Search Alliance Speculation

Industry publications are buzzing about the imminent Search Alliance and the impact it will have on advertisers. However, with no "set" transition date, it is all just speculation. My prediction is that much of the impact will be masked by the natural surge driven by the holiday shopping season. As I recollect the concern over Project Panama and the amount of extra work it created, I must admit I am much more at ease with this change.

Many advertisers are still trying to determine the best transition option and others are second-guessing their decisions, even some of the largest, most sophisticated advertisers. If Microsoft has already been a component of your SEM strategy, then you should already be prepared. Now, that said, it doesn't mean you are.

What search marketers should take away from this experience is how to be prepared. The advertisers with the biggest concerns heading into this transition are those that have keywords live on one engine that have never been live on another. Of course match types and keyword uniqueness vary by engine, but shouldn't all keywords be given a chance everywhere?

I am an EOB, an Equal Opportunity Bidder. You will find over time that certain keyword variations perform differently from one engine to the next, but all variations should be attempted. Yahoo and Microsoft have different methods for identifying canonical text, so migrating your account is naturally the road least traveled by advertisers. Make it a point now that, moving forward, you add new keywords to Google and Bing. If you had been doing this all along, you wouldn't be so worried now.

I think this most frequently occurred when the Google team suggested a keyword expansion, it was added to Google -- and when the Yahoo team suggested an expansion, it was added to Yahoo. Eventually, you ended up with very different structures, and probably some missed opportunities.

So, many of you are using your Google accounts. Great plan, right? Well, in many cases it simply isn't that easy. Historically, Microsoft has delivered the strongest conversion rates in most verticals, so naturally you may be bidding more aggressively there. You must look at your current bids in adCenter and at least maintain them. If you are re-launching Microsoft campaigns altogether, apply a boost over your current bid and monitor your average position from the time you re-launch and throughout the first few weeks of transition. Microsoft will become more competitive as more advertisers will be serving there, but do not disregard your previous learning.

Next, don't forget about the Yahoo Partner Network and those sites you have excluded that you already know do not perform well. You know the questionable sites that deliver more impressions than your Google campaigns? Also, think about those partner sites you like, the ones that do perform well. Be prepared that Microsoft will or already has looked at some of these sites and will reclassify them as Content Partners. For years, we have been amazed at the types of sites Yahoo has included as Search Partners, so be prepared to run content campaigns to capture that volume.

That is my two cents for this week. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions in the comments below -- and please come back post-alliance to share again.

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