The Yahoo-Microsoft Search Alliance – Here We Go!

This week, it’s happening – the much-vaunted transition of Yahoo PPC traffic to the Microsoft Adcenter platform and the combination of the two programs. Not since the launch of Yahoo Panama back in early 2007 has there been such a momentous shift in the traditional PPC marketplace.

Yahoo and MSN have done a commendable job of preparing advertisers for the transition. It was announced nearly 18 months ago, and both engines have sent out continual communications and progress reports, using email, social media, in-person events, webinars, and information within the respective user interfaces. I attended the Search Alliance Summit in Seattle back in June, just prior to SMX Advanced. It was just a one-day seminar (and I missed the first half due to travel challenges), but it was jam-packed with useful information. Since then, I’ve received countless communications from both MSN and Yahoo, updating me on the change. Kudos to both for the great communication!

All that communication doesn’t mean much until launch, though. Now is the time where the rubber meets the road. We’ll finally get an answer to probably the biggest question on PPC advertisers’ minds: the traffic quality question. Will Yahoo’s historically-lower quality search partner traffic pull down results? Or will adCenter’s more robust matching & relevancy algorithms offset that? I for one remain skeptical – if I had to bet right now, I’d say that we’ll see a 30-40% decrease in results with the influx of Yahoo. I hope I’m wrong.

Another unknown is how well adCenter will transfer Yahoo’s icky Standard and Advanced match types into the more commonly-accepted Broad, Phrase, and Exact match. (Incidentally, I don’t think anyone is sad to see Standard and Advanced finally go away.) adCenter has provided information about how match types will be mapped, but I have my doubts. Even though it was 3 ½ years ago, I still remember how badly Yahoo botched the transition from the Overture platform to the Panama platform, and how long it took me to straighten out my PPC account. I was doing in-house SEM at that time; I shudder to think how arduous that task will be in an agency setting….

Finally, I would like to know when we will be able to set separate bids for Bing vs. Yahoo traffic. Frankly, I was stunned to discover that this option wasn’t baked in to the original Alliance plans. Advertisers have begged, pleaded and cajoled for more control in setting bids across networks since PPC first started. Why on earth this wasn’t part of the deal from day one is a mystery to me, and one that smacks of a money grab. (The official word from both Microsoft and Yahoo is that there were too many technical difficulties with building this functionality into the initial Alliance launch, but I’m not buying that. C’mon – you are Microsoft, aren’t you?)

We need this granularity in bidding. Traffic quality varies so widely from Yahoo to Bing, it’s not even funny. And it doesn’t always go the same way. We have a large B to B client who gets fantastic results from Yahoo – better than Google, even (higher traffic and a better CPA). However, their MSN campaign was a complete flop. They’re the only client we’ve ever turned off in MSN and left on in Yahoo. On the other side of the coin, we have clients who’ve flopped royally in Yahoo, but had huge ROI in MSN. And there are others who get consistent results across all 3 search engines. Regardless, I need the ability to bid appropriately based on traffic quality. Really, we all win when this happens!

What are you seeing so far with your Yahoo and MSN traffic?

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