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October 19, 2006

Resident PPC Pro Nick Guastella Talks Panama

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As you may have read, Yahoo has announced the launch of Panama and will begin migrating existing advertisers over during the new couple of months (initial invites will go out next week). If you want to get started early you can use the online request form, otherwise the majority of advertisers will be transitioned by the end of the year, or if they prefer, after the holiday season.

First impressions from search engine marketers have been overwhelmingly kind across the board. That’s not surprising since Panama promises faster ad approvals, better targeting and better reporting features. It’s a vast improvement from what Yahoo! was previously running. Under the old system, it could take as long as 5 days for approvals. Reporting was basic, covered only a limited time range and only one ad could be used per listing.

Pay per click isn’t my specialty (I’m just the Recap girl, really), but lucky for you I was able to grab and lasso our resident PPC expert (we’re not just about search engine optimization, you know!), Nick Guastella to see what he had to say about the release. (Everyone say hi to Nick!)

Thanks for the introduction, Lisa. I’m excited to be making my blog debut!

I didn’t attend this week’s Yahoo! Influencer Event (My invite must have gotten lost), but based on the initial reviews and from what I saw during the last SES show, the platform sounds promising. Under the old platform, Yahoo!’s editorial department was a thorn in the side of advertisers, significantly delaying the process and often offering inconsistent reasons for not approving listings. Now, advertisers won’t have to wait days for a response and will be able to create ad changes on the fly. This will save them valuable time when creating special offers and seasonal promotions.

I’m a little concerned that advertisers who were invited to have their accounts migrated over to the new platform months ago at SES still haven’t heard anything. It gives the impression that Yahoo! may have rushed this release to appease stockholders who’ve seen their share price dwindle.

I was also disappointed to see Panama launched without a day parting feature, especially when Google is already offering this to advertisers (Something I myself use). When you don’t allow your advertisers to automatically turn on and off accounts you make your service less manageable than your competitors. Not a good idea for Yahoo.

Advertisers may notice that they have lost some of the bid transparency (Say goodbye to the Bid Tool) they had in the past. Instead of seeing competitors actual bids, advertisers will now see the minimum and maximum, but not who the bids belong to. You might say it’s a step backwards.

There’s been a lot of speculation on whether Panama will help Yahoo! close the gap between Y!SM and AdWords. I think it’s a wait and see game right now. I haven’t seen enough to give me a clear indication, but my gut tells me, right now, Panama will not be enough to topple Google. The only area where Yahoo! significantly trumps Google is with its new regional targeting feature. Yahoo’s new system allows advertisers to target at a city level unlike Google’s current geo targeting by area.

Like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t invited to the Yahoo! event this week (So much for my Overture years.), so reading others commentary of the event was very informative. JenSense particularly caught my eye when she mentioned that Panama will allow users to suggest URLs to extract keywords from – either from advertiser’s own site or from a competitor’s. That was smart thinking on Yahoo!’s part. It may also be helpful for determining what keywords Yahoo thinks your site is targeting. As Jen mentions in her post, when she entered in ‘jensense.com’, it told her that “snowboarding” was one of her keywords. That result sounds like something that would have come from their old eight ball program. Clearly, if you’ve been to Jen’s site, you know that it’s not.

This is only stage one of the initial launch, so we’ll have to wait and see what Yahoo! brings to the table for its second act. I hope day parting is top on their list of coming attractions.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the features that will be available under the new system.

  • Faster ad approvals: Ads will go live within minutes instead of the old 3-5 day turnaround. In fact, we’ve already noticed faster ad approvals even without being migrated to the new system. Multiple A/B ad testing will also now be available to determine best performance.
  • Geo-Targeting: Previously advertisers had to use either local search or geo-specific search terms. Under the new system advertisers will be able to do this in one account. The new geo-targeting will allow distribution down to specific cities. They now provide a map of the area which then shows a highlighted radius of coverage based on advertiser’s choices.
  • Ad Groups: Keywords in Ad groups can now use multiple ads where as before a keyword had to be linked to just one ad and advertisers had to wait up to 5 days to change.
  • Keyword Insertion feature: Keywords will be able to be automatically inserted into titles and descriptions improving focus of ads and click through rates, and will also save advertisers time having to write specific ads including each keyword. Though that doesn’t mean you can slack off on writing good ad copy.
  • Quality Index: Similar to the old Google quality index made up of click through rate, keywords related to ad copy, display URL, landing page and other factors.
  • Quality Index (1 to 5 graphical bar scale) is being shown to advertisers now, so they can prepare their ads for when the ranking factors start being used in Q1 2007.

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