Following the Alpha Dog

2 comments

As you may be aware, on May 16, Yahoo started to require short descriptions for PPC ads while the long description (190 characters) became optional. This change is preparing the way for a more significant change later this week (beginning of June) when ad descriptions longer than 70 characters may automatically be cut off in Yahoo! Sponsored Search results. The 190 character descriptions may still show for some of Yahoo’s partner network sites although which specific ones were not disclosed.

These changes may hurt click-through rates but most seasoned marketers who have dealt with Google AdWords long enough have mastered the art of short writing for maximum click-rate. The real “hurt” in my opinion as a once devout user and evangelist of Overture.com, is the continued “bow down and submit” stance of Yahoo to Google.

At one point in time, Overture.com and Google AdWords were contenders. In some cases, Overture.com was the dominate PPC sales source for some clients while Google AdWords was dominate for others. Both were consistent drivers of equal importance for achieving a high performing pay-per-click marketing campaign. Then Yahoo purchased Overture and it all seemed to change.

Google leaped frogged Overture with a superior customer (as the advertiser) experience from cutting-edge functionality like split-testing ad copy. They completely set a new level of user-design for advertiser control. They also defined a whole new platform structure (e.g. Campaign, Ad Group – Keyword) for pay-per-click marketing. And since the initial “leap-frog” – Google has not stopped innovating. The newcomer, Google AdWords, challenged the leader, submitted them and became the new alpha dog.

After the much-hyped launch of Panama, it was apparent that Google had defined how pay-per-click marketing works. And, at least for me now, has become the new standard from which I compare all others to.

The 190 characters made Yahoo different and helped marketers tell a story in a way not available in Google AdWords. The new change to use 70 characters; however, is additional proof that Yahoo knows who’s the alpha dog. Google is setting the best practices for the PPC market and others are simply following along. I still recommend Yahoo Search as a component of an effective pay-per-click marketing program – but I am no longer an evangelist.

Do you agree? Let me know! Do you see any new comers prepared to make a challenge for the alpha position?

About the Author

Kevin Gold is Director of Internet Marketing at iNET Interactive, a social media company operating prominent online communities for technology professionals and technology enthusiasts. Kevin is a frequent contributing author to multiple publications including Search Marketing Standard, Practical eCommerce, DIRECT, Entrepreneur.com, ConversionChronicles.com, About.com, and On Target (Yahoo! Search Marketing newsletter).

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2 Comments

  1. Great post, Kevin. I also think that the straight bidding differentiated Overture from AdWords. With that gone plus the other changes, YSM Panama is a Google clone but with limited functionality. Perhaps all they needed was a performance upgrade to the Overture back end system? I'm not convinced that YSM Panama is better than Overture. Plus, they forgot a crucial feature: ad distribution choices. With AdWords, you can uncheck both the search and content networks to run ads purely on Google properties. For advertisers concerned about click fraud, this is very useful. With YSM, you can opt out of content match, but you're stuck with their search distribution partners. Many of those are not worthwhile. YSM is like a tier I and tier II PPC search engine rolled into one. It needs to be tier I if it's going to compete with AdWords. One other thought - the Overture straight bidding system wasn't really straight bidding. Because standard match listings were displayed before advanced match listings and all listings went through editorial review, quality was imposed before ads ran. That was perhaps a better system than landing page quality score algorithms.

  2. SameIP/SameOwner

    Excellent post, Kevin. Yahoo's street cred problem goes beyond the description length allowed for their PPC ads. Yahoo Search keeps slipping in popularity and advertisers have long taken notice. The reason? Yahoo bans more sites than Google and MSN combined. Even worse, the majority of these sites are legit (I've been tracking this since Yahoo Search dumped Google). My gut tells me that the fault lies with over-policing at Yahoo Search by editors who worked the old Yahoo Directory. Regardless, the adage applies: If they can't find it there, they will look somewhere else. And where the viewers go, the advertisers will follow.