Monday, May 08, 2006
If you're a Yahoo Search Marketing advertiser, you've seen the email by now outlining the New Sponsored Search. The features are interesting, but the most important piece of info for advertisers, pundits, and Wall Street alike is the launch date: "Fall."
Practically speaking, then, you're stuck with the old platform for another 6-7 months. Don't let your campaign lie fallow waiting all that time while competitors pick up leads. It's possible to make the old system work.
Let's turn to some comments on the new features.
Fixing the awful control panel: well, yeah, we knew that would be at the top of the list. Seeing what you're supposed to see, quickly... it's just tablestakes isn't it?
Fast ad activation: that's an interesting twist (AdWords-like). It contrasts with the "order" system of the new MSN adCenter, which has "Overture-like" editorial approval. We'll see if the Yahoo human infrastructure deals well with the new automation -- I would expect it to help them in their jobs.
Ad testing: always one of the most awesomest features of AdWords. We can't wait.
Geotargeting: will affect a significant percentage of advertisers.
Comparisons with competitors; "quality index"; this one is murky, and not sure whether I like it. Being benchmarked against competitors largely based on CTR is certainly to the advantage of the search engines, but you worry that advertisers will be given bad advice on how to "improve" their campaigns. Even with lower CTR's hurting position on the page, it is possible that a higher ROI might result. As usual, the advertisers who track best, will do best. Wonder if they've got dynamic keyword insertion lurking in the wings, too?
Yahoo plans to offer a blog, and regular articles giving you the "inside scoop" from staff on how to best take advantage of the system. Kudos. As always we'll be here (and there) with the "outside scoop" (unbiased, third party advice) -- which is always sorely needed.
Broad takeaway: it looks like a me-too product, but a much better one, so it's going to be well received.
Broader takeaway: that Yahoo is creating a new product with such a distinct flavor, and getting buy-in from its team, adds momentum to the #2 player and seems to put pressure on MSN, the #3. In spite of adCenter's many cool features, the emergence of a new Yahoo system reinforces the fact that MSN will be playing catchup.
The real battle, in any case, is for search market share -- if all three platforms are reasonably robust. Distribution (reach) and quality of reach (mostly search) has always been the main driver of online advertisers' time and money decisions. There's a bit of an opening for MSN on the content targeting and general ad serving front, obviously, as Y and G haven't particularly distinguished themselves in those areas. Certainly there is room for a different approach.
I had been wondering if Yahoo and MSN might try to team up to be Google Killers... but now it looks like the cultures of these organizations are different enough, and both are confident enough, that it is at least a couple of years before either admits they need help. Similarly, Ask.com is still in its optimistic Diller's-Here phase, so in spite of the logic of it being snatched up by one of the three leaders, that's probably not in the cards for awhile yet either.
Which means: reps from all these companies will be trying to convince advertisers to buy direct from them, which will mean a lot of noise and unfortunately extra effort from marketers. Even Ask, as a fourth player, cannot be ignored as an ad buy because a direct buy with them is placed in premium positions (Google ads are placed at the bottom of the page). But as 1-2% of many advertisers' volume, many will indeed ignore it.
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Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.
And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.
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