Twenty Days on Yahoo’s Panama

Over the next month or two, you’ll be faced with a new Yahoo DirecTraffic Center (DTC) experience as your account is migrated over to Panama. Once it’s migrated, you’ll find things both familiar and unfamiliar within the user interface. Though you’ll likely be ecstatic about some of the new features, the unfamiliarity will at times leave you cursing under your breath as you look for the old tabs, icons, and links.

At PubCon, Yahoo offered early migrations, so I asked to migrate my wife’s PPC (define) account to Panama to experience firsthand what the majority of Yahoo advertisers will experience. My wife’s account is one I manage by hand, having deciding not to use API (define)-driven technology to do nearly all the heavy lifting. Here are some thoughts based on my experience, as well as comments to Yahoo, should it choose to accept my feedback.

The first thing you notice in the Panama interface is the new dashboard, which contains an account and campaign overview. Within that dashboard, you find the campaigns are represented with top-line data. Interestingly, average position isn’t one of the reported metrics, I guess because a campaign will typically contain so many ad groups and keywords that an aggregate overall position would be meaningless. The dashboard and the campaigns listed in tabular form at the bottom are set up to display up to a max of 20 campaigns (the maximum campaign number is listed within the account summary tab, but I didn’t notice it mentioned elsewhere). The dashboard also includes a performance graph you can set to impressions, clicks, or cost. The campaign tab (if you have less than 25 campaigns) looks identical to the campaign portion of the main dashboard.

The initial shock of the new interface will set in when you drill down to your campaigns. In the old structure, you’d select “Manage Sponsored Search” to see your campaigns, then drill down immediately to the individual keyword listings. In the new structure, the campaigns are still there but drilling down into the campaign (by clicking) yields an unfamiliar screen. Perhaps not completely unfamiliar, because it’s a Google campaign screen with a Yahoo look and feel. I wish it had put the campaign summary and keyword-level information columns in the same order as Google for simplicity, but the information is readable and clear.

Yahoo’s pull-down calendars and date range selectors remind me of date selectors in travel-booking engines. Unless you roll over the two calendars, it isn’t obvious that one icon allows for the predetermined pull-down date ranges. This is a key feature because high-volume keywords may have meaningful data over a very short span, even daily (today or yesterday), while low-volume keywords may require a month’s worth of data to get any reading at all.

This becomes particularly true if you use one of the best new features of Panama: geotargeting. I love geotargeting, and not just for local marketing. Smart national marketers have been using geotargeting in Google and in Microsoft’s adCenter to tune campaigns for better relevance and performance. Now, Yahoo has rolled out geotargeting at the DMA level, which is good enough for most but not as granular as Google is — or claims to be.

The introduction of geotargeting is just one reason Yahoo’s View Bids tool has become irrelevant and inaccurate. What’s the point of showing local bids’ positions when you aren’t in the location you’re bidding on? Migrated account bids don’t show up in the bid landscape primarily because early next year, with Panama’s phase-two launch, the bid landscape will become obsolete anyway.

Lack of bid landscape data is something we’ve gotten used to in Google and Microsoft, but in Yahoo we miss it. Yahoo’s solution to the bid landscape is a bid forecasting screen that displays a graph of estimated clicks per bid. Click on the keyword in your campaign to bring up this tool, which is integrated into the bid screen. To use this tool effectively, pull down a selector and change the default bid to “specify custom bid.” The slider on the clicks-per-bid chart comes alive, estimating the clicks and the percentage of total clicks you’ll get based on the bid. Of course, like the Google traffic estimator and position estimation tools, the projection is only close to accurate if your competition never changes bids. That’s the exception, not the rule, especially for large campaigns with competitive keywords. Small niche campaigns may benefit more from the estimate clicks tool.

I’ll keep experimenting with Panama within my wife’s campaign while my team works with client campaigns that have already been migrated and are being managed through the API. Stay tuned for the results of some of my feature testing within Yahoo’s Panama.

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