This is the second in a series of articles intended to convey my personal impressions of managing PPC through Google Adwords, Yahoo Panama and MSN Adcenter.

If you missed part one, you can view it here. Today I will be covering Yahoo’s Panama. Of the three, this is my least favoured, so I’m wearing my Yahoo Search Marketing ball cap today, to remind myself not to allow too much vitriol to slip into the article.


Logging into a Yahoo account brings you to the Dashboard. This is an overview page containing basic account information, along with any alerts. Also on this page is a drop down menu allowing you to shift to different accounts under your master account. If you are advertising in multiple countries this is useful for easier access without requiring multiple logins, though these accounts can only be linked by Yahoo support personnel.

The dashboard also contains a table which allows you to view either top performing campaigns, ad groups or keywords at a glance. The nifty thing with this table is it allows you to view at a glance items you have set up on the watch list. This is useful for quickly viewing items of concern and allows you to select from a drop down menu, watched campaigns, ad groups and keywords.

One of the things I like about Panama is the use of colour to highlight various features. Particularly when I’m creating new campaigns or ads, these buttons stand out very well. Also, the capability of different colour fonts and sectional backgrounds eases the look of pages that would otherwise appear cluttered with all sorts of information.

The dashboard is the first of 4 tabs, the others being Campaigns, Reports and Administration.


The Campaign tab contains 5 links to navigate back and forth:

  1. Campaign: A table showing all the account campaigns and basic performance information for each.
  2. Ad Groups: Shows basic performance data for all ad groups, listing also which campaign each ad group belongs to.
  3. Keywords: A table showing all the keywords in the account with basic data and lists which campaign and which ad group each belongs to (very handy feature this).
  4. Editorial Status: contains status listing of pending, declined and removed ads and keywords.
  5. Search: Allows search for campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads. I am not sure why this page exists as essentially the same function is available on each of the other pages.

One thing to note, with exception of the search page, all of the above can be viewed for specific date ranges using a fairly robust date range selection system.


Reports can be saved in several different formats. Performance reports can be saved in CSV for Excel, CSV, TSV and XML, while financial reports can be saved as either PDF or TXT. Reports can be set up for either the campaign, ad group or keyword level to view overall performance data. There are also optional views for geographic location, daily spending and URL performance. There is an option to use saved templates, but it is limited to 5 saved configurations.


Under the administration page, you can find the account details and edit billing and budgetary options, set up alerts, change tactics, set up different account users and assign permissions. You can also choose up to 250 domains to block placing content ads on.

The Tactics selection includes the ability to turn on or off either Sponsored Search or Content Match, set match type to advanced or standard and add keyword exclusions. This is kind of an odd spot to put these; one would normally expect to see this in campaign level settings, but it seems Panama is only capable of this at the account level. A definite minus for flexibility.

There is also a link for analytics (where you can set up conversion tracking) and one for tracking URL’s. The first time setting up conversion tracking, I found the interface to be quite confusing, but it was just the choice of labeling that threw me off. You must ensure “Conversion Only Analytics” and “Analytics are enabled” are both activated in order to have the conversion tracking function.

Campaign Setup

Setting up is an 8 step process.

  1. First thing is naming the campaign and setting up geo-targeting. You can select Entire Market or specify by region or specific city/area. There are some pitfalls to watch out for here. If you haven’t read my previous article on this you can find it here.
  2. The second step is creating an initial ad group and defining tactics.
  3. Now it is time to input your keywords. You can get suggested keywords at this point, have this tool scan a URL for suggestions or input your own list. Excluded (negative) keywords may also be input here.
  4. Next step is to set the ad group default maximum bids for sponsored search and/or content match. One thing I really like about this stage is a side graph that shows estimates for average position, number of impressions and clicks, average CPC (cost per click) and the percentage share of available clicks. This graph updates to changes in the set bid, so is useful for gauging where to set your max.
  5. The next step is writing the ad itself. Two things to watch out for here; one is the long descriptions and the other, the display URL. Yahoo does not allow long descriptions and has not for quite some time, beyond me why they have not taken it out of the set up process. The display URL input box is hidden and you need to click the little bullet arrow to view. It really does not save much space doing that, so I have no idea why it is designed like that.
  6. After this stage is review, which takes you back to the second step and you can edit any errors along the way, or you can just choose to move to stage 7…
  7. Which is the budgeting of the campaign and setting up a display schedule if necessary. There is a display estimates feature that allows you to view monthly clicks and impressions for varying schedules.
  8. The last step is reviewing and activating your campaign.

