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Monday, April 30th, 2007

Yahoo Gets into – POKER?

Yahoo has launched a Poker enterprise in the UK. No this is not a joke and believe me I thought it was… I kept wondering if I was transported back to April 1st or something. In fact, everyone I checked this news with was equally as shocked.

Personally I think this move is yet another show of desperation on Yahoo!’s part. That said, gambling is HUGE money and by launching their own enterprise they are going to make a fortune if anyone chooses to play on it.

Currently the signup form states “Participation in online poker is illegal in some countries. It is your responsibility to ensure that the laws of the country in which you are resident or are located permit you to play Poker. You must not play Poker on this site where it is illegal or otherwise prohibited in your country.” To further impress this upon users they do not even provide “Canada” or “United States” as options in the “Country” drop down menu.

Do you think this Poker enterprise will have a negative effect on Yahoo or do you think it is a smart move? I would love your feedback. So far the responses have been very different from those I have spoken to so far.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth SEO Services
Celebrating 10 Years of SEO Excellence
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Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Google and Microsoft Neck in Neck

In the world of search, Google has been number one for several years now, but when it comes to overall site traffic, until recently Google was number two. Now that the latest numbers are out, we see Microsoft has dropped into the second spot as Google takes the prize of the most visited site on the internet. While the two are separated by only a million unique visits (or roughly one fifth of one percent), it is expected that this gap will continue to widen.

Based on figures taken from comScore, while Microsoft enjoyed a staggering 527 million unique visits for the month of March, Google was a hair ahead at 528 million. Yahoo takes third spot with 476 million followed by Time Warner at 272 million, and eBay rounds off the top 5 at 256 million. Read more…

In a recent paid advertising deal to supply ads for Viacom giants including MTV.com, VH1.com, comedycentral.com, and 30 other web properties. Google has been left in the cold as Yahoo’s Panama platform was chosen. The deal could also expand in the future to include an additional 140 Viacom websites. Based on February’s figures, that could translate to around 90 million unique monthly visitors.

Back in March a lawsuit was launched against Google property YouTube over copyright infringement of Viacom owned television programs. Undoubtedly the lawsuit against Google was a large contributing factor in choosing Yahoo for the deal. As the next largest player in the game, with Google out, Yahoo is certainly the natural best choice.

The multi-year Search Marketing Deal was official announced Tuesday in a press release posted by Viacom.

Thursday evening the Yahoo Blog gave warning of changes to their algorithm.

“We are in the process of rolling out some changes to our search results. As usual, you may see some changes in ranking as well as some shuffling of the pages that are included in the index throughout this process. This update will roll out this evening and will be complete very soon.”

Remember, do not react rashly to any short term changes. Updates tend to take a little time to stabilize so keep that in mind. All the best in the coming weather!

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Friday, April 6th, 2007

Yahoo! Slurp Gets a New Home

Today Yahoo posted news that its search engine spider, Slurp will now resolve from a different domain: crawl.yahoo.net.

So what does this mean to you? Likely nothing unless you have some custom access filters setup for spiders. Priyank Garg of Yahoo noted that “if you do any reverse DNS checks for the crawler identity or have any network access rules to allow inktomisearch.com, please also update them to allow for crawl.yahoo.net.”

The change will be incremental so it is important to provide access to both domains until the transition is complete.

In my review of today’s SEO and search engine headlines I came across a few posts of interest that I would like to share with you:

After publishing last week’s article on “Yahoo Panama – Pros and Cons” I have had a few readers contact me with notable “Cons” they have experienced with the recent upgrade process. While I know I had not covered all possible negatives to Panama in my article, these items are certainly worth adding to the list.

Keyword specific URL’s

Michael wrote noting that you can’t easily manage unique URL’s per keyword. This is absolutely correct. While the ability to specify a unique URL on a per keyword basis does exist, it would be quite a hassle to apply this to any large campaign.

Google has a very straight forward system for unique URL’s. You can bring up a list of all the keywords along with a nice simple field to enter the URL’s, hit submit, and they are all done. With Yahoo, you must do this on a one-at-a-time type routine.

To have unique URL’s per keyword in Yahoo here are the steps you will need to take (starting from your “Dashboard”):

  1. Click on the Campaign Name
  2. Click on the AdGroup
  3. Click on the specific keyword
  4. This will bring you to a page with specific stats on that keyword including a chart. At this step, click the edit link near the top of the page beside “Custom URL”
  5. In the pop up window enter the URL for the keyword and click submit.

After these steps have been entered, you will have to wait for an editorial review before the new URL will be put to use.

While the feature is available, the process is very cumbersome. This is certainly a ‘Con’ that needs to be added to the list. Perhaps the ‘con’ should be changed to include all the changes that require far more steps than are really necessary, after all, there are quite a few of them. This seems to be a common issue with much of Yahoo Panama and I anticipate these types of things will be much more streamlined in the future.

Brand Awareness Just Got More Expensive

The following comment was posted to our blog by ‘Paul’:

“On the CON list, you overlooked the adverse affect to brand advertisers who want to promote something unrelated to the search to create some buzz, awareness, or association with their brand (i.e. Jeep bidding on terms like “beetle” or “bug” to coincide with their ad campaign). The quality score, while beneficial to most, means those advertisers have to spend more to appear prominently where their ad is not relevant.”

I have to say I both agree and disagree with this. First, yes, this is certainly a big ‘con’ for any advertiser that fits into this category, no question about it. This has also been a reality for AdWords advertisers for some time now, and it makes sense that Yahoo would follow suit. If you want to bid on seemingly irrelevant phrases and have your ad appear, things just got much, much, more expensive for you. That said this is also a ‘pro’ in terms of relevant topical advertisements.

