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Preparing For 'MicroHoo'

  |  June 25, 2010   |  Comments

Search marketers should start preparing now for the Yahoo/Microsoft merger. Ensure that your transition plan has these important elements.

Based on my conversations with advertisers at recent conferences, many are unprepared for the coming MicroHoo adCenter transition and Yahoo Panama shutdown. Even if you feel prepared, your transition plan may be missing important elements. You may want to now consider reviewing this plan and getting started on the more labor-intensive elements of the transition.

Of course, there's no "slow time" in PPC (define) search advertising. Your to-do list is never-ending, and face-it: your adCenter account (if you have one, and I hope you do) has probably been neglected in comparison with your Google AdWords account. The good news is that the AdWords platform is more similar to Microsoft's platform than the Panama system was. Therefore, keeping your campaigns synced for launch and thereafter should be easier than ever before.

Before I launch into best practices for preparing for this transition, a public note to Microsoft. Please reconsider your decision to prohibit advertisers from bidding separately for Yahoo and Bing traffic (not to mention Yahoo syndicated traffic). For many advertisers, there's a material difference in the bids we would be willing to pay. While everyone recognizes the impossibility of breaking out specific syndication partners (such as InfoSpace or GoodSearch) from the largest two (Bing and Yahoo), there should be a bid-boost option from a base bid (perhaps Bing being the base bid and Yahoo being the modified bid, up or down).

While Yahoo and Microsoft have stated that there may be some organic search changes before mid-September (when, according to the announced plan, the adCenter paid ads will start to show up in Yahoo at about a 10 percent level of traffic), it will take a month to ramp up to 100 percent adCenter traffic. A great explanation of the Yahoo-Microsoft transition was released on video. Plus, Yahoo has been posting transition information on its blog.

If you don't currently have a Microsoft adCenter account, you don't absolutely have to get one before the transition. One of the transition options is to have your Yahoo account settings and campaigns converted to an adCenter account. However, I advise against that option and suggest instead that you open a new account now or, if you have one already, that you take a close look at whether this account is as well-rounded as your Google account. Speaking of Google, one of your options is to use a bulk sheet to either update your current adCenter account or use it to create an entirely new account. By the way, if you are a new U.S. advertiser to adCenter, Microsoft extended the $200 ad credit coupon codes that are available in my latest book, "Search Engine Advertising."

Transition Pain Points

Are you a "managed" or "self-service" advertiser? If your account is managed by an agency, chances are that - regardless of size - you'll get the Yahoo team as part of the service infrastructure for your campaign. Larger spending advertisers with existing Yahoo reps will also be serviced by Yahoo in the post-transition period, regardless of whether there's an agency involved. Self-service advertisers will have a bunch of tools and resources, but the account service and support infrastructure will all be on the Microsoft side. If you're in the spend range where your combined spending will push you into the level where you think you deserve a managed relationship, I recommend reaching out to Yahoo as soon as possible to attempt to establish a relationship.

DKI (dynamic keyword insertion): If you're a user of the Google DKI, you may want to take care in pushing a bulk upload into adCenter. Google allows for control of capital letters through the DKI syntax. For example:

  • keyword - No capitalization, all word(s) are in lower case.

  • Keyword - The first word is capitalized.

  • KeyWord - Every word is capitalized.

  • KEYword - Every letter in first word is capitalized.

  • KEYWord - Every letter in the first word and the first letter of the second.

  • KEYWORD - Every letter is capitalized.

While adCenter hasn't supported this method of controlling the capitalization of DKI-triggered ad creative in the past, they may decide that the large number of imported bulk sheets coming in over the next several months warrant a re-thinking of this feature. I haven't had a chance to speak to them about it specifically. You may lose your well-tuned capitalization strategy when synchronizing accounts that are heavily DKI-dependent.

Budget caps: You should revisit budget caps. No one knows exactly how all your competition will respond in the new ecosystem as the combined traffic make adCenter more important than ever. Bids may escalate along with traffic.

Changes in conversion: Assume that you know your Yahoo conversion rate (and other conversion values) and that of the Yahoo syndication network, as well as your Bing conversion rate, and you set your bids appropriately. One would expect that under the new combined platform, you'll have to set your bids based on the weighted average conversion value of the traffic, because you can't bid (or bid boost) separately for Yahoo or Bing traffic (as of this column date). However, the layout differences for the two SERPs (define) may make it difficult to determine the optimal bids as the relative traffic volumes from each engine may differ by position.

So, do your prep work now and just as you did in the first weeks and months of Panama, set aside some incremental budget to let you learn more quickly as the transition progresses. There may be some irrational bidding going on and you'll just have to sit tight and learn (or let your technology learn) where bids should be. I'm excited because after the integration is complete, the Microsoft team can get back to innovating and add in all the functionality and features we've been waiting for.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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