Posted January 6, 2009 9:23 am by with 54 comments

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I generally like Yahoo and its products–in particular Flickr and Delicious. And, when Yahoo first revamped its Yahoo Search Marketing product, I was blown away by how cool it was.

How things have changed in just a couple of years. I’m afraid to say that I am actually embarrassed for Yahoo.

Why? Because, someone over at Yahoo made the bone-headed decision to start unilaterally messing with the keywords and bids of sponsored search customers. If that wasn’t bad enough, Yahoo just quietly updated its Terms & Conditions–making advertisers fully responsible for those decisions.

Take a look at the new T&C (emphasis added):

OPTIMIZATION. In the U.S. only, for those advertisers not bound by an Insertion Order, we may help you optimize your account(s). Accordingly, you expressly agree that we may also: (i) create ads, (ii) add and/or remove keywords, and/or (iii) optimize your account(s). We will notify you via email of such changes made to your account(s), and can also include a spreadsheet of such changes upon your written request. If you would like any of such changes reversed, please reply to such email within 14 days of the change(s), and we will make commercially reasonable efforts to reverse the change(s) you specifically identify. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you remain responsible for all changes made to your account(s), including all click charges incurred prior to any reversions being made. It is your responsibility to monitor your account(s) and to ensure that your account settings are consistent with your business objectives.

I’m not sure I’ve ever typed this in a post before, but O…M…G!!!!

Yahoo just decided that it has the full right to change your bids, spend your money and make you responsible for all of it! Not only that, but it makes no guaranteed timeline of how quickly it will reverse the changes when asked, other than to take “commercially reasonable efforts.”

How is this legal? Forget legal, how is this fair? Can you imagine if your investment adviser started buying stocks on your behalf or switched your portfolio from bonds to hedge funds??

Caveat Emptor Pilgrims!

(hat-tip Al)

  • Thanks Andy for bringing this into light! Infact I’ll reblog it in one of my blog posts since this is horrible if Yahoo! is going to do something like this. How can they take the advertisers for granted?

    I think in few days, Yahoo! is going to face the backlash soon enough! BTW the exclamation after Yahoo “!” fits well in the present context! 😛


    Sampad Swain’s last blog post..Survey: Marketers are Tired of Web 2.0

  • That one is actually a bit old I think… See

    Barry Schwartz’s last blog post..Is Google’s PageRank Indicators in Webmaster Tools Useless?

  • @Barry – thanks, but it’s new to me and I’m pretty sure many readers are totally unaware of the changes.

  • Andy, new to you? You don’t read SER? 😉

    Just adding to the convo here, I am sure many folks missed my post at SER on this.

    Barry Schwartz’s last blog post..Is Google’s PageRank Indicators in Webmaster Tools Useless?

  • Wow! This is insane, and new to me too.

    I don’t even know how they can get away with it, and they will definitely lose customers if they start ‘adjusting’ accounts and changing bids and keywords… Perhaps I need to learn more about this and read more documentation to understand this fully, but from the snippet that you have provided, it seem absolutely absurd!

    Shirley’s last blog post..Perhaps You Shouldn’t Blog!

  • Errmmmm and Yahoo hopes to compete with Google? What a terrible strategy. It’s a shame as I attended a presentation by one of Yahoo’s top execs and it sounded like they were moving in the right direction. But THIS is not it. You want customers to trust you, not think you’re messing with their money.

  • I think I remember receiving some notification of this recently but I didn’t take time to read it. It is pretty much ridiculous and makes me glad I don’t advertise using Yahoo Search Marketing.

  • Jeff

    Has anyone actually seen a case where Yahoo has done this? This is certainly old news and has been around a while but if this was really an issue I feel like there would be hundreds of postings all over the web of unwanted bid changes and I have not found any but in truth have only performed a couple of searches. My thought is that this is a case of “Yahoo reserves the right to…” but has not actually put this into practice.

  • i stopped using Yahoo years ago because of the incentivized traffic, but seeing this might be worse. Are they nothing more than one large arbitrator of fake traffic and now can spend as much as they want on that shitty traffic?

