An earlier-than-expected launch in October for existing Yahoo advertisers has apparently gone well, since Yahoo today opened up the platform to new U.S. advertisers. The move will still be optional, and does not yet include the new ranking algorithm, which will be put in place in the first quarter.
Yahoo first provided details on Panama in May, with an intended launch in the third quarter. That launch date was pushed back to Q4 in July, drawing the ire of Wall Street. Yahoo pushed hard to have a launch of some kind ready for its October investor call to prevent a recurrence of that.
One of the underlying ideas of Panama is a desire to simplify the platform for new users, while retaining and building up advanced features for experienced users, according to John Slade, Yahoo's senior director of product management. To that end, Yahoo has made initial sign-up a 5-step process, which only asks advertisers for minimal details to get a campaign up and running quickly.
"We're not asking users to learn to use all the bells and whistles the first time. Our testing has shown that people are not interested in learning the full complexity right away," Slade said.
New users can get things rolling by providing regional targeting preferences, desired keywords, campaign budget, and ad copy for their first ad. Then the advertiser only needs to supply a credit card to launch the campaign. On subsequent log-ins, advertisers will be presented with the more advanced features.
Yahoo also streamlined its ad activation process, to get new ads online shortly after they are submitted, in most cases. Editorial guidelines will be maintained, Slade said, especially in certain sensitive categories.
The keyword selection algorithms are new to Panama, with collaborative filtering to recommend more relevant keywords, tailored to the campaign's budget. The system is designed to prevent advertisers who set a low budget from bidding on popular keywords that will be too expensive to be effective within that budget, Slade said. Tools that highlight the interactions between keywords, bid prices, and daily budgets are available, but not highlighted to first-time users.
Yahoo has created an extensive library of help content and tutorials, available in an Upgrade Center on its site.