Is Yahoo!’s New Ad Text Length Policy Hurting Advertisers?

Well, some people think so. Search Engine Roundtable shared this comment from a Web Master World forum discussion:

“My CTR since May 16 has fallen through the floor. I assume this is because of the new short description policy.”

After reading both the forum discussion and the blog post, I decided to see if this observation held any merit. My first thought was that most advertisers (at least the ones I know) have been utilizing Yahoo!’s 70 character short text ads since the migration to Panama. To add to this, the latest update didn’t necessarily proclaim the death of the old school 140 character long text ads, it merely limited their use. So I was immediately skeptical.

This update, as part of the rolling launch of Panama, declares that ads on Yahoo! search properties will only be shown at 70 characters. If you refuse to create a short ad text, your long version will be cut off at an appropriate place and given an ellipses(… ). According to Yahoo!’s help section, some sites may still continue to support long ad texts.

I decided to pull reports for three of my clients who perform well in Yahoo!. To get an accurate sample, I looked at the average click-through-rate for the 8 days before 05/16/07 and the 8 days after (including the 16th). Here is what I found for clients A, B and C:

  • Client A: 0.72% < 0.74%
    • For this client, the CTR actually increased during this period. Strike one.
  • Client B: 1.14% > 0.83%
    • Now we can see the twinkle of hope for the forum guy. I’ll call this one a foul ball (Strike two).
    • It is worth noting that this client utilizes both short and long texts (together, not separated with just one or the other). Also, during this time period there was some testing being done with keywords and ad texts. Albeit nothing so severe as to cause this intense of a drop-off, thus enters doubt.
  • Client C: 0.33% > 0.28%
    • This is where I kind of start to believe the forum guy. We’ve got a pop up fly (did you really think I’d call it a home run?).
    • In this case, the client doesn’t use long ad texts in Yahoo!. And with the exception of standard ad testing, the account didn’t undergo any major changes during the time period.

Going, going... oh man he caught it at the fence!

The verdict? Inconclusive. My guess is that this wayward advertiser (still the forum guy) did in fact see a dip in CTR, but that it had nothing to do with the platform update at Yahoo!. It is possible that the advertiser was only using long ad texts, in which case YES, CTR will drop through the floor. It is also possible that the advertiser made significant changes to their Yahoo! account that otherwise affected this change (thus the importance of logs). As for the three clients I tested, I’m confident in the fact that once the numbers for the entire month are in I should be able to account for the fluctuations.