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Interview with Yahoo’s John Slade on Panama

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There has been quite a bit of buzz on the paid search marketing front with the launch of the new Yahoo! Search Advertising platform aka “Panama”.

At the WebmasterWorld Pubcon conference in Las Vegas, Yahoo! announced the launch during a sponsored lunch. Dan Zarrella did a good a review of that session here.

Our YSM account recently went through the upgrade and we’re going through the process of getting familiar with all the new platform features. After talking to my contact at Yahoo PR as well as Mona Elesseily from Page Zero who has written a book about the Yahoo Search Marketing program, I thought it would be good to get some insight directly from Yahoo for Online Marketing Blog readers. John Slade, Senior Director of Yahoo Global Product Management was kind enough to field a few questions for me.

How has the upgrade roll out been going and when do you plan on having everyone moved over?

The upgrade has generally been going quite smoothly. We’ve noticed that most people experience a brief period of disorientation when they get started in the new platform – like when you move in to a new house and need to figure out where your silverware ended up. Once people make it through their orientation to the new platform, we’ve been quite pleased with the responses we’re hearing from customers. We are targeting a complete transition of all of our US advertisers by the end of the Q1 2007.

What are the major differences between the new advertising platform and Yahoo!’s legacy product?

The new platform represents an especially major breakthrough for advertisers because it’s:

  • Easier and More Effective: Yahoo! consulted hundreds of advertisers to develop a campaign management work flow that is more intuitive and will provide more effective controls and tools than other competitive products.
  • Action and insight-oriented: Our new campaign management application will provide advertisers with more visibility and insight into their performance and more control over how to improve it. This ultimately provides Yahoo! users with a better online experience.
  • Built for the future: With the launch of this new platform, Yahoo! will in the future be able to provide advertisers with many more targeting, format and distribution options.

What can you do now to run a campaign that you couldn’t before?

With the new platform, advertisers will have access to many new capabilities for managing their campaigns.

  • Geo-Targeting – Enables advertisers to display their ads broadly or to narrow their distribution down to specific metropolitan areas, allowing them to better target their customers, customize their ads and control their costs.
  • Ad Testing – Allows advertisers to easily test multiple versions of their ads to determine the message that works best for their customers. They can also choose to let our systems automatically optimize serving to the ad that performs best on clickthrough rate.
  • Goal-Based Campaign Optimization – If an advertiser has business metrics they’re trying to hit, such as a CPA, ROI or ROAS goal, our systems can automatically adjust their ad rotation and bids to help them meet those goals.
  • Campaign Budgeting and Scheduling – Allows advertisers to create, budget and schedule individual advertising campaigns for greater control over their advertising strategy and spending. Advertisers also have the option to place an account and/ or campaign daily spending limit to increase budget control.

What are the fundamental differences between the new Yahoo! Search Advertising platform and Google AdWords? What are the competitive advantages?

The new platform allows advertisers to:

  • See what kind of volume of leads is available for any given campaign or ad
  • Understand how search marketing campaigns impact immediate and deferred transactions
  • Define a standard business goal like “Cost Per Action” (CPA), then let the system automatically find the most cost-effective way to deliver against that goal
  • Take action on campaigns at the very point of insight
  • Manage campaigns with the level of control and at the level you want with the tools that best fit their needs/experience

How much of an impact on new Yahoo! advertiser acquisition do you think the new sign up process will have?

Our new sign-up process has been streamlined and simplified with the goal of getting new advertisers up and online as quickly as possible. We’re optimistic that this new process will make it easier for more and more advertisers to take advantage of the quality leads which Yahoo can provide them.

Can you provide an overview of the upgrade process for existing advertisers?

When an existing advertiser is invited to upgrade to the new platform, they will be notified up to two weeks prior to their upgrade date. When that date comes, two links will appear within their current Sponsored Search account – one that will take them to a preview of what their account will look like after the upgrade, and one that will allow them to initiate the upgrade process.

Once an advertiser sees these links, we recommend:

  • Logging into the account and accessing the preview. This will allow an advertiser to become familiar with how their current listings will be transferred to the new account structure.
  • Initiate account upgrade. If an advertiser is ready to upgrade to the new Sponsored Search, click on the “Upgrade Now” button that will be displayed within the account. Because the upgrade process can take up to eight hours (during which time advertisers will not be able to make any changes to their account), we recommend initiating the upgrade at the end of their business day, to minimize any disruption to the account.

We expect that many advertisers will want to upgrade as soon as possible, but Yahoo! will work to accommodate advertisers that wish to defer the transition until after the holiday season. Alternatively, advertisers that wish to upgrade even earlier than their scheduled date, they can request to be migrated as soon as possible through the upgrade reservation page.

What was the motivation to offer the upgraded version to new advertisers before existing advertisers?

We’ve been offering existing advertisers the ability to request upgrades to the new platform for several months now. At this point, in addition to that reservation system, we were confident enough in the platform that we wanted to offer the new, streamlined sign-up process to new and prospective advertisers as well.

In your video interview with WebProNews, you mention that the platform is built to be extended to support things like graphical advertising or mobile ads. Along those lines, what kind of enhancements do you have planned for 2007?

Plans for future versions of the new platform include introducing additional distribution options, targeting capabilities and pricing models, whether it’s by demographic, behavior or by combinations of these factors. In addition, the platform will be able to support all kinds of ad formats – from graphical to rich media – and many different kinds of distribution, from a cell phone to a television set.

What resources are available for advertisers that want to learn more?

We have a complete Upgrade Center for advertisers that want to learn about the upgrade process. It contains hints, FAQs, tutorials, and more. It’s available at newsponsoredsearch.yahoo.com.

Thank you Lee for this opportunity to discuss our new platform with you and your readers.

Thank you John! Readers might also be interested in the Yahoo Search Marketing blog.

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Lee Odden is President and Founder of
TopRank Online Marketing, specializing in organic SEO, blog
marketing and online public relations. He’s been cited as a search
marketing expert by publications including U.S. News & World Report and
The Economist and has implemented successful search marketing programs
with top BtoB companies of all sizes. Odden shares his marketing
expertise at Online Marketing Blog offering
daily news, interviews and best practices.

Interview with Yahoo’s John Slade on Panama
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About Lee Odden
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age. WebProNews Writer
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