I Personally Feel Yahoo! Is Giving Advertisers Bad Advice

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In the latest Yahoo! Search Marketing blog, Kastle Waserman, the Communications Manager in Advertiser Solutions, I feel is giving advertisers some not so great advice when it comes to managing your PPC campaigns.

The blog is titled, “You’re Doing it Wrong”, 5 common mistakes that can hurt your ads’ performance.

Most of the blog post is great. Points 1 through 3 are definitely best practices used among many good PPC advertisers. However, it’s points 4 and 5 that I’m having problems with.

Mistake #4 – Yahoo claims that you should never put your business phone number in your ads. I see why they’re saying this. Because they think that if you put your phone number in your ad text, then the customer will just call instead of clicking on your ad. And then Yahoo! loses money.  If the user does skip clicking on your ad and calls instead, you could decrease your click-through rate resulting in a higher cost-per-click.

I don’t believe a user wouldn’t click on your PPC ad just because you have a phone number listed.  But I like to think about it this way, if you do have your phone number listed and it does make people click through to your site, then you get their business. However if they don’t click on your ad but call the phone number listed in your ad, you get their business.  My point is Yahoo! shouldn’t be telling people that this is a mistake, but rather to test putting phone numbers in your ad text and test it for a while to see what the click-through rate ends up being.  I have tested this method and did receive a higher click-through rate with the phone number in my PPC ad, however, my client didn’t see an increase in phone calls, just an increase in website traffic.

Mistake #5 – Yahoo! says it is NOT okay to see what keywords your competitor are using then coping them.  Typically I don’t agree with copying peoples’ work, but why not in this case?  I think one would be silly to not look at what your competitors are doing and if they happen to bid on a keyword you’re not, then yes, by all means add it to your keyword list.

But most importantly add your competitor’s names to your keyword list. Know that they may not get approved by Yahoo!, but in my experience some competitor’s names will get approved, and I have generated leads off of them.  Just remember that typically you can bid on competitor names, you just can’t have them in your ad text.

In the end, just be sure that when you read advice from other bloggers or Search Agencies, but take it with a grain of salt, becasue until you test it yourself, you’ll never truly know what works and what doesn’t.

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13 thoughts on “I Personally Feel Yahoo! Is Giving Advertisers Bad Advice

  1. Craig Scott

    if yahoo doesn’t want phone numbers in ppc ads then they should just outlaw them. why leave it vague… they have their business model and I respect that. but why beat around the bush.

  2. Pierre Valencia

    Re: Mistake #4
    The only way to truly find out is to test it. If you’re going to conduct a test using a phone number in the ad copy make sure it is unique so that you can trace any offline leads or sales back to your PPC efforts. Also, monitor your CTR of the ad along with online and offline conversions to gauge the true overall performance. Personally, I don’t think CTR should suffer too much because I believe searchers will still seek more information, and the only way to do that is to click through on the ad.

  3. david

    the phone number issue is a 50/50 mix if you have setup a FreeCall number such as in Australia a 1300/1800 number you can get reporting on the number of calls etc… and you can match this data up offline.

    The only slight issue is that you may not be able to measure which types of queries generated the phone call, if it is your branded terms, i say do it!

    As a test with a previous clients campaign i was responsible for tracking adwords/analytics that lead to sales leads etc. I answered a call got their details asked them questions how did u find us, have u heard about our company before etc… check into my adwords/analytics data and found their specific visit and the data didnt match up. They got sent a message once they completed the contact form with the clients phone details and they rang straight away.

    Remember if you are testing online with analytics that is useful because often times when you ask a customer they just automatically say oh i googled you or your company displayed in results. This does not clarify if it was paid/organic, this can make it hard to justify some campaigns even if the client has experienced an increase.

    Just for the record the client said he had heard about them “the customer” before and thats how come they contacted their business…

    So be wary of clients that pay you a bonus per lead as they will work out anyway to get out of paying it if they can.

    So if you are evaluating your campaign results this client would not include this as a successful lead even with your involvement in the confirmation and backup support from analytics data.

  4. naomi

    I totally agree with you on #4.
    We have clients that need as many phone calls as possible. I am sure that anyone who calls them also click on their ad. They want to see the website behind the ad.

  5. Mike

    Surely mistake #4 is primarily a value attribution issue. If I’m getting a ton of business from people seeing my phone number on the ad and everyone is calling not clicking, I might stop advertising online altogether because it’s apparently not providing business.

    Further, there’s a CTR issue. If it’s getting displayed, getting you business but not getting clicked, that’s going to have a negative impact on the ad being displayed at all (which will lead to no one calling because no one will see the number).

  6. AmberAmber Post author

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I definitly think that testing IS the way to go. But yes, it’s true that if you include your phone number in your ad but do not get clicks, it could drive your ad further down the search engines. But I still think if it’s something you wonder if it works, then test it first. Don’t just take someone’s word for it! : )

  7. Lazworld

    You are 100% correct. Yahoo is giving bad advice. Phone numbers in advertisments can drive calls especially in select industries. Google also gives bad advice. They have incentives to make money and tell advertisers to do things that will make them more money (just look at the default settings)…

  8. AmberAmber Post author

    @Lazworld – I absolutely agree with you. Both search engines know what to do to make more money – and giving out bad advice unfortunately isn’t below them. But I guess that is the way the world of business works! I just feel badly for the people who don’t catch on to the scheme!

