Gone With the Yahoo!

By BKV in Media Strategy on October 20th, 2010

Oh fiddle-dee-dee, I'll think of it tomorrow!

That's what I, a die-hard Scarlett O'Hara wannabe, keep telling myself about the Yahoo! and Bing merger that is happening, well, "tomorrow." So many conjectures about the merger have made me realize that, while it will likely be less actual bloodshed than in the War Between the States, we're basically back to 1861 in paid search. The ingredients for a lengthy and polarizing battle have arrived, and here's why:

One of the very fundamental problems is not being able to separate two distinct cultures: Rebels (Yahoo!) and Yankees (Bing). The somewhat less refined Yahoo! Rebels tend to search more on non-brand terms, while the sophisticated Bing Yankees appear as a more willing to buy, brand-centric group with a generally higher CTR. Because the transition to AdCenter (the United States) will eliminate our ability to see which "engine" the citizens are coming from, we, as marketers, will not be able to serve our ads as specifically as we had prior to the surrender - err, merger. This aggregation of information creates wasted money thrown at ads (political causes) that will be targeted about half as well.

So what will we be losing?

The Rebels have a penchant for keeping their battles tightly targeted and effective. This is something that the Yankees will need to refine in the future to appease the new citizens and prevent a mass exodus to the wilds of Canada or Mexico (Google). Localization of the battles chosen helps keep costs down, as opponents, or unconvinced engine visitors, can be subdued with fewer casualties and a lower budget. Targeting the right group sometimes means the difference between Gettysburg and a heated family argument.

Let's talk geography; in particular, geo targeting. The Yankees seem to think they know a thing or two about how geography works, but the Rebels also had a better eye for the land. Rebel forces could target minor DMAs with no problem and serve ads in areas that the Yankees have refused to even address. Yankees are only concerned with targeting by "city, metro, state/province, country/region," whereas the wily Rebels allow us to target by zip codes to refine our spending to even more targeted regions. You can't say they didn't keep it local.

We are also losing individuality. With the two regions uniting under one government, we will lose the ability to have two different bidding strategies. This means that we can't test out a strategy on one engine while remaining stable on the other. This also means that, since we are losing our right to target more locally, we cannot pare down a campaign to smaller localities. If your campaigns had very different strategies, as ours have, in the North and South, there is likely to be a period of adjustment as reconstruction and reorganization happens in AdCenter.

We are gaining something, though: Carpetbaggers. After the transition, we should see CPCs on Yankee territory increase. It's doubtful that any predictions now will really mirror the actual increase in CPC, but the general consensus is that we are in for a period of abnormally high CPCs and CPLs for a few weeks while everyone settles in and gets acquainted with the new government. The cost for keywords like "cotton" will increase due to the influx of competition (mainly from the Rebels, clearly), and because incumbents will be combating the newly arrived masses. This spike in costs will start this holiday season off with a budgetary bang.

So, while I am writing this today, I will certainly be thinking about the merger tomorrow [and the next day], hoping that maybe Rhett Butler will come sweep me away to a place where I don't have to worry about this mess. In the meantime, I will be increasing my bids and moving my campaigns to the northern capital to ensure that I won't get burned to the ground by an army of Yanks (It's ok, Atlanta, we still love you!). So, paid searchers across the new country, get ready for a rocky road. I know it's taking an arsenal of skill and loads of gumption to be prepared and say in the face of the merger: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.