Planning for Panama, Part 2

Yahoo’s Panama is coming. The more prepared you are, the more you can take advantage of what it has to offer. Yahoo is still the number-two search engine and network, so the time and money you invest in making your campaigns Panama-friendly will definitely pay off.

This week, we continue planning and strategizing for phase one of Panama: the Direct Traffic Center (DTC) user interface; enhanced targeting; and campaign structure. We’ll also prepare for phase two, the algorithmic change that moves away from a straight auction toward a relevance (as measured by predicted CTR) and price hybrid auction, similar to Google and MSN.

To prepare for phase one, you must understand the new feature sets and how they can help you immediately and, more important, how they’ll make your ads score better under the algorithm changes when they occur.

First, do you move your current Yahoo keyword lists and creative into an AdGroup structure, or do you import the entire campaign structure from Google? Not an easy decision. You (or your SEM agency or even the Google Maximizer team) may have already invested significant time and energy in optimizing Google creative for relevance and CTR (define). Chances are you’re still working to find that perfect balance between promotional relevant copy and the back-end conversion rate. You probably learned nothing beats true relevance.

On the other hand, there are reasons to stick with your Yahoo keyword lists if they’re current. Unlike Google, Yahoo doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural instances of a term, so a direct Google import might require some manual sorting and tuning before it’s optimized for the new Yahoo structure. Also, you may have gone through the trouble of keeping long descriptions of 190 characters for the Yahoo partners that choose to display extended creative.

If you choose to import a campaign from another engine, Yahoo made this easier with an upload feature and a conversion wizard. Both should speed the process.

Let’s assume you want to create a campaign from scratch in the new DTC. The campaign creation process in the new system will be an easy wizard process. After naming a campaign, you can select specific regions to display the ad in. Most marketers consider geotargeting a tool for regional marketers. Don’t make this mistake. Customers are different in different parts of the country because they either respond to different offers, or deliver more or less profit.

Consider tuning campaigns by geography in all the major engines. Yahoo delivers a great geotargeting interface for campaign creation. A map accompanies a set of selection criteria including Zip Code, with a radius search and a designated marketing area (DMA) targeting option. The map really helps visualize the targeted area.

After selecting national or geotarget, you’ll be asked to select the distribution network: search, content, or both. This means you can set up a search-only, a contextual-only, or a combined campaign. This is great, because the right listings and landing page creative may be quite different depending on whether a consumer’s searching or surfing. Yahoo provides the option to create separate campaigns.

Keyword research tools have been improved from the tried-and-true inventory estimator to make both expansion and negative keyword insertion easier to implement. After selecting keywords, you can set a bid at the AdGroup level and see total raw click estimates or share of available clicks (as a percentage) in a graphical estimation tool. No doubt this feature exists to encourage higher bids, in the same way position does in the current system.

Similarly, when setting budget caps, you’re shown estimated missed impressions and missed clicks. This provides a numerical and visual cost to not increasing the bid. The new budget cap process, which adds campaign-level budgeting as an option, is a vast improvement over the current system. Advanced match remains a combination of phrase and broad match, based on screen shots shared with me. (I know more, but Yahoo’s nondisclosure agreement is killer tight.)

Reporting is improved as well. Graphs accompany charts and tables. Yahoo has also adopted something I’ve been preaching for years: the buying-funnel concept. Yahoo calls it “assists” (using sports vernacular). Most marketers won’t use Yahoo tracking pixels and instead will have to rely on more sophisticated campaign management or Web analytics packages to understand how the assist concept fits into their strategy.

Included in the new reporting system are detailed reports on any A/B creative testing underway. The ability to test listing creative is critical. You must understand which message will get the highest CTR because, come next year, Yahoo, like the other engines, will assign you a predicted CTR based on historical performance and estimated relevance. Think about testing creative now. Put some ads in the can ahead of time, particularly for your most important keywords.

Panama’s phase two is the implementation of the hybrid relevancy-driven auction model we’re familiar with from Google and MSN. Adding relevance (measured or calculated as a predicted normalized CTR) makes position more difficult to predict. Yet brands and those with relevant compelling creative will benefit. That’s why you must determine the best AdGroup structure, keyword lists, match types, and creative for maximum advantage when Yahoo throws the phase-two switch.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Local in Denver, CO, September28, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel.

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