Yahoo Publisher Network: A One-Way Street?

    August 4, 2005

Some great posts around the web following up on Yahoo’s decision to extend their content matching ad program to smaller publishers, a la Google AdSense.

But few analysts appear to be looking at this from the advertiser’s point of view. As things stand, content match option on Yahoo has the dubious honor of being “even worse than Google AdWords content targeting”. If it continues to operate in its present fashion, it’ll just be helping even more dubious publishers cash in on a few ignorant advertisers who don’t track. Even if 75% of advertisers know what they’re doing, the remaining 25% are still very good at over-rewarding weak publishers with wildly overpriced clicks.

Many times, I’ve heard advertisers tell me they’ve shut their entire Yahoo campaign down because it just ran out of gas, and was too difficult to manage. They usually say they’ll try to get it back up when they have more time. The problem lies squarely at the product level. The YSM interface is just too inflexible and too unusable from an advertiser standpoint, as this recent salvo from a moderator at SEM Forums explains.

Yes, content sometimes works, as I intend to show this coming Monday in my presentation at Search Engine Strategies. But if your only management options are basically “on or off,” you have little control over pricing or delivery. Some advertisers don’t understand that, but a lot are staying away from content after nightmare encounters with it.

Google of course responded to this by releasing a CPM-based “site targeting” option. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this program. It basically depends on the quality of available sites in the network as a whole.

The interesting thing is that Google’s small step towards upgrading the quality of their content network indicates just how far they have left to go before they can deliver a satisfying media buy to advertisers in many verticals. At least, though, the direction they seem to be moving is towards higher quality and away from the “no-advertiser-control” regime. Yahoo dives into the smallpublisher ad serving market just as Google seems to be ever so subtly, but quite deliberately, backing off.

Short term, it means a revenue boost for Yahoo, and probably a leveling off of Google’s AdSense revenue. But if either company is thinking about their long-term health, they will begin to hack off the diseased parts of the “long ad tail.” Advertisers are watching and not necessarily liking what they see.

From the publisher side? Oh, sure, we’ll give it a whirl. AdSense doesn’t pay enough. Can’t wait to sign up!

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Andrew Goodman is Principal of Page Zero Media, a marketing consultancy which focuses on maximizing clients’ paid search marketing campaigns.

In 1999 Andrew co-founded, an acclaimed “guide to portals” which foresaw the rise of trends such as paid search and semantic analysis.