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June 22, 2007

One Agency’s List of Demands for Jerry Yang

For the next few weeks be prepared to be inundated by news about the recent and abrupt Yahoo! management change. The official Yahoo! press release from June 18th announced that CEO, Terry Semel, was resigning and co-founder, Jerry Yang, would be named the new CEO, with Sue Decker being promoted from Executive Vice President to President

A quick tour through the blogosphere shows a fast pumping rumor mill speculating about Yahoo!’s recent changes and the future of the company. Silicon Valley Gossip Blog, Valleywag, talks about Yahoo’s “18 months of misery” including Board of Director coups, executives jumping ship (8 in the last year), possible merger talk with AOL and MSN, and declining revenues… oh and not to mention Google whose sales are twice that of Yahoo!

But gossip aside, in the coming months, what will the Yahoo! shake-up mean to agencies and advertisers? What should we be prepared for? More importantly what should we be asking for?

On Yodel Anecdotal, Yang’s personal blog, he posted about his new role and set his future goals on increasing shareholder value, focusing on acquiring and keeping talent, growing stronger partnerships, and responding better to users, employees and customers. So, as an agency that’s been online since the Yahoo! glory days–helpingclients optimize their sites for organic search, managing PPC campaigns for search advertising and working productively and effectively online each and every day–we are providing this list of “demands” for the new Yahoo! regime:

  1. Work Out the Panama Kinks Please
    When the recent Panama platform launched, our agency experienced an across the board loss in inventory and leads for our clients’ campaigns. While the reviews have been mixed and many advertisers and engineers applaud the new system, in the PPC trenches the story can be a bit different. We’re still struggling with managing the new interfaces (campaign set-up is laborious!) and the reporting just isn’t up to snuff.
  2. Give Us A Dedicated PPC Rep
    Yahoo! customer service is notoriously slow. Requests for information, account set-up and budget changes go unresponded to for days and even weeks which, in this business, is simply unacceptable. If Yahoo! wants to increase its customer base and keep its current customers happy it better overhaul the customer service division and get proactive with providing its customers with information.
  3. Don’t Keep Advertisers (or Employees) in the Dark
    Yahoo! doesn’t seem that interested in transparency. In fact, a recent Valleywag post mentioned that several employees and stockholders found out about the Semel resignation through the media outlets as opposed to an internal memo. We were also reminded of Yahoo’s habit of playing it a little too close to chest, when the recent Quality-Based Pricing system launched for all ad campaigns, with exactly one day’s notice to advertisers.
  4. Post To Your Blogs About Your Search Services
    Build strong relationships through readable blog posts that keep all of the Yahoo! Search Service users informed and entertained with useful tips and solid information.

    The Y! Search Marketing Blog (PPC) seldom features truly useful posts and often reads more like a search news list of who’s who in search blogging.

    The Yahoo Search Blog (organic) rarely gives a glimpse into the search index updates. Posts are often short and sweet with no real substance. The latest Yahoo! Weather Report posting consisted of three whole sentences: (1) we’re rolling out changes – (2) you may see some changes as a result and (3) the update should be complete soon.

  5. Ask Us What We Need and Want
    Oddly enough, last Friday, June 15th, one of our PPC Specialists received the first ever Customer Satisfaction survey from Yahoo! The survey was gathering responses about Panama, including a question that asked us to compare them to MSN and Google. So bravo for Yahoo! for finally asking its clients what they think. It would have been even nicer to receive the survey BEFORE Panama launched so that the system might have been built on user feedback at the start.

    To be honest, Google has never sent us a survey like this before either. Instead, they one-upped all the major search companies by asking a select group of agencies (we were included in this panel) to come to Mountain View campus and give feedback about AdWords, in person, directly to high-level directors and product engineers. So I guess that answers the Yahoo! survey question about how Google compares to Yahoo!.

  6. Live Up To Your Values
    Yahoo!’s company values reads more like a list of things to work on than a list of qualities they value. Touting a commitment to winning with integrity, creativity, ingenuity, anticipating market trends and moving quickly to embrace them, respecting customers above all else, listening to customers, exceeding customer expectations and, internally, treating one another with respect and communicating openly means little when its nothing more than a pretty list.
  7. Lose the Attitude
    Yahoo!’s financials, reputation and stock values show that folks are ditching it. If Yahoo! intends to compete it had better pretend to care, take some risks and try to recapture what made it cool in the first place. Yahoo! doesn’t seemto mind that its directory is old and outdated. It doesn’t care that users don’t use email addresses they’ve had for the past 10 years since they moved to fee-based POP access years ago. With no apparent continuity or focus, no real regard for users and nothing to set it apart as a viable competitor in search, in media or in technology, Yahoo! has no chance of surviving, much less thriving.

So Yang, we hope you’re ready to turn Yahoo! around and put your money where your mouth is. This agency applauds your ambitious plans for the coming years and, if successful, the lively and substantial competition it will present to other search companies, but at this point it’s hardly a contest, so show us what you got!

Author:  Hollis Thomases is the President of Web Ad.vantage, Inc., an online marketing company specializing in search engine optimization, ppc campaign management, and online media buying. Hollis Thomases is a contributing columnist to ClickZ as well as the SBA Maryland’s Small Business Person of the Year 2007