By Marc Warren

A long time ago in an office far far away (well next door) we heard about the Search Alliance. A plucky rebellion formed by two Search factions with a mutual enemy; the (don’t be) evil Galactic Empire!

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Am I the only one who made this (ambiguous) connection? Search algorithms - The Force. The Search Alliance - The Rebel Alliance. And Google – the all powerful Galactic Empire...

Oh, I am, right, nevermind then.

The story so far (yes I’m continuing with the Star Wars references)

The Alliance has started to fight back against the Empire in the North American star system. However their progress has stalled in Europe. (Too much? Ok, I’ll stop).

Apparently, during an earnings call at Yahoo, Carol Bartz (CEO) dropped the bomb that the European stage of the Alliance would be postponed till 2012. The official reason given was thedisappointing revenue per search(RPS) figures coming out of the USA. Now, as we understand, there was an agreement in the contract stating that Microsoft would cover any drop below the agreed RPS, so why delay the planned roll out in Europe? We detected a similar level of confusion from the guys at the Yahoo coal face.

Our view, and a slight issue

When we first heard of the Alliance we took it as an encouraging sign that Yahoo and Bing were finally getting their act together. At the moment, neither Yahoo Search Marketing nor Microsoft adCenter compare well to Google AdWords in terms of ease of use, support or (obviously) traffic. This Alliance, we hoped, would signal a big change in all three areas. However after a lengthy meeting with our Yahoo team I soon realised this was a half hearted effort. They had not considered advertisers and the most basic of issues; once there is a single interface the data from both platforms will be combined, however it is important to view the results from the separate search engines... SEPARATELY!

Their view, our riposte

The stock corporate response is somewhere between “They’re powered by the same back end so there’s no need to separate” and “If we did this people would want to turn off the poorer performing platform”. I explained to them that they had missed the big picture: The results will be the same, yes. However the user experience is still different, therefore drawing a searchers eye to different parts of the page, even the slightest variation will make a huge impact when multiplied several thousand times. I argued that we wouldn’t use separated stats to decide whether to turn off one of the platforms, rather we’d use them to optimise in different ways for the differing performance. If one ad group is performing well on Bing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be performing to the same level on Yahoo, therefore the data we would see would be middling and not tell the whole story! (Rant over)

A Forlorn New Hope...?

I would like to think that we might see some developments towards separation of stats in the US as people start to realise this is an issue (when I pointed this out it appeared as if it was a dawning moment for Yahoo, no one else had highlighted it!). However I fear this will never happen, therefore rendering what should be an effective Rebel Alliance a bit of a damp squib against a Galactic Empire that, more often than not, takes user comments into consideration.

To be continued...

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