As an accredited Yahoo Ambassador, I am accustomed to working with the Yahoo Search Marketing PPC system (YSM). Although YSM can be an effective means of paid advertising, its Panama system still has a ways to go and I want to share with you several of the challenges in setting up a geo-targeted campaign.

Opening an account with an address in the US or Canada, restricts you to advertising only in those markets. If you’d like to geo-target other areas of the globe, you have to use this site: Yahoo International Accounts Once there, a separate account for each and every additional country you wish to advertise in will need to be created. That’s an awful lot of work for someone wanting to geo-target globally. When calling YSM support to find out how to get around this, their answer was that it is impossible to integrate campaigns to be served globally. I found this to be odd, as I’d just completed a globally targeted campaign in Google Adwords for the same client.

Another hitch in geo-targeting in Panama is trying to include Canada as a target region. If you select Canada as the market to be served to, you will only get ad service if the ads are written in French. This is unusual, as roughly 23% of Canada’s population is French; in order to get ad service to English speaking Canada, one needs to set up the account in the US and Canada market . Apparently, however, this odd set up can cause problems in US advertising as well, as evidenced in this RKG blog.

Given that targeting Canada allows for only ad service in French, it seems odd that Yahoo would use exactly the same map as the English service US and Canada market as there aren’t a great many French Canadians in the US. By comparison, upon checking Switzerland, which also has more than one official language, no similar restrictions seem to apply. The target area was even restricted to just Switzerland and not the bordering countries, many of which have the same languages.

Overall, Yahoo seems to be very inflexible as to where they will serve ads. It would be nice if they displayed this kind of information more prominently when setting up accounts with them. I imagine a lot of people have wasted a fair amount of time trying to work through this system.
I’ve mentioned these issues when speaking to Yahoo support staff, suggesting that changes of this nature would make the system more useful for advertisers. Both Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter allow flexible geo-targeting options, with MSN going as far as to allow an assortment of criteria to be changed at the ad group level.

Yahoo has thanked me for my input, but I question whether they are really listening. Dating back more than a year, similar complaints litter the YSM Blog and to date no known attempts have been made to improve the system.

While Yahoo has a number of good aspects behind its Panama Platform there is still much room for improvement. Here is a summary of my recommendations to Yahoo:

  1. A revamping of YSM’s system should be devised for more user friendly and efficient account creation and management. Yahoo’s current system has the effect of putting all the setup and management workload on the advertisers.
  2. Country restrictions should be made clear to the advertiser at the account creation stage.
  3. Any ad copy language restrictions in place for specific geographic areas should be clearly noted by Yahoo. In cases where ads are disallowed due to language, there should be an indication the ads will not be served. In the case we recently experienced, there were no editorial alerts or any other obvious indication the Canada – English campaign was not functioning.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for Yahoo? Email me and I will be thrilled to add it to ‘the list’ and send it to Yahoo Search Marketing staff.

By Tim Rule, PPC Specialist for StepForth Web Marketing Inc