Microsoft Bids To Buy Yahoo

Huge news that broke late yesterday – this is all over the blogosphere and mainstream media, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it here – Microsoft has made a bid to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion.

Of course, this is not yet a done deal, although my opinion is it’s as good as done. The ramifications are yet to be determined, and speculation abounds as to what will happen and what the effect will be on SEM. Some think the impact will be huge – and some, like Marketing Quickee, think it’s, well, not so huge.

Here’s my short wish list: Please use the Panama interface for PPC! Don’t make us suffer with adCenter any longer than we have to! Incorporate some of the good features from adCenter (demographic targeting, for one), but please use Panama! It’s come too far to throw away.

As for the bigger picture, I’ll save that for another post – I am trying to get some “real” work done today, after all!

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And The Most Improved PPC Engine of 2007 Is…

Yahoo. Yes, Yahoo. A year ago, I’d never have guessed I’d be picking Yahoo as the most improved, but indeed, they’ve done it. Looking at where Yahoo was a year ago with the old Direct Traffic Center vs. where they are today with Panama and all the improvements, it’s been an unbelievable road upward.

Yahoo’s Panama interface rolled out in January 2007, much to the joy of SEMs. The old Direct Traffic Center was clunky, slow, and difficult to use. Panama incorporated many features that had come to be seen as standard: campaigns, ad groups, multiple ad creatives, and other basic PPC features, all in a tidy, Ajax-powered system.

At this time, though, Yahoo was still the lone holdout of the major PPC engines to use the straight auction model for ranking ads. But that was about to change, too. In early February, Yahoo’s new ad ranking model rolled out, which used Quality Index in addition to bids to rank ads.

These two changes alone would have been enough to get my vote for Most Improved, but Yahoo took things even further. They streamlined and improved their Bulk Upload process. What was once a difficult feature to use became probably THE feature I most depend on now for managing Yahoo accounts. Yahoo also introduced their “Import Campaigns from Third Parties” feature – another critical tool in my campaign management arsenal.

Then, in October, the moment we all had been waiting for finally happened: Yahoo launched Domain Blocking. This was probably the single biggest feature missing from the Panama platform, and the one in which Google continued to kick Yahoo’s posterior. Not any more. Finally!

There were more features, even, that I haven’t mentioned. They’re summarized on the YSM Blog in their Year In Review post.

For me, the bottom line is this: Google is still king of the PPC hill, but Yahoo made by far the biggest strides in 2007. I can’t wait to see what 2008 will bring!

PS, you can cast your vote on the most improved engine of ’07 by commenting here, or by voting at the Search Engine Watch thread.

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Yahoo To Offer PPC Domain Blocking

Yahoo announced Monday that they will be offering Domain Blocking to their YSM PPC advertisers beginning later this month.

This is great news for advertisers. Yahoo, like Google, has a search network consisting of many different sites. Most of the partner sites perform well for most advertisers. However, there are some bad apples in the bunch, and up until now, it’s been difficult if not impossible to block such sites from showing your ads. With domain blocking, the power is in the advertisers’ hands to block domains that don’t perform for them.

This is a long-awaited feature that advertisers have been requesting for a long time. I’m glad it’s finally about to become a reality.

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YSM Custom Reports

Yesterday, I was catching up on my news and blog feeds after last week’s vacation, and I ran across a brief blurb in the YSM Blog about their “new custom reports.” It’s at the end of this post.

Well, needless to say, I was very excited to hear that Yahoo had finally gotten on the custom report bandwagon. The lack of any kind of custom reporting has been one of the big failings of the new Panama interface. Alas, however, my enthusiasm was severely dampened when I logged in to my account to set up custom reports.

As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I’d even call the new features “custom reporting.” “Enhanced,” maybe, but not custom. You’re still stuck with the 8 pre-built reports – there’s no way to add or delete columns to create a truly custom report. So, if you’re like me and currently have to run two or three different reports, upload them to Access, and run a query to get the data you need, well, you’ll still have to do that. The only real enhancement is that now you can save your report configuration. For example, if you always want to look at daily performance for the past 30 days, you can save a report that will do that, instead of having to manually select that date range every time you run the report. This is nice, but certainly not earth-shattering.

Custom reporting is one area where Google just kicks their competitors’ collective back sides right out of the park. Not only do you have almost total control over what data appears in your Google reports, but you can use parameters such as “only keywords with greater than 100 clicks” and things like that. You can run reports for only Active ads. You can set a specific start day for the week, such as “the week starting last Wednesday.” This particular feature is huge for me, because our fiscal weeks start on Wednesdays. With Google, I just set up a recurring report that runs for Wednesday through Tuesday, and I’m good to go. With the rest, I have to manually put in the actual dates. It wastes valuable time, especially when I’m running the same report week after week.

I’m glad Yahoo has made the improvements they did, but for those of us who are used to Google’s Custom Reports, Yahoo still has a long, long way to go.

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Yahoo Keyword Insertion Nonsense

We’ve all heard about the eBay ads on Google that use keyword insertion for everything – you know, “buy used fish on eBay,” etc. It’s become a big SEM joke.