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..2008 Year-End Google Zeitgeist Released, Sarah Palin Rules

  • That you are embarrassed is an understatement.. No wonder that they are in all kinds of trouble. This move is not likely to help them come out of the mess that they already are in.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..New Year Resolutions to Help You Save Money

  • When you’re number 2, you act like it! And so will you stay there!

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  • Bad move Yahoo! be more transparent about changes too!

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  • Well, what can I say…


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  • I’m surprised there isn’t more of an uproar…
    haven’t heard it on the news yet, or is it not tv worthy?

  • I was totally unaware of the changes until they actually went into my account. Maybe people started to contact yahoo, like me, asking why they went into their accounts and that is why they sent out the T&C’s to everyone yesterday?

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

  • PS3

    I used YSM a while back and recently recevied a mail offering me a $100 credit to start-up again. I may well have done before I saw this article….and certainly wont be now. That is outrageous.

  • They need to adjust that right now. I spend a large amount on search and their share is getting lower and lower by the day.

    Dan London’s last blog post..My Questions for 2009

  • I have definitely experienced this, and I did NOT receive any emails, I had to discover it on my own. The ads they created were garbage, the keywords overly broad. I did get a couple conversions, but the haphazard treatment of branding and messaging pretty much infuriated me and I gave my rep an earful and demanded they never touch our account EVER again. Terms or not, don’t F with people’s cash or you’ll get their foot up your arse. You can’t just stick whatever you want in a TOS and do as you please. That’s what they call a lawyer’s wet dream.

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Merry Christmas!

  • How did you even notice this change? Luckily I’m not spending any money with Yahoo but this is almost daylight robbery. Once this spread (and it will spread in a few days) they stand to loose millions upon millions. I’m sorry for the poor guy that came up with that idea 🙂

    Mikael’s last blog post..How to Find Affordable Pet Insurance for Dogs

  • “We may add ads”!? Can they also bill you whatever they want? Huuuge mistake, Y!

  • WOW!!! I have just started in internet marketing and I am trying to help others get started. I never new this about yahoo. I definatly am not going to use them no more. And I am going to tell my readers.

    That was great information thank you

  • I can’t remember all the Yahoo ranting blog posts I have done over the last couple of years. Right now I am only a fan of Flickr and am just waiting for them to screw that one up too. This sucks for people using Yahoo (especially those who shouldn’t be and don’t understand PPC – or the TOS change) because it will just end up being even more of a waste of money for them then normal. What is going to happen when they get their larger then normal bill? So glad I don’t use this program or wasted any money on it the last couple years.. Please Yahoo – don’t screw with Flickr…. PLEASE!!!

    Matt Siltala’s last blog post..We Are Already Getting Calls Because Of Your Local Advertising Post

  • Wow!!! I can’t believe them. I really don’t understand how anyone in management at Yahoo could think robbing their customers is a good idea.

  • WOW, I have been using them for the last 6 months, but I think they will be getting dropped!

  • Yahoo really seems intent on shooting themselves in the foot. I actually can’t believe it! Their approach is just going to cost them more and more business and cause them to become less and less competitive. Soon their shares won’t be worth anything and they’ll start sliding into obscurity……

  • I hate when companies do underhanded things like this. It only hurts their reputation and doesn’t end up saving them anything in the end. Thanks Andy for letting us know about this.

    Patrick’s last blog post..Shower Water and Energy Use Calculator

  • Thank you for this article. This is the first I’ve heard even if it was mentioned elsewhere.

    Reminds me of desperate AOL not letting people out of the $19.95/month “free” trials.

    Love the monkey pic.

  • Andy, thanks for this valuable information. I’ve been telling my clients for a long time that with a limited budget, and limited time to manage all this, Google Adwords is where they should be focusing their efforts and spending their money. This just validates that advice for another reason. Sadly, this is another example of corporate arrogance. Can you imagine being in the room where they made this decision? I can see the heads all bobbing now: “yes, wow, cool, sure, we can do that!”