  9. Kalin Dudley


    I love the post but for the sake of arguing and playing the devil’s advocate, I would like to take Kastle Waserman’s point of view.

    4. Use of the Phone Number

    While I have found that about 25% of calls come from ads that display phone numbers in the ad copy which weren’t clicked, seen in a few recent tests, let’s look into what Kastle’s point is. If your ads get a lower CTR because 25% of the traffic is just dialing in without going to the site, they will show less because Yahoo’s algorithm will see them as less relevant. A close friend of mine are always arguing with others in our field about this point, PPC is no longer a bidding-auction system, it is now a relevancy contest and CTR is one of the biggest players in winning. So if you CTR falls, your ads will no longer seem relevant and run the risk of receiving poor Quality Indexes/Scores and thus will get less impression share. So while it may lead to more calls without paying, it may be lost because your ads now only get shown 1 in 5 impressions, thus less opportunity to get new clients. Does it happen often, not entirely…but could it happen, theoretically yes.

    5. Bidding on Competitor’s keywords

    This is not the same as the point Kastle makes in saying do not research a competitor’s terms and use them. The legal consequences of bidding on a competitor’s branded terms on Yahoo do not make it worth the while however to risk. This is different from Google and MSN’s advertising terms which allow you to bid on their terms without using “bait and switch” style ad copy. I wouldn’t recommend using this on Yahoo as I have had a client who was sued for this on Yahoo and it was quite costly.On Yahoo, bidding on a competitor’s terms will result in your ads being paused at some point in most cases so its really not an option that you are given.

    However, using a tool like Spyfu or Ad Goo Roo and finding what terms your competition is going after is a really smart strategy in keyword research. With some insight and some imagination, you can get a sense of what is working for them and see if it can do the same for your account. This is not unethical, its smart.

    Overall, I do think you bring up some great counter points but thought it would be nice to explain what I got from the Yahoo article as well for some good conversation on your blog. As always great job and let me know if there are any guest opps in the near future….

    Thanks and aloha.

    Kalin Dudley

  10. Michelle Moore

    Wow, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I found the Yahoo article a lot easier to swallow than some of the “instructions” that are in the Google tutorials online. most of the advice given there actually IS best practice, if your job is to get the best return on investment. Most advertisers who clamor about phone calls don’t go the extra step and use trackable ad methods with their campaigns, so you risk decreasing quality and relevance and raising CPC – that eventually shoots your ROI in the foot because some of the ads will undoubtedly be clicked only now the CPC is higher – remember your ad has to also be relevant to the keyword, not just the landing page – what are the chances that someone typed in part of your phone number as a search term?

    And If the advertiser isn’t adequately tracking phone calls from PPC ads, it’s all guesswork. MSN won’t even let phone numbers appear in ads

    When it comes to keywords, the human brain is a weird gadget – I train PPC analysts and I teach them to do their own homework. When you copy someone else, not only do you not learn how your own mind works and what “help” you will need to develop the best types of keywords, but you also risk roping yourself into someone else’s laziness and bad habits without even realizing the mistakes. If they made bad choices, you run a higher risk of duplicating those poor choices if you get lazy and the account will suffer for it – (and don’t tell me exact copying doesn’t go on – I’ve worked with PPC firms who’ve run the exact same campaign with a dozen different clients who didn’t know any better).

    There are two lawsuits sitting Google’s lap right now pertaining to advertising using competitors’ names. You really wanna go that route? Yahoo already turns off keywords that happen to be other people’s trademarks but if you decide to buck the system and keep putting them in there, you might just get suspended… is it worth it? It might be expedient and even profitable for a while to run campaigns using competitors names – yeah, everyone does it till they get a cease and desist letter. But what will you do when this new judge decides that’s deceptive advertising and you can’t do it anymore?(he already published this opinion in 2006.)

    Yeah, I have a hang up about people “doing it wrong.” I can’t wait till all these MLM and affiliate marketers have to finally play by the rules like regular advertisers… why yell at Yahoo? They’re not the ones driving up CPC.

  11. Jun

    Phone calls is the best converting source in my experience. Maybe it would differ from case to case though, but if you are able to track it, go for it.

  12. Lazworld

    So, if anyone wants to start tracking phone numbers, we provide toll free (800, 866 etc.) with real time tracking, recording, and much more for as low as $10.00 per month per number plus 0.09 cents per minute usage. we can train you on use and methodologies for tracking. it is online at http://calls.lazworld.com

  13. Ellerton Whitney

    The most annoying element about Yahoo, somewhat related to their number 2, is that our reps say we should NOT run any one term on both standard and advanced match. My issue with this is that I want to show up in a higher position for the short-tail, exact match terms that have a much higher conversion rate than the advanced/broad match variations of the term. Both provide quality leads/sales, but I want them to be in different positions due to their different ROI’s. However, the account teams at Yahoo say you should not run a term on both standard and advanced match because it detracts from your Quality Index…. which I find to be silly.


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