Yahoo’s change to T’s and C’s – OPT OUT!

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we noticed a new alert in each of our Yahoo accounts. The alert notified us of an update to Yahoo’s Terms and Conditions. No specifics or details were given, and it was only at the beginning of this week that I learnt more about the “slight” changes.

I won’t go into detail about the minor changes such as the dissolution of Overture services etc, but will instead concentrate on optimisation changes.

In the US, the new terms and conditions regarding optimisation is as follows:

Sponsored Search 3. OPTIMIZATION. In the U.S. only, for those advertisers not bound by an Insertion Order, we may help you optimize your account(s). Accordingly, you expressly agree that we may also: (i) create ads, (ii) add and/or remove keywords, and/or (iii) optimize your account(s). We will notify you via email of such changes made to your account(s), and can also include a spreadsheet of such changes upon your written request.

There are many good commentaries and summaries on this from blogs such as Search Engine Land and Marketing Pilgrim so instead of discussing Yahoo’s business objectives of this change, I will discuss the effects this is likely to have on client accounts.

Firstly, it is widely acknowledged that the best performing campaigns are managed/run by professionals who are experts in Paid Search, and have a solid knowledge of both the particular industry and the business’ goals and objectives. Without knowledge of the objectives of a campaign (i.e brand awareness vs. ROI) it is absolutely impossible to make a sensible optimisation.

Secondly, the “two many cooks spoil the broth” idea. Here at Leapfrogg, all optimisations that are made to campaigns are recorded, tracked and then analysed. All optimisations are a test, and there are very few instances where you can guarantee a result. For this reason, we give each optimisation or change to an account, time to settle down, so that we can fully track and analyse the effect on performance. If Yahoo were to make changes at the same time as us, this could potentially cloud all other optimisations that were being carried out on the campaign, and decrease performance.

Thirdly, who would be making these “optimisations”? Would it be automated systems? Would it be Yahoo staff? What performance indicators would they be using as a “flag” to carry out these changes? If they were using CTR, for example, some of our campaigns would be changed unnecessarily. In order to drive quality traffic from our paid search efforts, we use the “don’t click here” approach in some clients’ ad copy. For example, if a client offers B2B services, we would make this very clear in the title, description and if possible the display URL. This may mean that for more generic terms, the CTR would be very low, however, a far better quality of traffic was directed to the site. A change by Yahoo, could again massively decrease the performance of the campaign.

Whilst I didn’t know the specifics of the changes to terms and conditions, I had heard lots of whispers about Yahoo making their own changes to campaigns earlier in 2008. After reading many speculatory blogs about this I heard that you can send an email to your Account Manager opting out of this. Leapfrogg duly did this, and only time will tell whether this will safeguard us against any of Yahoo’s “help”.

If you are at all worried about this, I would definately pop Yahoo an email asking to “opt out of the automatic optimisation programme”.

I will be interested to hear if this truly is enough to prevent Yahoo changing things without approval.

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