Yahoo's improved ad service

Pay-per-click search-engine advertising at a glance

There's no quicker solution than pay-per-click search-engine advertising to boost the number of visitors to your e-commerce Web site. But which PPC service should you use?

Yahoo's upgraded Sponsored Search service, code-named Panama, is the biggest improvement in years to the company's PPC advertising service. Panama makes Yahoo Sponsored Search a strong contender to Google's AdWords, which I wrote about in July last year. Panama is faster and easier to use than AdWords in some areas, such as reporting, though I do have some minor concerns.

Google AdWords Has Huge Lead

If you want to significantly increase visitors to your site, you need to select a PPC service that's linked to a popular search engine. In the U.S., you have three main choices. The December 2006 statistics from search marketing consultancy Hitwise show Yahoo with a 22 percent share of U.S. search volume, second to Google's 63 percent and ahead of Microsoft's 9 percent share.

I'm a longtime user of Yahoo's PPC service, dating back to the days it was GoTo.com and you could still buy a good search term for a penny a click. GoTo.com became Overture, which Yahoo acquired last July after the PPC system started delivering much of the search engine's ad revenues.

Despite being an early front-runner in PPC advertising, Yahoo's Sponsored Search stumbled badly, falling behind Google's AdWords. Not only did AdWords display advertisements to a larger audience, but its user interface was also easier to understand and it offered more flexibility.

As with other search-engine PPC services, Yahoo ads are linked to search terms (keywords) that you specify. If you sell left-handed widgets, you can have your ad displayed when search engine visitors query that term. You are charged when someone clicks on your ad and is then transferred to your Web site.

Smoother Interface, Better Reports

Panama began rolling out to customers late last year. Yahoo says all U.S. and Canadian users should be converted to Panama by the end of March. International users will be converted later.

Panama abandons Overture's clunky, spreadsheet-like interfaces, which are organized by keywords, in favour of a more intuitive marketing-oriented interface that's built around advertising campaigns. It's easier to view graphs and performance reports, which you can now click to drill down and examine in detail.

Yahoo's on-demand reporting system is faster and easier to use than the batch-oriented reporting used by Google's offering. AdWords requires you to first create a detailed report template, request the report, and then wait, typically several minutes, until you can view the results.

Yahoo says new ads or modifications to existing ads are now approved within minutes, not days, which I've confirmed.

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