Yahoo Tries To Justify Automatic Account Optimization

Three weeks after the latest uproar over its decision to auto-optimize sponsored search accounts, Yahoo has published an explanation under the brassy headline, “The Truth about Account Optimizations.”

As a refresher, earlier this month Yahoo emailed advertisers about its new Terms and Conditions, which says that Yahoo may create ads, edit keywords, and/or optimize the accounts of U.S. advertisers not bound by an Insertion Order. Search marketers were exasperated.

In tonight’s post, Yahoo says the purpose is to help small- and mid-sized advertisers suffering from “performance issues.” They say the program doesn’t involve changing daily spending limits, altering current bids, changing tactical settings (such as Match Types), or deleting any current ads or keywords.

Yahoo says they’ve seen “impressive results” so far. They’ve optimized about 2% of all accounts since June 2008, and created about 20,000 new ads. They say advertisers have accepted 80% of the changes Yahoo has made on their behalf. One advertiser, an Ohio-based ad agency, chimes in with a testimonial that Yahoo’s optimization reduced one client’s cost-per-conversion by 50%.

That sounds all well and good, and it’s a Good Thing that Yahoo is finally talking openly about the news Terms and Conditions. But to be frank, their blog post comes across as condescending at times, and it’s not likely to make their “blogger friends” feel any better. Yahoo’s justification doesn’t address, for example, any of the complaints shared by Jerry Nordstrom on Search Engine Watch. Jerry had an account auto-optimized, and says Yahoo

  • “…picked out the highest volume generic KW’s and created ads around them regardless if we actually offered those services”
  • “…opened our ads full force on the “content” network”
  • “…created ads with dynamic KW insertion and didn’t add a thing to the negative KW list”

In December, Al Scillitani shared his experience of having an account auto-optimized:

“They added a couple of new ads and new campaigns (with new budgets). One of the ads had a promotion code in it. That code expires. Were they going to keep checking when the code expired and then pause the ad or leave it running so people would click and not buy because the promo was over (either way, Yahoo gets paid).”

Ultimately, the main problem with Yahoo’s new Terms and Conditions is the fact that it’s opt-out; you have to ask Yahoo not to make changes to your account. Yahoo spins this by saying the program “is not mandatory” — which could be construed as a stretch of “the truth” that the headline promises. To their credit, Yahoo does offer clear instructions for opting out, but it seems safe to say that most advertisers won’t feel that’s good enough.

Are you a Yahoo Sponsored Search advertiser? Let us know what you think about Yahoo’s explanation in the comments.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Top News | Yahoo: Search Ads

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • demib

    I don’t use Yahoo ads anymore and I recommend everyone to stay away too. The terms are just NOT acceptable!

  • Winooski

    “Ultimately, the main problem with Yahoo’s new Terms and Conditions is the fact that it’s opt-in; you have to ask Yahoo not to make changes to your account.”

    Shouldn’t that be “opt-out”? Anything that will only exclude a user from a service if the user takes an action is opt-out:

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/opt_in

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/opt_out

  • Matt McGee

    Thx Winooski — I rewrote that sentence about four times in different ways and didn’t change it to opt-out. I’ll go fix it.

  • http://aaronlauper.spaces.live.com/ experiencemusic

    re: Ultimately, the main problem with Yahoo’s new Terms and Conditions is the fact that it’s opt-in; you have to ask Yahoo not to make changes to your account.

    I think you meant to say it is opt-out – where advertisers are automatically enrolled useless a user ‘opts-out’ of the service.

  • http://aaronlauper.spaces.live.com/ experiencemusic

    It now shows the change. Great article on this new controversial service.

  • http://www.shoppingengineguide.com shoppingengineguide

    I can’t believe this service is opt-out. Kind of reminds me of when Google first launched automatic matching and forced advertisers to opt-out of the service. IMO as long as they ask me before the implement anything, they are welcome to “suggest” anything they want if they think it will help my campaigns.

    Good follow-up post.

  • http://www.netpaths.net Cvos man

    The sad part about this PPC scandal is that it probably will increase Yahoo’s revenues – but only temporarily.

    Each misstep brings them closer to the Microsoft supernova.

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