The Microsoft/Yahoo Merger – What Advertisers Need to Know

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At the same time as their merger with Yahoo was being finalized, the folks at Microsoft rolled out several new updates to their targeting and reporting options, and online and desktop interfaces. Many of the changes were substantial, but with the fuss of the merger some of the more important ones have not yet received the attention they deserve; as they have the potential to dramatically impact the ROI of your adCenter campaigns. With that in mind, let’s discuss a few of the more important optimization strategies and reporting capabilities available in adCenter, whether they’re new additions or existing features that are now more important to use with additional Yahoo traffic being routed through adCenter.

Content network

Targeting/control
Yahoo campaigns that were targeted only to “search” or “content” before being transitioned to adCenter should have remained in place at the ad group level. If you simply retained your existing adCenter structure, the ad group “search vs. content targeting” remained the same during the transition. However, be cautious when creating new structures in adCenter, because new campaigns and ad groups are automatically targeted to the content network, in addition to search. This all-inclusive feature can be turned off when starting new ad groups or campaigns.

Rather than campaign- or account-level distribution network targeting, adCenter uses ad group level distribution network settings. That means it is inconvenient to modify multiple ad groups’ distribution network settings simultaneously in the online interface. The issue can be resolved by using adCenter’s desktop tool, which allows you to select all ad groups in the account and modify their network targeting settings at once.

When creating a new content-targeted ad group, you now have the option to target either “Networks” or “Websites,” rather than using keywords to target contextually — as was the only option previously available. This option is available only for newly created ad groups, or if you change the network targeting options for a previously existing ad group.

The option to target the content network with keywords is still available but you cannot use the two different targeting options simultaneously within the same ad group. Targeting via “Network” means that you are targeting the Microsoft Media Network, and can do so with text, image or Flash ads; which could open new possibilities for many advertisers.

Visibility
To determine performance on specific websites for adCenter, run a Website Placement Performance Report. This will provide data for each site on which your ads have appeared. This data can then be used to determine both successful placements, which you may be able to target specifically with their own website-targeted ad group and bid, and poorly performing website placements, which can be added to your exclusions for each campaign or ad group.

Unfortunately, at this time, adCenter does not offer the same robust reporting functionality on contextually targeted content ad groups or network-targeted ad groups.

Best practices
1. Create separate content- and search-targeted ad groups if you decide to run content advertising.

2. Experiment with the different content targeting strategies to determine how best to gain relevant content traffic for your account while eliminating non-productive sites.

3. For keyword-targeted content ad groups, keep the keyword theme very closely related to allow MSN to match relevant sites. Multiple, very small, targeted ad groups are superior to one large ad group containing all of your relevant keywords.

4. Consider creating image ads or multimedia ads for adCenter (whether new or based on successful ads in Google) and test their performance in Network-targeted content campaigns in adCenter.

5. If you have website targeted content ad groups, view your account’s Website Placement Performance reports at least twice monthly to ensure that non-converting sites are being excluded.

Search partners network

Targeting/control
During the transition, adCenter added the ability for advertisers to modify search network distribution settings. Previously, there was no option to modify these settings, and your ads were appearing on the entire Bing search network (Bing search and their search partners) if they were set to target Search. However, they have added the capability to target three distinct search network options:

• All Bing and Yahoo search networks and syndicated search partners
• Only Bing and Yahoo websites
• Only Bing and Yahoo syndicated search partners

Upon the launch of this feature, according to MSN, all search ad groups were set to the default setting, which is “All Bing and Yahoo! search networks and syndicated search partners”. The problem is that Yahoo had a much larger search partner network than Bing. When the merger was complete these search partner sites began serving adCenter ads at approximately the same time this distribution feature was launched. Many advertisers had developed extensive lists of search partner exclusions or had modified search partner distribution settings in Yahoo to prevent lower-quality traffic from inflating their costs.

But any accounts that were transferred from Yahoo to adCenter lost all search partner exclusions and search network distribution settings, and any accounts that were previously running in adCenter had their ad groups exposed to these new search partners from Yahoo. That means that any ad groups for which you have not modified these settings — whether they were imported from Yahoo or already existing in MSN before the merger — are currently targeting the entire search and search partners network.

Visibility
To determine your performance on various Yahoo and Bing search partner network sites, run a Publisher Performance Report, which will indicate performance for each individual partner by campaign or ad group. Use this data to exclude specific poorly performing search partners and determine search vs. search partners network performance.

Best practices
1. If the majority of your relevant, converting traffic comes from Bing and Yahoo search only, consider completely eliminating targeting their syndicated search partner networks.

2. Conversely, if you find that your performance on the search partners network is much better than on Bing and Yahoo! search, consider creating ad groups specifically targeting these.

3. Review the Publisher Performance Report at least twice monthly if you have ad groups targeted to both search and search partners, as the search partners have the ability to spend a large amount of money in a short amount of time and should be monitored to ensure that non-converting spend is excluded.

Keywords for the search network
In Yahoo, all keyword lists were “canonicalized.” Essentially, Yahoo considered plural variations, misspellings and close variations duplicate keywords and did not allow these duplicates in the account. However, the normalization process in adCenter does not consider these to be duplicates, and their ad-display algorithm will treat keywords such as “red shoe” and “red shoes” differently. As such, if you imported your account from Yahoo, you are likely missing substantial traffic that may be available on simple variations of your keywords, if you have not expanded your keyword lists to include those variations.

Furthermore, as “advanced” match Yahoo keywords were transitioned to broad match in adCenter, and “standard” match to exact, ad groups imported from Yahoo will be missing important phrase match variations until you create those keywords.

If you have noticed differences in the quantity or quality of the traffic from adCenter versus the traffic you were receiving from Yahoo pre-merger, review your account’s network distribution, site, keyword, network exclusion settings and keyword coverage to ensure that the accounts are targeted comparably.

There are several other changes in ad serving and targeting methods, so if you have not done so, it would be helpful to read Microsoft’s guide to differences and similarities between Yahoo and adCenter at the Microsoft Transition Center (http://wsm.co/ifCJVH) to ensure that you thoroughly understand what you need to do to best optimize your new adCenter accounts.

About the Author: Jessica Niver is a Senior Search Marketing Consultant at Hanapin Marketing. Jessica’s primary role is managing pay-per-click and search engine optimization campaigns for a wide range of clients. She also writes for PPC Hero, Hanapin’s blog on the pay-per-click industry.

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