Assuming a day comes when regulators have given their blessing, when Yahoo's technology and ad teams have been merged with Microsoft's, and when both companies finally flip the switch that will bring Bing search to Yahoo's half a billion global users, what happens then? Will advertisers suddenly boost their ad spend with the combined entity?
The answer, according to an informal ClickZ poll, is no. Or rather, not necessarily.
When asked, in light of the outsourcing agreement, "will you increase your search spend with Microsoft/Yahoo?", 63 percent said they would not. "No" votes were cast by 169 out of a total 267 respondents.
Their reasons are complicated. Despite general optimism that the agreement will establish a viable competitor to Google, search advertisers are fearful that some of their favorite Yahoo search advertising functions may disappear. And, ever attuned to ROI, they say it wouldn't make sense to pledge to increase investment before first testing how their Microsoft adCenter-created campaigns perform on Yahoo and on Yahoo's syndication partners.
"We have to step back and look at this increased share with Bing and see how it's performing," said Rob Garner, search strategy director at iCrossing. "We are certainly going to hope that it's for the positive, so we have a viable channel to go to that's still high performing."
But Garner believes it's not safe to assume campaigns that perform well in Bing will necessarily do so on Yahoo. "We're not advocating for one engine," he said. "We're advocating for the client as to where is the best place for performance for search engine ad spend."
Garner's not alone. In a blog post yesterday, search agency 360i warned of the possibility for keyword price inflation as more buyers flood adCenter with bids. On the other hand, improved relevance resulting from the influx of search data might increase conversion rates and ROI, it said.
Finally, some are uneasy about the integration. As ClickZ reader Meg Walker noted in a comment yesterday, "Since I do both SEO and PPC, I'm disconcerted by the choices for what will control which. Yahoo Site Explorer is a great tool for SEO, and Bing's webmaster tools are rudimentary at best."
Microsoft and Yahoo have sought to put such worries to rest. In an interview with ClickZ yesterday, Microsoft SVP Yusuf Mehdi said with time the better of Yahoo's products would make their way into the Bing and adCenter experiences.
"Yahoo's done a lot of fantastic work...across both algorithmic and paid search," he said."It's safe to say we'll incorporate the best [technologies]."
But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the proverb applies especially well to search marketers.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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