Adjusting Campaign Settings Like A Pro: Yahoo (Part 1)

This week, we continue our series on optimizing campaign settings with everyone’s favorite #2 PPC network: Yahoo Search Marketing.

To change your settings on an individual Yahoo Search Marketing campaign, select your campaign on either the Dashboard or Campaigns tab after you log in. On the campaign page, click on the “Campaign Settings” link:

Yahoo campaign settings link

On the settings page, you’ll have a few options. To change the settings in each section, just click on the “edit” link on the top right side of each content box. Here’s what you should pay attention to in each section:

Campaign General Information

Here, you can change your campaign name and add a description to help remind you what’s in it. You can also add the campaign to your watch list to keep updated on potential issues with the campaign. There’s nothing to optimize here – just some helpful labels and alerts.

Campaign Budget and Schedule

This is where you set your campaign budget. You can either set it to “no limit” (BAD idea unless you have some really deep pockets…), or assign a dollar amount as your daily maximum spend. You can even allot a specific budget percentage amount toward content match. This could be really helpful if your content network coverage is eating up your daily budget – you can set it so that content can only spend a certain percentage of your daily budget at maximum. To help you decide on a budget, Yahoo even has a tool on this settings page to help you estimate your share of clicks, based on your keyword selections and budget amount.

You can also set a specific end date for your campaign on this page. This is helpful for seasonal campaigns (like back-to-school or Christmas), or if you just want to end your campaign at a specific date and you know you’ll forget to turn it off yourself.

In this section, you also have the choice to opt-in to Campaign Optimization. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of letting a PPC provider automate your account for you. Most optimization is done to optimize traffic instead of conversions (however, Yahoo does allow you the option to choose whether campaign optimization works toward traffic or conversions – more on this in Part 2). This means that the PPC provider has an incentive to increase your clicks (they make more money), but doesn’t have an incentive to make your account have a better ROI (which usually means you will have fewer clicks). Use Campaign Optimization at your own risk. It may be helpful for people who just don’t have time to manage their PPC account. But, with a basic knowledge of PPC (like the great stuff you get from this blog), you can probably outperform Yahoo’s “optimization” algorithm with just a little hard work and creative strategy.

Tactic Settings

Here, you get to make some important choices about your ad distribution. You can choose to turn Sponsored Search (Yahoo search and sites that use Yahoo for site search purposes) and Content Match (sites opted in to Yahoo display and text ads, like blogs and other content partners) off or on. Like in any other account, it’s best to have separate campaigns for search network and content network. The strategies for success are so different in each one that it’s much easier in the long run to divide up the two.

You also need to make a choice about your keyword match types. Unlike Google and MSN, match types are set on the account and campaign level instead of the keyword level. I cannot stress enough how much this sucks. Sure, you can actually set the match type at the keyword level, but the setting gets overridden by what’s on the Account or Campaign level. You’re going to have to commit to one of Yahoo’s two match types:

Advanced – Roughly equivalent to “broad” match in Google and MSN. Shows ads on search queries that are somewhat relevant to the keyword you’re actually bidding on.

Standard – Very close to (but not quite) “exact” match. Shows ads only when a user types in a query that is equal to, or a plural of, a keyword that you are bidding on.

Which keyword you select depends a lot on your available budget and your desired traffic strategy. If you want a lot of traffic and you don’t mind the occasional unqualified click, Advanced match will do. If you’re on a tight budget, and you want absolute control over your keyword list at the expense of a large amount of traffic, try Standard. My personal preference is to use Standard with a very expansive keyword list, but then again I usually like to err on the side of positive ROI over excessive traffic.

If you do opt for Advanced match, you’ll need to pay attention to the next setting: Excluded Keywords. You may know these by their non-crazy-person name in Google and MSN: negative keywords. These work the same way as in every other account. You put them in, and any search query that contains the negative…er…”excluded” keywords won’t show your ads and waste your precious budget. To find appropriate negative keywords, you can ask your Yahoo rep to run a search query report for you (you can’t do this yourself, unfortunately). Also unfortunate is the fact that they can only go back a few weeks for search queries, and they won’t be able to tell you which queries are driving conversions. This leaves you two options: 1) pull some negative keywords from your Google account, or 2) review search queries for Yahoo PPC in Google Analytics or any other analytics package you’re using.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned next week for Yahoo: Part 2, and the following weeks for our final installment of this campaign settings optimization series, covering MSN AdCenter.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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