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Goodbye, Yahoo: 4 Things I'll Miss About Panama

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Yahoo's departure from the world of paid search advertising is a game-changing event. There will be huge efficiencies, because now brands and agencies will only have to mange two major paid search platforms.

But despite Bing's recent success and Google's overall dominance, there are pieces of Yahoo's Panama platform that I'm really going to miss. Some are large and some are small, but each is something that one or both of the remaining major paid search platforms aren't doing -- but should be.

1. Partner Domain Transparency and Exclusion

Search traffic doesn't just come from the search engines -- a significant portion is provided by partner sites. The problem is that many of these partner sites simply don't convert very well. We saw significant issues a year and a half ago when Microsoft adCenter added Facebook and TinyPic to their paid search ad distribution -- our impressions spiked, our click-through rate (CTR) went down, and our cost-per-click (CPC) jumped up.

Yahoo's Panama is the only paid search platform that lets you see partner site traffic by domain for your campaigns and opt out on a domain-by-domain basis. While this is a common feature for the other engines' content networks, no platform besides Yahoo offers it for paid search.

This is an awesome feature. The week it launched I was able to whittle off a large portion of low-performance traffic and thus allocate my spend more effectively -- in addition to improving quality score and lowering CPCs.

Google cleverly calculates quality score based only on traffic from Google.com, which is an excellent way to prevent poor performance on their partner sites from increasing your CPCs. However, you can only opt in or out of the Google AdWords partner network on an all-or-nothing basis. Google has domain level reporting and filtering for content ads, so there's no technological hurdle that's keeping them from rolling this out to paid search.

Microsoft adCenter doesn't offer any option to exclude partner sites -- but they've apparently taken note of this feature from Panama and are rolling out distribution options and domain exclusion capabilities in the near future.

The day this feature goes live I'll be getting into the office early to take advantage of it!

2. Alt Text

I can't believe Google hasn't added this feature yet.

Keyword Insert is a fantastic tool, allowing you to customize your ads very effectively and improve your CTR. However, it also contains a trap that I've fallen into several times. If your AdGroup contains misspelled keywords (or even variations that aren't "brand friendly") you run the risk of having these typos appear in your keyword insert ads.

Microsoft offers an effective if cumbersome solution with its {Param2} and {Param3} features, but this requires filling in these columns for every single keyword. However, Yahoo's solution was much more elegant: Simply fill in the alt text column next to any questionable keywords with the text you want to appear when those keywords trigger an ad with Keyword Insert. If this column is blank, Panama uses the actual keyword -- if you fill something in, it uses that.

With Google, the only solution is to remember to not use Keyword Insert in any ad groups that contain misspellings (or keywords you don't want to appear in your ad). This means an extra step each time you load new ads, not to mention the potential for embarrassing mistakes.

3. The Ability to Upload Changes via the UI

OK, I know I lost a lot of you with this one. But bear with me for a minute.

AdWords Editor and the adCenter Desktop tool are fantastic. They put the power to manage your campaigns at your fingertips. There's even a smartphone version of AdWords Editor now, for managing your campaigns on the go! It's hard to imagine going back to the old days of sending upload sheets to your reps or making changes one by one in the UI.

...until these tools break.

It seems like the adCenter desktop tool crashes and burns at least once a week. And Google's tool isn't that much better -- for the past year if you had a mobile-targeted campaign in your account it would crash every time you tried to post.

The good news is this issue has been fixed with the most recent update. The bad news is this update caused the program to stop working for a day and a half (an eternity in the world of paid search).

And that's not counting all the times I've kicked off a huge post before leaving work, only to come in the next morning and find it only two percent complete with an unhelpful error message staring me in the face.

I'm not saying that Yahoo's desktop tool doesn't have these issues. But the thing Yahoo has that neither Google nor Microsoft offer is the ability to upload account-wide changes via the UI. Admittedly, the Yahoo upload template is one of the most confusing, unintuitive things ever -- but once you learn it, it just works.

In the past few weeks I've had to send several upload sheets to my Google and Microsoft reps and beg them to load them ASAP in order to turn off old sale creative, update bids, or hit launch dates. I can't remember the last time I had to bother my Yahoo rep with such a request.

4. A 71 Character Limit For Ads

Google AdWords is the dominant paid search platform, and competitors recognize that. Most people build their Google campaigns first and then adapt them to the other engines. Yahoo and Microsoft both strive to make this process of porting campaigns from Google as easy as possible.

Last spring Yahoo quietly rolled out a brilliant tweak that expanded the character limit for paid search ads from 70 characters to 71 characters. While this may not sound too exciting, consider that Google ads consist of two lines of creative that each have a 35 character limit. If you write your ads in Google first and then port them to the other engines (concatenating the two lines of creative together with a space in between), it's possible to wind up with a 71 character ad description.

Until this tweak, 71 character ads were one more thing I had to remember to go back and adjust before making my Yahoo uploads. By simply expanding the ad description limit by one character, Yahoo eliminated a step and made it that much easier to deploy new ads.

While this isn't a game-changer, every little step Microsoft can take to simplify porting Google uploads over will mean more time available to actually analyze and optimize campaigns, leading to better results and more money spent on their platform.

So that's my list. Which Yahoo Panama features are you going to miss? And who can help me pass this list along to Google and Microsoft?

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