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Is Yahoo Search Marketing Stealing Your Money?



Al Scillitani is pretty annoyed with Yahoo Search Marketing–and with good reason.

It appears as part of a new program, Yahoo has gone in to his Search Marketing account, messed around with his settings and added new campaigns–all without his permission!

In fact, according to an email received (see below) Yahoo account holders have to explicitly opt-out of this new program. As Al points out, Yahoo can’t possibly know all of a customer’s business goals, conversion rates, etc, so why would Yahoo make this an opt-out program?

We’ve put in an email to Yahoo to get their thoughts on why this has been implemented without advertisers’ permission.

In the meantime, should you not wish to take part in the program, you should email your account manager and opt out.

Has this happened to you?

Yahoo’s email to Al (emphasis added by me):

Yahoo! is committed to the success of account [account name] and we believe there is an opportunity to provide you with improved performance.

To help you save time and get the most out of your campaigns, we are launching a new automatic account optimization program. It’s intended to help raise the performance of accounts that are experiencing issues like low quality scores, low lead volume or low click-through rates.

And the best part is, we will do the work for you: Our content developers will use their search advertising experience to help your marketing dollars go further.

What we will keep an eye out for:
- Search ads with low click-through rates relative to competitors
- Ad testing not in use? missing an opportunity to optimize ad copy
- Ad groups that have a quality index score of 2 or lower

How we can help:
- Create new ads for existing ad groups, enabling ad testing
- Write multiple versions of ads for any new ad groups we create, enabling the use of ad testing to help ensure that the best-performing ads are displayed more often
- Search our database for keywords that can drive more targeted traffic to your site

In short, our goal is to make sure that your account is firing on all cylinders–and do this while keeping your existing keywords and without exceeding your spending limits!

As always, you are in control of your account. If we make any optimization changes to your account through this program, we will notify you by email, and you can let us know whether the account changes are positively affecting your account. Also, you are welcome to contact your account manager to review, edit or ask us to reverse any of the changes. Finally, if you do not wish to participate in this program, you may opt out by contacting your account manager.

We’ve identified keywords and ads in your account that are significantly underperforming, and we’ve initiated the changes to the creatives that you will find attached.

We are very excited about this new program, and hope it will provide you with improved performance and a higher level of service. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

  • http://www.dan-london.com Dan London

    How can they go in and make changes without authorization? How is this legal?

    He stated that they added campaigns and made significant adjustments.

    Dan London’s last blog post..Google Voice Mobile App for the iPhone

  • Steve Wilson

    I believe it. They changed my ad title from “Large Selection of…” to “Thousands of…” which was a little high, like “Thousands” too high, along with many other changes without asking me.

    Their new keywords will no doubt include multiple, high volume 1 word irrelevant keywords with vague ads.

  • http://thecaffeinatedblog.typepad.com Kari Rippetoe

    I’d be annoyed too! Yahoo think they knows more about my marketing goals than I do? Superpages once did that with a campaign I ran with them – and it cost me about $800. ROI slipped over 100 percentage points. Unbelieveable.

    Kari Rippetoe’s last blog post..Social Media Marketing Case Study: Using Social Media to Engage Coffee-Loving Customers

  • http://leodimilo.com/internetmarketingblog/ Leo

    That is really bizarre. I haven’t used yahoo publisher for some time but that would be enough for me to cancel.

    Leo’s last blog post..Internet Marketers- Web2.0 Traffic Does NOT want to be sold to

  • Rick

    This has happened to me and other people I know. I spoke with a rep about it too and they offered no real explanation or way of opting out.

    Like the bright Dan London mentioned, this should definitely be illegal – unless of course it’s the fine print of their services agreement – in which case we should collectively stop using their services until they listen to reason.

  • http://www.marketingdon.com Al Scillitani

    Andy, you wrote, “We’ve put in an email to Yahoo to get their thoughts on why this has been implemented without advertisers’ permission.”

    You have no idea how interested I am in their reply to.

    BTW- I emailed (want everything in writing) twice to opt out. It has been over 24 hours and have not received any confirmation.

    Al Scillitani’s last blog post..Yahoo Is Stealing Your Money

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Al – I didn’t get a response about how it’s being implemented, just some stock answers about how Yahoo is always looking to help its advertisers.

  • http://www.gadgets4nowt.co.uk PS3

    Surely something as instrumental of this couldn’t get buried in small print, the lawyers would have a field day.

    Out of interest, did their changes actually have a positive effect?