By having irrelevant ads essentially cost more, it can have the reverse impact on relevant ads. By driving irrelevant ads lower in the results, it will in a sense create less competition for relevant ads making the top ranking spots less expensive. Under the new algorithm Volkswagen could secure the rank for “beetle” at a lower cost than Jeep, and would have the potential to outrank Jeep regardless of bid strictly due to relevance.

From the perspective of advertisers trying to build awareness by bidding on popular, yet irrelevant terms, this is certainly a ‘con’, but from the perspective of the majority of advertisers, I would have to slide this over to the ‘pro’ category.

Note: I also want to say that for these purposes “irrelevant” refers to a key phrase not directly related to the destination URL. I do understand that while on the surface, a phrase may appear irrelevant, however, when considering target demographics, may make considerable sense.

Yahoo Not Prepared for the Upgrading of Very Large Accounts

I had an interesting letter from a Yahoo advertiser who had very big problems with the new Yahoo Upgrade.

With an annual advertising budget on Yahoo of between $150,000 and $250,000, he found the upgrade to be a complete nightmare.

Under the old system he was running hundreds of ads using thousands of keywords. Many of the keywords were geographic in nature very specific to the ad copy and categories being used. After the upgrade was complete, the account was a complete and total disaster. “Thousands of keywords and ads had been jumbled into completely nonsensical categories, all created by Yahoo.”

Not only were the keywords moved into inappropriate groups, but much of his ad language had also been altered. He estimated that this colossal rat’s nest it would take upwards of 80 hours to correct. As a result he did what any level headed advertiser would do, and called Yahoo.

While Yahoo certainly felt sorry for him and could sympathize, they did nothing to help solve the problem. Yahoo simply suggested that he do all the footwork himself to bring things back in order. For an advertiser with a monthly spend in excess of $15,000, he felt this was plenty of money for Yahoo to assign someone to sort this out for him. I for one agree completely.

After he started the process of re-organizing from scratch, ads which were previously approved were suddenly being disapproved. He called Yahoo again. After being passed off from one agent to another finally he reached someone who told him the ads were in fact running (which they were not), and that no one could tell him what the problem was other than it being a “computer glitch.”

Ultimately, to make a long story short, Yahoo has lost one good and high spending advertiser.

Panama Browser and Validation Issues

Susan wrote in with a few ‘cons’ that may cause smaller scale problems for some advertisers, but problems never the less.

The first is with browser compatibility. Now I don’t use any of these so I will have to take her word for it, but apparently Panama has some functionality issues when accessed using Safari, some older browsers, and is not at all compatible with Mac classic browsers.

She also noted that some of the problems with Panama and access via older browsers is due to the html itself. A W3C Validation check of the new sign in page shows items that are a miss, the most obvious being a lack of declaration of the doctype. While this is an issue common with an incredible number of websites out there, I am surprised to see it with a company such as Yahoo.
After signing on and noticing errors, Susan went on to check her browser error logs and found the following:

https://login22.marketingsolutions.yahoo.com/adui/
signin/loadSignin.do?signt=true
HTML error (5/16): The DOCTYPE declaration is missing.
HTML error (231/12): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (237/25): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (243/146): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (249/73): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (323/11): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (345/15): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (352/16): Illegal character ³/² in tag.

https://login22.marketingsolutions.yahoo.com/adui/

CSS Error (49/135): Unknown CSS property ³zoom².
CSS Error (79/77): Unknown CSS property ³zoom².
CSS Error (105/9): Unknown CSS property ³opacity².
CSS Error (114/9): Unknown CSS property ³opacity².

The server’s certificate chain is incomplete and the signers are not registered

“The certificate on the server has expired”

A script on this page failed to execute. This may keep this page from functioning properly.Statement on line 11632: Expression did not evaluate to a function object:0.addevevtlistner

Now I have to be honest – this goes beyond my level of expertise, however, it is still surprising to me for a site with such a large budget, name, and many months of testing. I would personally expect issues such as these to have been dealt with prior to launch. Perhaps solving these items will allow a wider array of browsers to function properly with Panama.

I am very curious to hear more comments on the new Yahoo Panama. Not only would I love to hear specific ‘cons’, I would also like to hear the ‘pros’. While I do not argue that this new system is certainly with its flaws, I see it overall, as being a positive step. What are your opinions? Please email them to me at scott@stepforth.com. I would love to write another article on the many positive experiences encountered by our readers; after all, there are two sides to every story.

Jim Lanzone - ASK.com CEOAsk.com’s CEO, Jim Lanzone responded to my recent article “Yahoo Reinvents An Old Wheel: Paid Inclusion Gets a Facelift” reconfirming his belief that paid inclusion is hypocritical. The following is Jim Lanzone’s comment to me which was confirmed authentic by Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land:

Hi Ross. Just came across this today on Bloglines.

Three years later, I’m still against paid inclusion, because I still think it is hypocritical to charge for something we need to do anyway to be the best search service we can be. I also think it’s a dis-service to our users to blur the line that much between paid content and editorial content. Read more…

Imagine what your life would be like if your annual salary was only a dollar. What would you do with your check? Perhaps buy a chocolate bar? Well, for the third consecutive year Google top dogs Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt will each earn exactly that for 2007, a measly single dollar. Yahoo’s chief executive, Terry Semel, will also see a 1 dollar salary for 2007. Read more…

Last year they lost their case against Chinese search company Baidu.com, and this year they are at it again with a suit against Alibaba, the company which runs Yahoo China.

Plaintiffs Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and EMI have filed suit against Alibaba for the equivalent of $710,000 (RMB 5.5 million) in damages. They claim that Yahoo China is infringing on their Copyrights.

The complaint evolves around the music search at Yahoo China allowing users to find and listen to music the vast majority of which is pirated.