NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It has Microsoft as a waiting suitor, but Yahoo isn't giving up on search, at least not yet.
The company is announcing a raft of new search capabilities, some that play catch-up with Google, some that are truly new, but all offered with one message in mind: We're still competing in search until the Microsoft deal closes. That is, if it closes.
Even with a quick approval, integration with Microsoft will take 18-24 months. Until then, Yahoo will be trying to defend or build on its 20% share of U.S. search queries against Google as well as Microsoft, which is spending to the tune of $100 million to establish Bing in the marketplace.
"We have a very valuable search marketplace, and we are going to continue to invest in it; to not do that would be unfair to our advertisers and to consumers," said Yahoo VP-search marketing David Pann.
Among Yahoo's new search plans is software to allow Yahoo advertisers to easily export their campaigns. Other new features include:
- Video ads in search. Yahoo is expanding an existing program and offering video on a cost-per-click basis to a select group (100 to 150) of large advertisers.
- More control, lower keyword prices. In a new initiative, search advertisers will be able to buy just Yahoo sites, or the entire network, and the company will lower some minimum keyword prices.
- Portable campaigns. The company is developing a system to allow advertisers to easily export Yahoo search campaigns to other search engines such as Google. Google offers this with its AdWords Editor, but advertisers have long complained that it is difficult to use and impractical for large campaigns.
- Customized search. Yahoo is enhancing its "build your own search" service, allowing developers to customize search on their sites and share revenue, as Google does today.
- Customized results. The company is renovating search results to better reflect the personal interests of users -- along the lines of its new "It's Y!ou" slogan -- and improve the matching of keyword ads to longer queries.
Some of these innovations, such as video ads, have already been introduced; others, such as the ability to easily transport campaigns across search engines, are promised for 2010. Will they help?
Kevin Lee, CEO of search marketing firm Didit, said some of the enhancements will be helpful, such as lower-priced keywords and more targeted buying, but that's not entirely the point. There's a huge morale element for Yahoo's search staff, or the remaining staff that hasn't moved on to Microsoft already.
"Even if they think there's a 99% chance [the Microsoft deal] will go through, they have to keep the brightest minds engaged and wanting to stay, even if they all ultimately move over to Microsoft," he said. "Externally, it tells advertisers, 'Don't jump ship yet. We have interesting things for you.'"
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