Recently there has been a lot of speculation in the media about how Yahoo plans to move their business forward, much of it centering on search. Whether or not search continues to be part of Yahoo’s product offering the signals they are sending to clients like us is that they simply aren’t serious about it.
So the question for Carol Bartz and her team is, “How serious is Yahoo about search long-term?” After all, It becomes harder and harder to justify spending on a platform that sees its share of voice continue to decline as Yahoo’s has, and that also places an increasingly onerous process around mounting and managing campaigns.
As Yahoo’s reported earnings slide further down and it tries to cut back costs through lay-offs, customer like us are starting to experience the repercussions of this from a service perspective. In light of what we’ve seen and the recent re-org of their display sales team, is it any wonder that search seems to be taking a back seat?
If this were only a question of poor people-powered service it would be bad enough but Yahoo’s technology has also shown itself to be prone to hiccups of late. We and others in the search industry have had to put in extra time and effort troubleshooting UI gremlins, double-checking questionable data and suffering from delays in reporting. This is on top of longer editorial processing times.
It all points to a lack of depth on Yahoo’s technical support team. While Yahoo! Account Managers try their best to put out the fires in these situations, the impression is that they are driving the firetruck too, with an axe in one hand a hose in the other.
What’s even more troubling is the continued reliance on an antiquated system of uploading campaigns and the delay in releasing an easier Desktop Tool for campaign management. It’s worth pointing out that we are search marketing specialists and find this process vexing – for do-it-yourself advertisers these hiccups could form an effective barrier to entry.
Let’s face it, Google and MSN Search reps have really upped their game in terms of client service, Yahoo is definitely getting left behind. In addition, when it comes to campaign tools Google has long been the easiest engine to work with but MSN has definitely realized this and has worked wonders with its new AdCenter upgrades, Desktop Tools and excellent service to boot.
If Yahoo plans to increase or even simply to defend its foothold in search, it cannot ignore the support in people and technology that customers rely on. Now, more than ever, they need to recognize that a challenging economy leaves little room for error in executing their business plan and if search is to be a part of it they need to execute the customer relationship without a hitch. Right now, that seems a long way away.
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