The Rogue Gardener: Yahoo's Ad Profiling May Kill Your Weeds And Your Roses

As I reported earlier, Yahoo has instituted a new program called Ad Profiling. In a recent article at the YSM Blog, they liken your YSM account to a garden, and Ad Profiling is the gardener you didn’t hire to kill the weeds, even if it means sacrificing the roses. What does that even mean? Read on.

Upon closer review of the Yahoo article I have some questions, comments and declarations. First, lets review the core intention of Ad Profiling, as stated by Yahoo:

Our primary goal is to preserve the keyword by improving its performance. Just as in a garden you might try using more or less water or adding fertilizer, in Ad Profiling, we have several methods we can employ to help keep your keywords growing strong

Fertilizer, indeed. Perhaps Yahoo’s intentions are on-the-level, but I seriously doubt that they are this altruistic. Obviously, the better your campaign performs, the more likely you are to increase your budget with Yahoo. But I have serious issue with anyone optimizing my campaign that isn’t me.

The methods that Yahoo utilizes for this program include:

  • Fix faulty alt text. Sometimes alt text can do more damage than good in a creative. Honestly, I don’t believe this function works well in the first place. This method does not affect me greatly.
  • Add alt text when keyword insertion is being used with no alt text in place, leading to a confusing ad. As I just stated, I don’t employ keyword alt text so I don’t want Yahoo instituting this within my account. When one keyword could actually be two keywords, that makes for poor analysis. If the keyword “DVD burning supplies” could be “DVD burning supplies” or possibly “DVD burning” – that is too confusing.
  • Replace the ad when the existing one just isn’t working. A new creative written with the entire ad group in mind can usually help improve an ad group’s performance. In cases where the suggested creative uses keyword insertion, alt text is added for the other keywords in the account. That new creative is then uploaded with an “offline” status and only turned “online” when the advertiser approves it. Yahoo has submitted account optimizations to me in the past, and their ad texts are always awful. And with the Ad Profiling that has been implemented within my account, they uploaded ads without my permission.
  • Remove underperforming keywords. If they define “underperforming” keywords as those terms that drive 90% of your traffic, with a high conversion rate, within a given ad group, then yes, this is what they do – and this is what happened to my account. Yahoo provides a lengthy explanation of how they determine which keywords to pause – and that’s fine, but they just shouldn’t do this in the first place. And again, they didn’t notify me of this change: (pausing my keywords) I noticed that traffic and conversions tanked and I had to dig into my account to discover what had broken.

Yahoo also mentions what they don’t do with Ad Profiling. Perhaps my one instance was a fluke, but this doesn’t seem correct to me either. Keywords were paused and ad texts were uploaded without my knowledge.

What impact has Yahoo seen with Ad Profiling? Well, here they are (according to them):

  • Increased marketplace quality.
  • Increased clickthrough rates.
  • Reduced costs for clicks.

Maybe in other accounts they have seen wonderful success. However, so far, these have been my results:

  • Decreased traffic
  • Decreased conversions
  • Higher cost-per-conversion

Basically, Ad Profiling a watered-down version of the automated account optimizations that we have discussed before. However, Yahoo is taking a stance that they do not adjust bids with Ad Profiling (and they do with automated account optimization). So, basically, if you opted out of the optimizations, they opted you right back in.

Yahoo states that they want to, “help people transform their accounts from window boxes into beautiful gardens.” And that’s great, but if most PPC managers are like me, they don’t want a rogue gardener spraying weed killer all over their organic tomatoes.