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Details on How the Yahoo/MSN Merger Will Affect Your PPC Campaign

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Last month Frank Watson wrote a helpful article explaining the upcoming Microsoft and Yahoo Search Alliance transition in regards to customer service duties and approximate consolidation timeline. After talking with my Yahoo Search Marketing customer representative the other day, I thought it would be helpful for everyone if I dive into some nitty-gritty details about the upcoming merger and what this means for your adCenter and Yahoo PPC accounts.

Distribution Channel Selection and Reporting

Unlike other PPC distribution options such as search partner networks or content (display) networks where you can opt-in or out, you will not have the option to choose whether your ads appear on only Yahoo or Bing; it's all or nothing.

You With Yahoo

Within your newly merged adCenter account, your PPC advertisements will be displayed on both Bing and Yahoo search results pages (SERPs).

You may have discovered from your own historical performance, Yahoo and Bing have different audiences and their ROI can vary greatly. I have worked with clients in the past where our results in one of these search engines were strong and the other was lackluster. When this occurred, we adjusted our budgets accordingly to gain the best results.

After the merger, you won't have this option. You either display ads on both search engines or neither of them.

I guess it make some sort of twisted sense that if you can't opt-in or out of either search engine, why provide this level of reporting? The data displayed within your merged adCenter account will contain an aggregate of your Yahoo and Bing performance for each keyword and ad text. You won't be able to monitor the performance of a keyword specifically in Yahoo or Bing.

Keyword Match Type Transition and Mapping

The Yahoo Search Marketing interface provides two matches: standard and advanced. AdCenter provides three match types, similar to Google AdWords: exact, phrase, and broad. When keywords are moved from Yahoo to adCenter, their match type will have to be transitioned.

In Yahoo Search Marketing, the keyword match types are managed at the campaign and ad group level. So, in one ad group all of your keywords are the same match type.

Standard match type keywords will be transitioned to exact match in adCenter. Advanced match keywords will be transitions to broad match keywords in adCenter. The keyword match type transition will look similar to this:

Match Types

If your Yahoo account is transferred directly into adCenter you'll need to make significant changes to your keyword strategy.

Singular Plural Variations of Truck

For example, the canonicalization of keywords in Yahoo Search Marketing maps the singular and plural variations and common misspellings to the primary form of the keyword.

Common Misspellings

Within adCenter, the singular, plural and common misspellings are treated as individual keywords and need to be bid upon and managed separately. If you bid on the keyword "truck," you will also need to add all of the variations to your account.

Excluded Keywords Options

Both interfaces allow you to implement negative keywords. However, they offer different limits on how many negative keywords you can add to your account. AdCenter offers a wider range of options for this tactic. If you transfer your Yahoo directly into adCenter, you can expand your negative keyword list.

For example, Yahoo's limits on negative keywords:

  • Account level = 500
  • Campaign level = 1,250
  • Ad group level = 500

AdCenter limits on negative keywords:

  • Campaign level = thousands
  • Ad group level = thousands
  • Keyword level = 1,024 characters

When moving a Yahoo account into adCenter, excluded keywords will transition over at the same level, except account-level excluded words, which will be set to the campaign level in adCenter.

Geo-Targeting Differences

The tactics for which you can target specific geographic locations differs between the two PPC interfaces. Therefore, when you transition between accounts, you should make adjustments accordingly.

In Yahoo Search Marketing you have the ability to target campaigns and/or ad groups by:

  • Market
  • Country
  • State
  • DMA
  • City
  • ZIP code

Within Yahoo Search Marketing the location of a user is determined by:

  • Geo-modified queries
  • ULM/registration data
  • IP address

Geographic targeting and user location determination functions differently in adCenter. With adCenter, you can target campaigns by:

  • Country/region
  • State/province
  • Metro area
  • City

Also, the user location for an adCenter visitor is determined solely by IP address.

Ad Copy Length Differences

In Yahoo Search Marketing, your headlines can be up to 40 characters in length. In adCenter, headlines are allotted only 25 characters.

If any ad's headline exceeds this 25 character limit at the time of transition, that headline will be truncated and transitioned as inactive. I'm not certain how the headline will be truncated so this is something you'll certainly have to monitor. The adCenter team may completely rewrite your headline or they may just cut out a few words. Either way, it's a bad deal for your ad and you need to act accordingly.

Updated Transition Timeline

Search Alliance Timeline

According to the document I received from Yahoo last week, the account transitions are still slated for the month of October. Accounts are to be provisioned in August; campaigns will be staged in September; and the ad serving transition will take place in October.

The caveat that persists is that the transition is going as planned and if it looks as if accounts will not be migrated before the holiday season, the YSM/adCenter team may defer the transition until 2011. Right now, the Alliance team is releasing materials as if it's full-steam ahead and you should plan accordingly.

Maybe the Best Tip Possible for the Transition?

Hopefully, all of the account transitions will go smoothly and advertisers won't feel too much discomfort during the change.

However, I have one tip that is pretty straight forward and should save you a lot of headaches. To avoid all of these account merger issues, you should just open an adCenter account now and build it exactly how you want it. If you already have an adCenter account, then you're already covered and you won't need to do anything.

Search Alliance Timeline

In August or September, when you log in into your Yahoo Search Marketing account, you'll see a screen similar to the above. On this screen, you'll have three options. If you already have an active adCenter account, then you won't need to do anything.

If you choose option three for the transition (and you should) then you should receive a notification when your Yahoo Search Marketing account has stopped distributing ads and these search queries have been transitioned to your adCenter account.

Yes, PPC managers are in for a bumpy ride but hopefully this information will help smooth out the road for you in the coming months.

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