I was searching for the name of this blog on Yahoo just now, just to make sure I’m ranking for it (I am). I found this lovely specimen. Look at the second sponsored ad:

(To see for yourself, just go to Yahoo and search for “beyond the paid” without the quotes.)

Huh? As far as I can tell, this is an ad for a service selling “Top 25″ lists, and the ad is supposed to be say “legitimate {keyword} for serious {keyword}.” Which is still terrible ad copy. What if I searched for, say, “stock certificates”?

2007 Top 25 Stock Certificates
Legitimate Stock Certificates for Serious Stock Certificates

It still doesn’t make sense! Even if I searched for something like “investments,” it wouldn’t make sense. “Legitimate investments for serious investments”??

Clearly this advertiser has no idea how keyword insertion works. Either that, or they chose that option by mistake when they created their ad group. Either way, this is one reason why keyword insertion should be used with caution, and only when you fully understand how it works!

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It’s Here: “Mastering Panama” Handbook

Mona Elesseily of Page Zero Media has published a must-read handbook on Yahoo Search Marketing’s Panama system, “Mastering Panama: A Special Report on Yahoo!’s New Search Marketing Platform.”

I ordered my copy yesterday, so I haven’t read it yet – but knowing Mona and the Page Zero team, it’s bound to be great. Mona is one of the top authorities on Panama and YSM in general. And she and Andrew Goodman haven’t let me down yet. I first bought Andrew’s Google Adwords e-book back in 2002 when we started with Adwords, and my copy of “Winning Results” is dog-eared and well-used. These two know their stuff, and their publications should be part of every good SEM’s library.

If I wasn’t already excited about Mona’s book, the closing paragraph on the Page Zero website clinches it:

“Cue the Van Halen guitar riffs. Get ready to rock your Y!SM campaigns this fall.”

Oh. Yeah.

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Yahoo Search Marketing Bulk Uploads In 10 Easy Steps

Managing a large PPC account can be, and often is, a full-time job. With thousands of ads, keywords, and creatives, simply updating product offerings can take hours each week. Add to that the constantly changing landscape of PPC and you’re looking at real headache potential.

Luckily, all the major engines have tools to help ease the pain. One such tool is the bulk upload spreadsheet, which is the fastest way to make mass changes to a PPC account. Instead of having to navigate the user interface on the Web, you can create and edit ad groups in Excel, using all its function tools, and then just upload the finished product to the engine.

Bulk upload spreadsheets have been around since Yahoo Search Marketing was still Overture. In fact, Overture had a bulk upload feature before Google did, and it was a great tool. I used it regularly to add and change PPC listings.

Then, along came Yahoo’s Panama, with a new interface and a new spreadsheet. Yahoo conducted several webinars about Panama, including one on the bulk upload sheet (on this page, titled “Importing Campaigns Overview.”).

Great idea, right? I thought so, and I was eager to see the new tool in action. Well….. I consider myself a power Excel user – I use Excel more than any other Microsoft Office program, and I’m pretty good at it. Yet, I was lost about 5 minutes into the bulk upload webinar. It was so frustrating, I just gave up and started making changes manually – a very time-consuming process. Others agreed that the bulk upload tool was just too hard to figure out.

Well, I finally got tired of all the typing, and decided to buckle down and learn how to use the bulk upload. I’m glad I did, especially in view of the fact that Yahoo now requires short descriptions on all their ads.

I started with Yahoo’s instructions for importing campaigns, but they’re somewhat daunting. Here are 10 easy steps to a successful Yahoo bulk upload:

1. If possible, edit only one campaign at a time. Don’t download your entire account – you’ll have to do a lot of filtering in Excel, and that means lots of error potential.
2. To download a campaign, from within the campaign you want to edit, just click the link that says “download campaign.”
3. Open the file and save it to your hard drive as an Excel (xls) file. You’ll need to change this format later, but you’ll want full use of all of Excel’s features while editing.
4. Make your changes – adding short descriptions, turning Content on or off, editing copy, etc. One of the best uses of the bulk upload sheet is for adding keyword-level URLs. This is painful in the interface, but simple via bulk upload using the Copy and Concatenate functions.
5. To delete a keyword or ad group, just delete those rows from the spreadsheet.
6. To add keywords or ad groups, add them to the spreadsheet. You’ll need to be careful and follow the Ad GroupAdKeyword convention, though – use an existing ad group as a template. Just make sure to leave the Ad ID, Keyword ID, Checksum, and Error Message columns blank!
7. Once you’ve made all your changes, you’ll need to save the file as Unicode Text. But, make sure to give it a .csv extension! Excel wants to save Unicode Text files as .txt, but that’ll cause errors when you try to upload the file.
8. Go back into the YSM interface, to the Campaigns tab, and click Import. Then just follow the instructions from there to upload your file.
9. It only takes a few seconds to upload, and the interface will tell you if there are errors. If you got errors, go back to the Help section and see if you can figure them out!
10. Don’t forget to check the Editorial Status section to see if any of your changes are waiting there. Usually they’ll go through in a day or so, but it’s good to know what’s pending there, just in case.

That’s it! It’s really not that hard once you do it a few times. I’ve started using this function for almost all my ad edits lately.

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