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Get Your Search Campaigns Ready for the Yahoo/MSN Merger

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Now that all the regulating bodies have approved the Yahoo and MSN search merger, the official waiting begins. Nothing is happening immediately; actually, there are more unanswered questions about the intimate details.

Not to worry. We have at least until Q3 before some top advertisers will be migrated, assuming things go well. Even the official press release notes that they will wait until after Q4 and the retail holiday season if things aren't smooth.

While all the technical and practical details are being worked out, here are a few things you may want to think about.

Start Running on MSN Search

This isn't a sales pitch for MSN, but more a precautionary measure. My gut tells me that folks who don't already have some established quality score credit with MSN when everyone gets merged will be at a disadvantage.

The thought is this: the bid landscape will already be irrational as people try and make their way, and having some baseline of performance prior to this period will be a competitive advantage. Any quality score or historical data from Yahoo probably won't be moved to MSN. The data requirements of lining up the various systems are just too daunting; from match type variations, to the variances in ad copy destination URLs.

Blocking Referrers; Choosing Your Network

Having the ability to choose if you run on Yahoo only, or including their partner sites is coming soon. This is long overdue, and will help advertisers' performance.

However, Yahoo has taken it a step further and allowed advertisers to run on their partner network only. Now I'm not sure how many advertisers this will make sense for, but this additional targeting tool may help those niche players who want to bid specifically for a Yahoo network partner. This can be done by targeting the Yahoo partner network only, and then blocking referring sites that don't match their criteria.

The ability to block poor referring partner sites is something that has greatly improved our clients results, and is something that is differentiating in the marketplace today, even when compared to Google.

Yahoo is Testing Some Positive Betas

Similar to Google's Sitelinks, Yahoo is testing their version, known as Rich Ads in Search. These ads apply to top branded terms, and allow advertisers to provide deep links to their consumers to access specific promotions, or search their site.

These ads have recently been opened up to more advertisers, and are now CPC based versus a fixed cost model they used during the beta. Below are a few examples, as well as the impact on results we've seen early on.

Yahoo is promoting about a 25 percent increase in CTR. Expect these betas to be around for the long term. But even if they aren't, why pass up the volume while it's available?

Esurance Rich Ad

eBay Rich Ad

Indexed CTR by Day

It's still too soon to determine how this merger will impact the search landscape, and there's a lot of time still to figure it out. In the meantime, don't let innovation and change pass you by.

Testing will be more important than ever this year -- from basic ad copy testing to more advanced beta testing. As paid search becomes a more integrated part of your online media strategy, it isn't OK to accept it at face value.

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