  • Andy, thank you for bringing this up. I myself am ashamed of what they have done in the past 2 years. Yahoo has gone mad. I have been a publisher and advertiser for over 5 years, but the results I have been getting in the past 2 years, have been horrible. I won’t even discuss what’s going on in the past 3 months. The change in legal terms they sent us recently was just an icing on the cake. Sure enough, as soon as I cut them off, I started getting phone calls from Yahoo Canada. I did reply to the person who contacted me, but guess what, his email did not even work. Where do you see Yahoo in the next year or two?

  • Has anyone ever done comparisons to see how their sites perform with Google Adwords over Yahoo’s solution? I’m curious to see if it performs better, especially given this nonsense from Yahoo.

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  • I found these changes only because I saw that a landing page we had decided to no longer use due to poor performance was still receiving traffic. I was able to determine the traffic’s origin as Yahoo and after downloading a CSV of the entire account I found countless Yahoo created ads. They tend to use standardized naming for ads so it was easy to use the advanced search feature to get a list of all the junk and delete it after that. But I have to reiterate, that I never received a single email that this was being done, which to me means they violated their end of their own TOS, which makes the damned thing null and void. To me that gave me every right to tell them to keep their grubby mitts off the account now and forever more.

    Terry Howard’s last blog post..Merry Christmas!

  • SEO

    Yes these terms and conditions have existed for a few months, but it appears that right around December 1st they started to use this to gather money, I currently have about $4000 in unfounded charges and activity on my Amex card starting December 1st, I normally bid for a very select few keywords at a monthly value of $100 per month, then they started just billing my Amex card $100 a day, nearly everyday.

    Yahoo is on the Amex black list, meaning that if you contact Amex they can stop Yahoo from charging your card, and they will also accept chargebacks for this activity.

    Yahoo, is going to really get nailed over this….

    Good Luck Yahoo

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  • yes, yahoo started playing around in accounts at the end of last summer. as a ppc analyst for a ppc management agency, i saw real stupidity where yahoo raised bids on words that were already in the #1 position due to lack of competition, where they turned off ads without offering explanation, and where they turned off some of the best performing keywords in an ad group, seemingly with the sole object of causing us to bid up. in most cases, we turned off the campaigns that were being jacked with… in each and every case, my clients claimed no notice was ever sent to them that any of this was done. when our agency got our yahoo team reps involved, they even seemed embarrassed about it. as an agency we requested that accounts under our management be made off limits, and were told that was the case… but as in most large companies, it seemed like the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing. while the reps were telling us “sure, we’ll flag all of your accounts as “don’t touch,” about every three days i was uncovering evidence of continued tampering.

    it’s enough to make you pull out your hair… especially when you are running experiments to prove a point to a client.

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  • Kurt

    I recently paused my Yahoo! accounts due to odd changes – now I know why. No response from Yahoo! ad teams to my inquiries on the “mysterious” changes. This is absolutely rediculous!!!

  • Lends the term “click fraud” an entirely new dimension, whether chiseled into their TOS or not…

    fantomaster’s last blog post..Towards Page Segmentation SEO – Ignore at Your Own Peril

  • I have just discovered this site and the info here is just soooooo informative..YEAH iT’S COMING TO LIGHT HERE WHATS BEEN GOING ON IT’S LIKE YOU TIE A DOG TO A LEASH, DONT FEED IT, THEN WHEN THE DOG DIES OF STARVATION, YOU SAY THE DOG DOESN’T WANT TO EAT….!!!!!!!!!!!???????????????????

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  • good thing you point this out. I don’t normally read terms and conditions. i think this is a desperate move because google is beating them

    thewutzupphilippines’s last blog post..RP borrows $1.5B from global investors

  • My word!!! What were they thinking? Sure, they did it quietly, likely hoping that they could get away with these changes without anyone noiticing, but really, how did they think this was gonna stay below the radar for long?

  • I was not aware of this. It is too bad for those who use Yahoo Search Marketing. Fortunately, I am not among these people.

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  • look how yahoo indexed those .edu site that redirects to a spam site. go search.

    John’s last blog post..Busby SEO Test the hard way

  • I’me glad I don’t use Yahoo search marketing, its hard enough tweaking your PPC add campaigns so you get a good ROI, but letting Yahoo tweak em’ for you is an insane proposition.

    I realy do hope this don’t catch on with other paid search providers.

  • Thanks Andy Beal! Great information

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