Learning Resources and Certification

A while back I studied for and passed my certification examination to become a YSM Ambassador for StepForth Web Marketing. Having gone through this process prior to this with Google AdWords, I was somewhat dismayed at the learning resources available for using this interface. Whereas AdWords has a comprehensive learning center with video and text modules complete with relevant quizzes for each, Yahoo only offers a very brief, scant slideshow with no quizzes. Most of my learning had to be done the hard way, meandering through their help sections.

The overall difference in quality and difficulty between AdWords and Panama exams was pretty obvious. But at least Yahoo allows professional accreditation, unlike MSN, whose recently implemented program is only available for US residents.

Annoyances and Oddities

These are some of the gripes I have with Panama I have not covered in previous articles. I will try not to foam at the mouth too much.

  • As with MSN Adcenter, the timeout seems much too short. While writing this article I was using an existing account to view different sections of the interface. I had to re-log into the account dozens of times. I would write a few sentences, go back to look at something and more often than not I would find myself logged out.
  • Some of the labels and wording are not ideally descriptive. One example I mentioned earlier has to do with conversion tracking. Another instance regards ad display rate. In AdWords, you can adjust ads so better performing ads get more exposure. There did not seem to be a feature in Panama, until I clicked on the “optimize ads” button. I thought this was some sort of tool to suggest ad changes but after reading the lengthy description I realized it is for displaying the “best” ad.
  • The campaign “Tune up” tool is of questionable value. I ran a test on this and the recommendations given were pretty doubtful. Basically, the tool recommended I up the daily budget by 350%, jack up the keyword max bids (in some cases quite dramatically) and change some match types. The estimated rewards for providing Yahoo with this additional spend were a 2% percent improvement in CTR (click through rate), a 20% increase in clicks and no estimation on conversion changes. All this with only a 4% increase in monthly cost. Regardless of any of the other estimations, I cannot equate a 350% increase in daily spend equaling a 4% increase in estimated spend.
  • Setting up campaigns, especially ones with lots of ad copy, is laborious and time consuming. There is no option for uploading work or any tools to make this a smoother process. It is either do it from scratch or a lengthy cut and paste session from a spreadsheet. To give an example, I recently set up account in all 3 engines. It took roughly a half hour to get everything set up with the AdWords Editor tool and uploaded. Then having saved the campaign information in CSV format from the AdWords Editor, I uploaded the file into MSN Adcenter, set up the bidding and activated the campaign. This took all of about 10 minutes. Finally, setting up the same campaign in Yahoo, took over 3 tedious hours of copying and pasting.
  • I mentioned the “hidden” display URL box when writing ads which is annoying when first setting up. If you are creating new ads however, even in an entirely new campaign in an existing account, by default the original display URL is set in there for every new ad in the account. So if you are using a different domain, you have to ensure you open up the hidden entry box and change it for each ad. There is a way around this, but it is obscurely set in Administration under the account set up page.Also, if you are modifying ads, your modifications will not show until the changes have been approved, which can take several days. By this I mean you cannot even see the changes you have made until the ads have been approved. (This caused me quite a bit of grief recently, as I was required to do a massive overhaul when a client renamed all the URL’s on their site – it was very annoying to be unable to double check my changes upon completion.)
  • My last and biggest beef with Yahoo is the quality of their support. I have worked with first tier support in the past and I know the drill. The incidence of skimming the first line or so of a support request and firing back a template response which generally has nothing to do with the context of the support request seems to be higher than most here.My perception of the quality of first tier staff training diminishes with each successive phone call. When trying to figure out the problem which led to the discovery of certain geo-targeting issues, we went through quite a few emails and phone calls before finding someone with an adequate grasp of their system to understand what was wrong.In another case, a support saga of epic proportions, I received 5 successively different, nonsensical explanations, none of which addressed my actual question. Sensing the circular pattern of this, I struggled to get direct contact up-tier. Incredibly, one rep actually told me editors aren’t allowed phones, to keep them impartial. When I finally got put through to an editor, I was initially told more of the same, but upon realizing I wasn’t buying it, he simply went ahead and fixed the problem. Quite an ordeal and a completely unnecessary waste of time.

While it is obvious some of the complaints I have about the design of this system are fairly trivial, these little problems can add up to a serious, unnecessary increase in the amount of time required to work with this interface, particularly in large campaigns. It is my hope that Yahoo can expend a little more effort to improve Panama’s usability.


Over the course of writing this article, I realized there are quite a few things I do like about this interface. If they made it a little easier to work with and especially if they improve their customer support, I would have no qualms about using this interface.

by Tim Rule, PPC Specialist, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
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