Hey Yahoo! – Fix Search, Don’t Sell It!

Poor Jerry Yang. Handing the reins of his creation over to Carol Bartz must have been tough. Her no-nonsense approach will be a stark contrast to the mild-mannered indecision exhibited by Yang when the going got tough.

Many in the press and the search industry pilloried him for not selling to Microsoft. In this case hindsight is truly 20/20. C’mon, give the guy a break. Who could have predicted the present state of the economy and it’s effect on Yahoo! when he was negotiating with Redmond?

Ms. Bartz hit the ground running. Kicking ass, taking names, saying goodbye to the old guard. Quickly making the obvious changes required to keep her new employer afloat. But one recent action really got my attention. Killing the Yahoo! Publisher Network outside the U.S.

Yahoo! recently informed advertisers in the UK, Germany and elsewhere that, effective March 31st, 2009, the Yahoo! Publisher Network will cease to exist. In the email Yahoo! cited its intent to “deliver a high ROI for our advertisers.”

This is awesome! But what about us? What about advertisers in the U.S.? ROI is important to my clients too! In my opinion, Bartz should waste no time in shuttering the Publisher Network here as well. And if the reality is that they can’t shutter it because of the revenue opportunities, blow it up and start over. If you have good partners, with real traffic, that drives conversions, my budgets are all yours, but what’s out there now is like a wasteland.

We’ve tested Yahoo! Content ad placements, and in the early years CTR was high and ROI acceptable. Then something changed. Traffic shrank, CTR was still high, but ROI was terrible almost across the board. We quickly realized that the poor results didn’t justify the click spend and pulled all clients ads out of the Yahoo! Publisher Network. We’ll test exposure in the Publisher Network occasionally, but almost always conclude it’s a waste of our clients money and of time to try and manage all that.

I have no idea what amount of resources Yahoo! has allocated to this area of its business in the U.S. But I’m sure Yahoo!’s bottom line would benefit by terminating the program here as they’ve done offshore.

This isn’t the only fix that Yahoo! needs to make to improve its search business, but it’s one that would be a huge step in improving everyone’s ROI. Just friggin’ do it Carol!