo Search Marketing platform) in SouthEast Asia only has exact match option 8 months after the official launch!
And in SouthEast Asia, advertisers can only bid on English keywords just like the US…

What “Exact Match Option” means is that advertiser’s ad will only be shown if user types in the exact search term as the keyword advertiser bids on.

Yahoo can keep arguing that they want to maintain relevancy, serve only the most targeted ads and having only exact match (standard match – in Yahoo vocabulary) helps to achieve that. However, the reality is who has the bandwidth to add in millions of search terms into the system to cover off every possible keyword variations.
It gets even worse because when you add in many long tail keywords, the system somehow manages to show you the message saying those long tail keywords are covered off by more generic terms so it ignores 70% of your newly added keywords! What is that about???
(Please correct me on this if i am wrong, btw)

Besides, Danny Sullivan rightly pointed out, Yahoo Advanced match (Broad Match) Option does not work properly even in the US.

If Advertiser ad does not appear => users have no chance to click on the ads => Search Engine earns nothing…

It’s as simple as that but after more than 8 months, after all the money throwing into affiliate program to promote Yahoo Search Marketing, running Ads on Google network, hiring more people to promote search, PR news here and there, nothing has changed.

Anyway, if you need detailed analysis on this, i suggest you read Danny Sullivan post above.

2. Ads Editor Software

I don’t know much about programming/online security and I do appreciate the fact that Yahoo does not own their portal 100% in every market so the decision making process can be long and complicated.

At the same time, in each local market, due to historical reason, the way Yahoo portal being monetized is different. The portal itself is being developed with different focus as well.

However, what i do know is this, it’s too painful to do bulk changes to an YSM account using Yahoo upload template.
Historically, Yahoo entered the Paid Search Arena much earlier than Google. However, Google already started Adwords Editor a couple of years back. Yahoo on the other hand, has nothing.
Is this because Yahoo chief is trying to come up with a perfect solution to compete with Google?
Are they afraid that they may “loose face” if their Ads Editor Software looks exactly like Google?

Well one thing for sure is the current upload template is a very big barrier for advertisers. It makes them less willing to optimize the campaign since bulk changes are just too painful.
As for smaller advertisers (the long tail), they probably just set up the campaign and then forget about it.
(Note: i know there are many bid management tools out there but how many advertisers know how to use them effectively and how many actually have access to these tools. What about changing in ad copies, add more keywords?)

Without regular optimization, Yahoo campaigns can’t produce good Return on Investment. In the end Advertisers just got fed up and blame Yahoo for not producing the same kind of results as Google. I see it many times before, it’s not entirely because Yahoo traffic is bad, it’s just the lack of continuous optimization.

The result: a lose lose situation for both Advertisers/Agencies and Yahoo. Advertisers/Agencies are not keen to spend more money on Yahoo since it does not produce good return. Yahoo shoots itself on the foot again simply because of losing revenue and more importantly the brand name in Search Marketing.

Just to make the matter worse, if you compare Yahoo importing template and Microsoft Ad Center template, Ad Center template is much more simpler and easier to use!
Normally what happens is that Advertiser/Agency will set up the campaign on Google first then after that convert them into Yahoo or MSN. I know this is hard for Yahoo folks to hear but it’s the truth!
So the easier it takes for advertisers/agencies to convert from the exporting format on Google side to either Yahoo/MSN uploading format, the better it is.
It takes me no more than 5-10 minutes to convert from Google format to MSN Ad Center format but hell Yahoo format is another story all together!

3. The Inability to buy across multiple Markets efficiently using one single Platform

While it’s a piece of cake to advertise across multiple markets on Google using Adwords, advertisers need to register for individual region on Yahoo.
For example, if advertiser wants to advertise in SouthEast Asia, Hong Kong and Japan, they need to contact 3 different teams. If you are lucky, you can get in touch with Yahoo international team and they can help to buy in Hong Kong and Japan 😛 so you end up dealing with two teams, do twice the paperwork (instead of three times)…

However, this option is not available for small advertisers because Yahoo in Japan has the minimum buy of USD $20k/month 🙂
If the amount you are going to commit is lower than that then there are nothing much the international team can help you with, you are on your OWN.

Alternatively, advertiser can go online and register for each region individually. With this option, just be aware of that there are some territories in which they do not accept international credit cards (Visa, Master Card, Amex etc..). The only way is to do bank transfer, which is extremely troublesome and time consuming…

Another problem with the current model by Yahoo is that each territory only offers the interface in local Language and English. Google offers local language interface for most languages in the world.
For example, Overture Japan only has the interface in English and Japanese so if advertiser can not speak either languages (Chinese Advertisers for ex), they can’t use Yahoo Search Marketing in Japan. And Japan happens to be one of a few territories where Yahoo still have larger search market share compared to Google.

Why the ability to advertise across multiple territories is important to any Search Engine?
Simply because it brings in Massive revenue!
Not only MNCs want to have regional campaign but even Medium enterprises as well.

4. Online Tool to estimate traffic

What happens right now across Asia Pac is that every time an agency needs to do proposal for a client, they need to contact Yahoo and ask them for it!
Yahoo will then take a couple of working days to come back with the proposal.
More often than not, revision or sense check is needed when you receive proposals from any Search Engine (Google, Yahoo, Baidu etc…) so a senior person needs to be involved and it probably costs another day or two.
(What i mean by revision or sense check is to make sure that what Search Engine proposes is in line with the client’s objectives. For example, the keywords are not too generic, cover all different aspects etc…)

How is this working model far from optimal?

Firstly, the waiting time is quite obvious from the explanation above.
Secondly, Yahoo needs to maintain a big group of people just to do proposal, churn out keywords and estimate traffic and it is costly to do that.
Whereas with Google’s model, more often than not agencies or smaller advertisers can generate some keywords and estimate traffic themselves. It’s faster and cost effective to Google

Besides advertisers often want to see different options like: the costing to advertise in one territory vs another. So with out an online automated tool, it simply costs Yahoo Editorial/Operation team huge amount of time and resources, just to satisfy a simple innocent query from client. (The chance of them going ahead with all possible options is slim).

5. Proper Editorial Policy, Reporting Functionality, Master Account (similar to Google MCC) and others

There are still many things that one can list down on how to improve Yahoo Search Marketing program. This post is getting too long so i won’t go too deep to any of the remaining issues.
Personally, I think that most of the major concerns from advertisers are listed here.

These issues are important because they not only help advertisers save time, have a successful campaigns but also can help Yahoo to bring in more revenue quickly.

Having said all of these, i must say it’s a privilege to have the chance to work with multiple Yahoo offices in Asia Pac region. Each office has an unique level of service and you will love it 🙂

Also, I have to admit that implementing the changes above is not at all easy and they may not be the most pressing issues for Yahoo at the moment.
Hey, they need to find a new CEO first.

Finally, after all of the hard work to improve YSM, If i were Yahoo Chief for Search Engine Marketing, i probably decide to sell it to Microsoft for some quick bucks 😀

It’s a beautiful weekend here in Singapore…

Cheers everyone,

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