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Internet World 2007: Yahoo provides update on UK Panama rollout

The company gave Internet World delegates more insight into the UK rollout of its Panama platform.

Yahoo chose today's Internet World conference in London as the venue to provide users with more detail about the UK rollout of its Panama platform, which is designed to manage online search-related marketing campaigns.

In a presentation entitled 'The future of search and search marketing' Yahoo's UK regional sales director, Richard Firminger, outlined more details of the software that is crucial for Yahoo to try and regain the initiative from Google and its rival AdWords programme.

He wouldn't name a precise date, but by saying the 'second half of Q2' he suggested the launch was imminent.

Yahoo already completed the migration of its US client base a month ago, a process that started in November 2006. There will be a gradual migration schedule, Firminger said, for the sake of load balance.

There would be a switch to a new Ranking Model for campaigns two months after the rollout had been completed, he said.

Firminger added that all UK clients would get two weeks of notice for the migration of their online marketing campaigns, but also strongly urged people to backup the data from the existing Direct traffic Centre as this data would be cleared out within a year.

Conceding that Yahoo's search marketing tools were in need of an overhaul - in terms of their flexibility and faster ad activation, and also the feedback information presented. With ease of use a priority - Firminger said 1,000 advertising clients had been consulted over functionality - he promised an "intuitive representation of your advertising campaign."

Taking a leaf out of Google's book - as an attempt to ease the migration away from the Mountain View search giant - Yahoo will accept third-party data input tools. Specifically, Google's way of outputting campaign information will be supported, a deliberate move to make clients' dealings with search engines more consistent, claimed Firminger.

There will be the same structure, same ad groups and the reports obtained from the system will be similar, he said.

As mentioned, the most important new features to be found in Panama is the use of a new ranking model to determine the placement of ads around the Internet. Specifically, a quality index will accompany bid price information, and Yahoo will jointly use both to determine placings, rather than simply giving priority to the highest bidder.

Google already does and it is believed to improve the effectiveness of campaigns. Yahoo, of course, was not revealing the secret of the formula by which it will exactly determine which ads should appear where.

"Probably only two people in Yahoo know this," declared Firminger, "and I'm not one of them."

The company's main concern is that people should not be given so much information that they can 'game' the system.

Other features include more flexible controls over budgeting and controls, including visual feedback on potentially 'missed clicks' and Geo-Targeting, to enable geographically-based targeting of campaigns, for example that people in London should see one campaign and people in Edinburgh another (it works on a country basis). There's Ad Testing Optimisation, where the system dynamically determines the best performing campaigns from within a group, automatically promoting the use of the most successful.

Whereas today's offer model involves a keyword, a title and description, and a URL, the new offer model involves 'targets' (mulitple keywords), various creatives, and calls to action (different URLs for different platforms).

In terms of the size of the market Yahoo is competing for, Firminger claimed a 52 per cent year-on-year rise in search marketing revenues, from 768 million to 1.65 billion. Paid for search accounted for a 57.8 per cent share of marketing ad spend in 2006.

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