  • http://www.livelifetothefullest.biz/wpblog Matt Helphrey

    Yuck! It seems like that may be something some people might be interested in but only if they OPT IN. It just doesnt seem fair to have to opt-out if you chose not to be in it in the first place. Lame.

    Matt Helphrey’s last blog post..The Money Spot is Above the Fold

  • http://themakemoneyfromhomeblog.com Kenney and Kim

    Now doesn’t that sound sweet. lol. I don’t want them spending my money without my permission. WOW things really are getting tough for the Internet giant.

  • http://www.saadkamal.com Saad Kamal

    This is crazy. They shouldn’t be so desperate! An advertiser knows what is best for his business…Yahoo should not interfere on people’s business & their own strategies.

    They could make it an optional Opt-in service.

    Saad Kamal’s last blog post..Oxite – Microsoft’s Open Source Blogging Platform

  • http://spudmobile.co.uk/guitar-hero-world-tour.aspx George Nobles

    I like organic way to optimize a site not paid one.

  • http://www.webdesignbeach.com/ Web Design Beach

    Indeed very strange thing to hear about so big company like Yahoo is. That is something to think twice before working with them.

  • http://www.deeboo.com Deeboo.com Internet Marketing Community

    Jeezus… this sounds like fun. I just put up 5 new campaigns today. Guess I’ve got some emailing to do. The only person touching my account and money is me.

    Justin Dupre
    Deeboo.com Webmaster, SEO, and Internet Marketing Community

    Deeboo.com Internet Marketing Community’s last blog post..The 10-Minute AdWords Campaign Setup Guide

  • http://www.anaokulumarketi.com www.anaokulumarketi.com

    Like the bright Dan London mentioned, this should definitely be illegal – unless of course it’s the fine print of their services agreement – in which case we should collectively stop using their services until they listen to reason.

  • http://www.solidblogger.com Bapun

    Well, it’s quite funny. Yahoo Ads are still in beta stage. And the big daddy Google Adsense is still rulling. So, it’s the time to provide some additional features, instead of taking these kinda steps. Hopefully, they will do something about this in near future. I have heard that they are lunching Yahoo Publisher worldwide by the end of 2009. Lets see if this nhappens.

    Bapun’s last blog post..Top Blogging Secrets To Success

  • http://www.marketingdon.com Al Scillitani

    FYI- Just got this reply from Yahoo…

    We apologize for any inconvenience the automatic account update has caused you. Per your request, we’ve opted your account out of any future automatic keyword and creative additions. We are sorry that this program did not work out for you, but we have seen beneficial results for our advertisers and hoped that we would be able to improve the performance of your account.

    Nonetheless, you may take advantage of our content development services at any time if you would like us to create keywords or ads for your account. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or comments.

    Al Scillitani’s last blog post..Yahoo Is Stealing Your Money

  • http://drivelocity.com drivelocity

    Yahoo is not alone in this… Google has also added features to Adwords/Adsense that were opt-out. Usually, if you’re active on webmaster forums you’ll learn about a change like this the day it’s implemented and can take the measures to resolve it.

    drivelocity’s last blog post..Black and Decker Thermal Leak Detector

  • http://www.marketingdon.com Al Scillitani

    Drivelocity,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but Google’s is different. I did get contacted from Google a few weeks ago. Yes, they did go into the account and looked around (which I still disagree with), but the big difference was this – Google emailed me recommedations after looking at my account. I was in total control whether or not I decided to add these changes or not. Yahoo actually went in and made the changes, then told me about them.

    Al Scillitani’s last blog post..Yahoo Is Stealing Your Money

  • http://www.dan-london.com Dan London

    Google’s changes, that will impact bidding, cost, etc come with a fair warning, but what Al is having an issue with is YAHOO! went in and made changes to his ads, bids, keywords, etc without any authorization.

    I have seen Google offer SUGGESTIONS for optimization, but I get to decide to implement them or not.

    Dan London’s last blog post..Google Voice Mobile App for the iPhone

  • http://www.marketingdon.com Al Scillitani

    Reply #2 from Yahoo-

    “We attempted to reach you at the number on file to clarify your request however we were unable to do so. We were hoping to get more details as to why you would not want this valuable service. In addition we wanted to confirm that we had received your request that we not make any optimization changes in the future, we will note this in your record and make every effort to not optimize your account at a future date.”

    “we will make every effort not to optimize your account?” Huh?

    Al Scillitani’s last blog post..Yahoo Is Stealing Your Money

  • http://www.dan-london.com Dan London

    “why you would not want this valuable service.”

    1. how do they know your goals?
    2. how do they know your marketing budget?
    3. what is tha value they provide? If the optimize YOUR site and the site of YOUR compeitor, isn’t that a conflict?

