Yahoo! Takes Baby Steps Toward Much Needed Search Improvement

Sharvanboskirk [Posted by Shar VanBoskirk]

Yesterday Yahoo! announced enhancements to its search advertising business and consumer experience.  These enhancements include the following:

  • Enhanced reporting -- Advertisers will now be able to see how their search ads are performing on Yahoo.com compared to partner sites also serving Yahoo! search ads

  • Control over network bids and messages -- Starting next year, advertisers will be able to bid differently for ads showing up on Yahoo.com compared to those that might show up on partner sites.  As a part of this, advertisers can also target different messages based on the sites where their ads might run.

  • Enhanced self-service tools for advertisers who need dedicated campaign management tools.

  • Integrating rich ads into Panama -- Yahoo! has been trialing rich search ad formats which include video and image enhancements to regular paid search listing with selected brand advertisers.  But the process to date has been a negotiated one that is much higher touch than the process for buying regular keyword ads.  Integrating rich search ads into Panama will enable them to be bought on a bid-for basis and as part of other (non-rich ad) search campaigns.*

  • Sites running as part of Yahoo!'s BOSS program will be eligible to distribute and share revenue from Yahoo!'s paid search ads.

  • Price controls -- Yahoo! will adjust its pricing model a bit to allow it to set pricing floors or ceilings in order to better value traffic for what it is worth.

  • A focus on improving relevance of search results -- Yahoo! has a new interface for delivering search results and is also dialing up emphasis on delivering intent-based search results.  The idea here is that the search engine would use information about your past searches, searches like your's and what others have found relevant in order to deliver results that fit your need, not just a list of pages that could match a given keyword. 

My take is that these are much needed but not comprehensive improvements for Yahoo!.  Marketer and consumer expectations for search are only getting higher, so Yahoo! (and all search engines) must continually innovate to improve the advertising and search results experience they deliver.

The most interesting developments to me are the ability for advertisers to control their bids and messaging for different places their ads will run.  And, the notion of Yahoo! regulating pricing to keep bids in line with value.  I think these both play to the science of paid search.  That is, how advertisers should optimize their budget and message in order drive the most profitable traffic (not just drive the *most* traffic). 

*Note: Rich search ads are still only available to select brand advertisers as selected by Yahoo!