Last night, Yahoo emailed their search advertisers about new terms and conditions including a controversial provision that they are allowed to create ads, remove or add keywords to campaigns and “optimize” accounts — which could allow for bid changes. All of this can be done without seeking the advertiser’s permission beforehand. Though the provision is at least six months old, it finally got noticed due to the recent email — and is attracting some outcry.
Here is the snippet in the terms and conditions that states this:
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.
Let me take you back a little bit in history and let you know that this has been a concern with Yahoo for a long time. In fact, this change to the terms and conditions was actually made back in June of last year. Yes, about six months ago, Yahoo said they are allowed to “(i) create ads, (ii) add and/or remove keywords, and/or (iii) optimize your account(s).” In fact, there have been rumors that Yahoo has been doing this since early 2006. Then there were more recent reports last month of this happening.
In any event, now that Yahoo sent more advertisers this notification, more bloggers are getting their heads around it. And rightfully so, they are not happy.
Andy Beal’s article was titled Why I’ve Never Been More Embarrassed for Yahoo, where he calls Yahoo out for making a “bone-headed decision to start unilaterally messing with the keywords and bids of sponsored search customers.” Loren Baker calls this move as a possible method of “boosting capital” because they seem to be “hard up” on money. And Frank Watson says this “is bad in so many ways… why not just say hey we are taking a few thousand dollars and you can’t do anything about it.”
It is one thing to change the terms and conditions to state that they can make changes without permission. But it is a complete other thing to actually make these changes without advertisers’ approval. I can see why the legal department wants to have this down, but to actually allow Yahoo representatives to go through on this, well — that is a whole new level.