    For you…

    1. what is your spend range?
    2. where is the opt-out section?

    To be fair, I have had a good experience with Yahoo!, and they have asked me about optimization before they did anything. I specified that I wanted to approve all changes before they did anything. They did a great job helping me, but I did go in and make some changes, just as I do when Google does any work for me.

    I do hope that the issues above are isolated and were an oversight done due to a workforce reduction and new hires overstepping their bounds.

    Dan London’s last blog post..Google Voice Mobile App for the iPhone

  • Jen London

    Wow. How hard is it to just leave the account alone?!

    Suggestions are fine, but their implementing the changes for you is akin to your mother tying your shoe laces. I think we’re all smart enough to know how to handle our own Yahoo! accounts.

    After all, everyone in SEM knows that the industry dictates what you do with an account — not the general “SEM” knowledge that Yahoo! no doubt professes to have.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Al – it shouldn’t be this hard to opt-out of something your never wanted to start with.

  • http://drivelocity.com drivelocity

    I’m having trouble remembering specifics about Google, but on the Adsense side, they’ve opted everyone into an ad layout or design that many people didn’t want and we were forced to opt out. On the Adwords side, they’ve deactivated keywords/phrases with no competition and raised the rates. If there’s little to no competition, we should, per their terms, be allowed to bid the minimum amount. They, apparently don’t agree with their own terms and turn off ads at will. At least AFA the Adsense issue, it was just a matter of going in and unchecking a box…

    drivelocity’s last blog post..Top Commentators Plugin

  • http://www.adwords-secret.net JT

    I rather go for adwords, thanks :)

    JT’s last blog post..Zen and PPC campaigns

  • http://www.barcelona-on-line.es Franck

    They seem to be in need of cash…
    There has been something similar with my account, a message of “it seems your account ZZZ has been inactive for a long time”. They must have made changes, because I suddenly received clicks for an account that had had nothing during YEARS, furthermore they have unilaterally decided to cash 595€ in advance (when consumption was well below 50$ a month). I’ll try and cancel this payment and have written them to ask for some answers…

    I do not believe it is ethical, whatever the fine print, to make changes in our policies, without asking first a POSITIVE answer, not a <>…

    If we are lots of us asking them to reconsider, I’m sure they will see the light and agree… Count on me in case of need if some collective action is to be undertaken…

  • http://drivelocity.com drivelocity

    It might be a good idea to make sure your account bills a credit card rather than a debit card so you can do a charge back if they hit you with unauthorized charges.

    drivelocity’s last blog post..Top Commentators Plugin

  • Chris

    Drivelocity wrote: “Yahoo is not alone in this… Google has also added features to Adwords/Adsense that were opt-out.”

    I think Drivelocity might be referring to new “Automatic Matching” feature which Adwords advertisers were automagically opt-ed into (in late Feb-June). If you didn’t want to participate in Automatic Matching, you had to opt-out. “Automatic Matching” was enabled on my account *overnight* by Google, without my permission. Google put a notice inside my Adwords account. You logged in, and you suddenly realized that you were advertising on keywords that you didn’t specifically include. Including keywords that didn’t convert. The notice inside my account (describing Automatic Matching) said:

    For example, If you sold Adidas shoes on your website, Automatic Matching would automatically crawl your landing page and target your campaigns to queries such as: “shoes” “adidas” “athletic”, etc., and less obvious ones such as “slippers” that our system has determined will benefit you and likely lead to a conversion on your site. Be assured that automatic matching will try to never exceed your budget.”

    I think all advertisers should keep a close eye on their accounts (logging in periodically), and watch the Adwords and YSM blogs to stay on-top of any new changes. I feel sorry for small business owners who know very little about SEM and must constantly stay on top of it all.

  • http://www.aidsdrugsonline.com AIDS Drugs

    I really like yahoo but I really hate how often you have to opt out of features which they know piss us off by using email instead of your account manager.

  • http://www.questempire.com Bill M

    I use adwords vs. YSM. Did not notice if adwords do the same

    Bill M’s last blog post..Automakers and UAW! What’s Next?

  • http://www.fairytalebaby.com jason kuiper

    I just went and checked my account, and by golly it is happening to me as we speak. unacceptable!

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  • http://www.dhtblocker.net DHT

    Apparently their “valued search partner” sites that you can’t opt out of, and have nothing but ads on a single page site (but amazing 80% clickthru rates on my ads) weren’t blatant enough of customer robbery, so they decided to up the ante a bit.

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