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Yahoo’s Search Ads Will Mimic Google’s

Yahoo is changing the way it displays its Sponsored Search listings, bringing them more in line with Google’s sponsored search results.

On Jan. 18, Yahoo debuts a “streamlined design that will make the search results displayed on Yahoo even easier for consumers to read,” according to an e-mail sent to Yahoo Search Marketing clients. The main change is that descriptions will be shortened to 70 characters, the same length of copy as on Google’s listings. MSN’s pilot search advertising program, MSN AdCenter, also features shorter ads.

“Over time, we will fine-tune the exact character count that we believe works best for advertisers and search users,” Yahoo said.

This feature will make search agencies’ jobs easier because they have had to write and develop different sponsored search ads for Google and Yahoo.

“Clearly, this is a step toward universal [ad formats],” said Josh Stylman, managing partner of search marketing firm Reprise Media, New York.

“It makes it much more streamlined for the advertiser to be able to have uniformity in their copy,” said Danielle Leitch, vice president of marketing and analytics at search marketing firm More Visibility, Boca Raton, FL.

Aaron Shear, chief technology officer at search marketing firm SEO Inc., Carlsbad, CA, lauded Yahoo’s move to shorter listings and called the move Yahoo’s way to compete better with Google.

“Less copy is working very, very well with Google,” he said. “Maybe [Yahoo’s] intention is to grab some of those Google advertisers.”

Stylman said it will be easier for Google clients to test Yahoo without rewriting and reformatting all their messaging. Moreover, longer search results are not necessarily better, Leitch said.

“Ad copy should be compelling to be effective — quick, concise, descriptive and to the point,” she said. “At times, those extra characters seemed to be lost in effect anyway … the searcher never really got that far.”

Still, having Google and Yahoo sponsored search results that look the same does not benefit advertisers who want to differentiate themselves and test various campaigns.

“More competition and diversity in the space is better for our clients,” said Tim Kauffold, director of business development for search marketing firm OneUpWeb, Lake Leelanau, MI. “More and more, we will start seeing the same ads running on Google and Yahoo.”

The longer results give marketers more leeway to test creatives and offers.

“I’m a little disappointed to see them go,” Kauffold said. “We won’t have as much freedom as we had before, and we will start seeing the same ads running on Google and Yahoo.”

Yahoo executives think shorter results will be more effective.

“Our research has shown that, by improving the search experience in this way, advertisers can generally expect to see an increase in clicks, while maintaining their conversion rates,” Yahoo said in the e-mail.

But most Yahoo partners, including MSN, CNN, ESPN and Infospace, still will display longer versions of the Sponsored Search listings, according to Yahoo.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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