Practical Ecommerce

Microsoft, Yahoo! Search-engine Partnership: Frequently Asked Questions

The agreement for Yahoo! to use Microsoft’s Bing search platform has been approved by U.S. and European authorities. We wonder what this agreement means for ecommerce merchants. Greg Laptevsky, a Practical eCommerce contributor and a seasoned search marketing expert, provides some answers.

Practical eCommerce: Please explain the newly formed partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo!.

Greg Laptevsky: “Microsoft and Yahoo! announced in February that they received clearance from the U.S. and European regulatory authorities to move forward with a search integration deal. Here’s what we know so far:

  • “This is a ten-year, search only (technology and traffic) deal; display businesses will remain separate.
  • “Microsoft adCenter is going to be the platform of choice, and the Yahoo! Search Marketing platform will be decommissioned.
  • “Account transitions should begin in Q3 2010 as Microsoft and Yahoo! made it clear that neither wants to deal with the transition during the 2010 holiday season. If the transition does not happen on schedule, both companies appear agreeable to postponing it to 2011.
  • “Content network, driven by search platforms, is also going to be integrated.
  • “It is not yet clear which platform features and capabilities (if any) will be moved over from Yahoo!.
  • “The Yahoo! team will be supporting high-spend accounts, agencies and resellers; Microsoft’s support team will take on self-serve accounts (i.e., smaller accounts without a dedicated account manager).”

PeC: If both companies are using the same search platform, will the search results be the same on both sites?

Laptevsky: “Search results will likely be powered by Bing on both networks. I imagine that the search results will be similar, although not identical. I think that Yahoo! and Bing would want to retain some of the customized search experiences their users are used to (i.e., universal search components, such as images).”

PeC: Does the deal involve banner display ads, which are currently a major source of revenue for Yahoo!.

Laptevsky: “Actually, this deal is purely a search technology and traffic deal. Display businesses will remain separate.”

PeC: Will ecommerce merchants be able to automatically consolidate pay-per-click buys across both Bing and Yahoo!?

Laptevsky: “Hopefully. All advertisers will be able to use a single interface, Microsoft adCenter, to purchase paid search ads across Bing and Yahoo! networks. It remains to be seen whether advertisers will be able to segment the former Yahoo! network from the Bing network.”

PeC: Will the back-end pay-per-click interface the same for both sites?

Laptevsky: “Microsoft adCenter is going to be the single unified interface. If you are not familiar with it, I strongly suggest you start playing around with it.”

PeC: What do you think ecommerce merchants should be thinking about relative to this new partnership?

Laptevsky: “I would recommend a few immediate action items:

  • “Start looking at Microsoft adCenter interface. Do some analysis to figure out the potential profitability of Yahoo! network vs. Microsoft network. Depending on how flexible the final platform will turn out to be, you may or may not be able to segment your Yahoo! audience from your Microsoft audience. Make sure you understand what both of these possible scenarios mean for your business.
  • “The transition period is a great time to revamp your pay-per-click efforts. Allocate budget and time to make some major improvements to your campaigns.
  • “Make sure your IT team is in the loop.
  • “Stay tuned for more developments.”

PeC: Bing has been around for roughly nine months. What sort of pay-per-click results have you seen on Bing, compared to Google?

Laptevsky: “The introduction of Bing was just a re-branding exercise for Microsoft. While we certainly enjoy some minimal level of search query growth (supported by Microsoft’s hefty investment), advertising results on the network have been pretty consistent both pre- and post-Bing. It is still a very effective channel with great ROI, but low volume.”

PeC: How does Bing’s paid search platform and advertiser tools compare to Google’s?

Laptevsky: “Bing is getting better, but it’s not quite the same. Microsoft adCenter (Bing’s paid search platform) got a major facelift a few months ago. It was a very positive improvement.

“Google is still ahead of the game but Bing is moving in the right direction.”

PeC: How do Bing’s organic search results compare to Google’s?

Laptevsky: “I think it’s a matter of personal preference at this point. For most basic searches, users will find what they are looking for, regardless of the search engine. Google does offer more precise search results, though, and I personally use Google for basic search. But, for anything travel-related, Bing Travel is my first choice.”

“I think a lot of SEO experts will tell you that it’s easier to optimize for Bing than for Google. Therefore, Google is less subject to SEO marketing abuse.”

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Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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