Among several enhancements are an offline editor and new options for rich ads in search.
Yahoo will soon begin rolling out an offline ad editor for its search marketing platform, the company said this week. The new product, long desired by search marketers, is one of several search enhancements the company has in the works.
Yahoo Search Marketing Desktop will make it much easier and faster to make bulk changes to an ad campaign, restructure a campaign, or expand one, according to David Pann, VP and GM of Yahoo's U.S. Search Advertising Business.
"The Search Marketing Desktop will allow advertisers to engage in more strategic thinking, and spend less of their time on repetitive tasks," Pann told ClickZ News. He said some advertisers have reported the time it takes to restructure an account has dropped from three hours to 30 minutes when using the tool.
Google's AdWords Editor tool has been available since early 2006, and many mid-sized search marketers have been clamoring for similar functionality from Yahoo ever since.
Yahoo's tool is available now in private beta, and will be rolled out to all advertisers early next year. Advertisers interested in trying out the tool should contact their account representatives, Pann said.
Down the road, the tool will also allow advertisers to export their campaigns to another ad platform. That feature will prove helpful if and when the proposed agreement with Microsoft passes regulatory approvals. That deal will leave Microsoft's adCenter powering all search ads for Yahoo advertisers.
In another enhancement, Yahoo will soon undertake a broader rollout of its Rich Ads in Search (RAIS) product, which launched earlier this year in the U.S. Until now, the video ads have only been sold to select advertisers on a flat-fee basis, outside of the Yahoo Search Marketing platform. Beginning next week, RAIS ads will be sold via cost-per-click (CPC) bidding. They will also utilize all of Yahoo's usual audience targeting capabilities, such as gender, age, Zip code, and time of day. They will still be limited to hand-selected advertisers, mostly large brand advertisers.
"We've improved the economics, the controls, and the functionality. When we started out, we weren't sure what we'd do, but they've become a huge success," Pann said, adding the best performing campaigns have seen click-through rates climb from 25 to 50 percent.
Giving advertisers more control over RAIS ads is a good start, but making them more broadly available could transform a successful experiment into a successful product, according to Shar VanBoskirk, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.
"Yahoo's rich search ads have really been an experiment to date with a handful of marketers using them. I think the improvements will make a huge difference to the development of RAIS, because they make it much easier to buy and deploy," VanBoskirk told ClickZ News.
However, VanBoskirk cautions that as long as Yahoo keeps tight limits on which advertisers are eligible to buy RAIS ads, they will be less successful.
A third enhancement, and one that should also be warmly welcomed by advertisers, is better control over ads and bids on Yahoo's partner network. Beginning in early 2010, advertisers will be able to create separate ad campaigns, with separate bids, for ads that appear on Yahoo only, on partner sites only, or on both Yahoo and partner sites.
If an advertiser finds that clicks from ads on partner network sites do not convert as well as those from Yahoo.com, they will be able to lower their bid for those ads, or tweak the messaging to try to improve their performance.
Yahoo has been testing the feature in Australia for the past month, and will begin working with tool providers utilizing Yahoo APIs in the U.S. to ensure the capabilities are included in third-party tools as soon as Yahoo is ready to launch them, Pann said.
While these changes are all likely to be welcomed by advertisers, they may not be enough for Yahoo to compete in today's search landscape, according to Forrester's VanBoskirk.
"Our research shows that 42 percent of consumers with Yahoo as their homepage actually leave Yahoo to search with Google. This means there is a huge lost opportunity for Yahoo among its already loyal customers," she said. "I think the new Yahoo.com is a fine first step, but won't adequately stave this flow of traffic from Yahoo.com."
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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