Tuesday, January 06, 2009
You can take the Yahoo out of the country...but you can't take the GoTo out of Yahoo?
Our industry seems rather talked out these days, but if you look hard enough, there is actually some discussion of Yahoo's recent terms-and-conditions update for the search marketing program, the crazy one that gives Yahoo the right to go in and "optimize" your search marketing account unilaterally. As benign as it may appear internally, and as infrequently as "bad" incursions may take place, a line has been crossed. Why is the line so obvious to the rest of us, and so invisible to Yahoo? Where does the buck stop, there? What spokesperson is willing to stand up and explain or defend this policy?
As difficult as the Google AdWords environment has proven to be for many advertisers, and as revenue-focused and self-serving as some AdWords features may be, I've always defended Google against unfair criticism by comparing their approach to that of their competitors. When it comes to hard-to-follow features, matching options, traffic segments seen as undesirable by many, and so forth, Google has usually gotten around to adding the crucial element to the advertiser-publisher relationship: the opt-out. Know which boxes to check or uncheck? Understand how to get reporting breakdowns by segment? Then you can protect yourself from getting hosed by Google and their partners. A high percentage of advertisers don't know how to protect themselves against things like Automatic Matching (or even what that means), but at least the opt-outs are available.
Although pretty heavy-handed in some cases, this also goes for Google's "optimization suggestions." While Google is pushing the "room for improvement" notifications a little too hard, in my opinion, at least they don't reserve the right to jump into your account and make the changes arbitrarily.
Yahoo has a long history of making it harder to opt out of various traffic segments. Always behind, bringing up the rear, being dragged kicking and screaming into offering superior targeting options to advertisers by the progressive force in the space (Google). Panama was a fine platform aimed at playing catchup, but came very late to the scene. Geotargeting is just one element that Yahoo brought late to the party, and even then, it wasn't ready for prime time.
Why does all this matter?
The search marketing and digital marketing industries have very little going for them if not for credibility and accountability. Today we have a golden opportunity to stand out and contrast with traditional marketing during the present weak-economy-driven "flight to accountability." A shame, then, wherever the story we have to tell has to be tempered with red-faced shuffling of feet: "oh, well, that part's still kind of shady... sorry."
And just look around at the negative examples in other walks of life: folks who clearly didn't get the concept of an opt-out check-box:
Bernie Madoff to investors:
Do you want your life savings to be placed into a Ponzi scheme and stolen by myself?
YES ___ YES ___
Rod Blagojevich to Illinois voters:
Would you like me to make Illinois a laughingstock by transforming this high office into the "eBay of government corruption"?
YES ___ YES ___
It would be a shame to conclude that waning levels of discussion and debate (and outrage) in our industry mean we've become immune to hypocrisies and arbitrary measures, based on a steady stream of "corruption news" in industry and government. Saying nothing is easier. But it guarantees that the imaginary "line" gets blurrier and blurrier, in all of our dealings. At a certain point that makes it difficult to function at all. (Book recommendation on this subject: Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust.)
There is some hope. Andy Beal's post about Yahoo garnered the highest number of comments in the blago... sorry, blogosphere. Now if we can call on Danny for a well-placed f-bomb or two, well, all four of us remaining protesters will focus on looking good for the videocams as the digital powers that be bulldoze us six feet under and subsequently remove the evidence from YouTube (for a TOS violation).
Still not convinced this is important?
Let's look at some other billing relationships and how the provider might just "give you a helping hand":
- Your cellphone provider: "We reserve the right to phone your ex, tell them you're miserable, and to transfer those stored photos of you sobbing, to their phone."
- Your "Healthy Optimized Meal Plan" delivery service: "In place of your gourmet meal, we reserve the right to send you apple pies and/or bales of hay."
- Your dentist: "If we think it'll make you look better, we reserve the right to replace real teeth with gold ones. Matching gold-look chains: complimentary! (Platinum: extra charge.)"
- Your cable company: Hmm, forget this one. I'm pretty sure whatever it is, they're already doing it to you.
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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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