Transitioning Your Yahoo! Search Marketing Account to MSN AdCenter

It's funny, I've always considered the Yahoo! Search Marketing and MSN's AdCenter PPC networks a royal pain. Even with Google's AdWords controlling roughly 80% of the paid clicks coming into my clients' sites, I still managed to spend probably less than 5% of my time in YSM and AdCenter combined. Most of the time, my visits into the admin for Yahoo! and MSN were a quick, "Ok, the wheels haven't fallen off. Good." and I was done.*

*I'll admit I've never been in charge of any Yahoo! or MSN PPC accounts working full-time at an agency, but rather a number of small personal clients.

Even though I'm a bit uneasy about the competition in this space dwindling to 2, I have to admit part of me is pretty happy about not having to manage three separate PPC accounts. So with the announcement of Yahoo! Search Marketing transitioning all accounts to MSN AdCenter, I vow to devote AdCenter a fair share of my time. And what better way to start my newfound time devotion to AdCenter than with the transition itself!

The Highlights

I've done the transition a few times now, and I thought a brief highlight of some of the important differences would be useful to our readers. The most important items to know:

  1. The actual paid traffic transition will be happening between mid and late-October. Yes, as in the month beginning tomorrow.
  2. If you use the Yahoo! Search Marketing platform and do nothing, your traffic will begin to decrease in mid-October, and continue to dwindle down to nothing by the end of October.
  3. If you use MSN AdCenter and do nothing, you might begin to notice your clicks and spend rise in mid-October (we'll discuss by how much a bit later) as the old Yahoo! traffic is served by AdCenter ads. So check on those budgets!
  4. The folks at Yahoo! and MSN have put together a program that aids in copying your Yahoo! data to AdCenter. We'll dive into what this entails now.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

Yahoo! and MSN have put out a proper transition guide that is accessible from your Yahoo Search Marketing admin:

Account Compatibility Guide

I highly recommend making this your first stop in the transition. This guide is different than the Feature Comparison Guide and the Self-Service Advertiser Checklist PDFs that were mentioned in the official Yahoo! blog post about the transition, and contains some important actions that should be taken BEFORE going through with the transition.

Choose Your Path Wisely

For those of you planning to push some of your Yahoo! Search Marketing campaigns over to MSN AdCenter, your first step when you login to YSM is to decide how much hand-holding you'd like from the two programs. This is an important decision, because there is no turning back. You are committed to whichever option you choose.

Three Treacherous Paths

So read up before taking the plunge, cause if you make the wrong decision...well:

You Have Chosen...

Door Number One: Help Me Transition Option

This is the path I would suggest taking for most small business advertisers. The transition team put a lot of effort into making sure that there are no surprises along the way. Well, besides this little bugger:

Does not compute
I specifically saved this account to capture screenshots for this post. Nice Timing, Yahoo!!

Ahem...As for any other surprises, the transition team covered a lot of the bases. Aside from the mostly semantic differences (distribution tactic vs. distribution method, etc.), some of the primary dissimilarities between Yahoo! and MSNs' platforms include:

Minimum Bids

Yahoo!'s minimum bid was $0.01 (£ 0.05 in the UK), and MSN's is $0.05 (£ 0.05 in the UK). When the transition reaches you, check for details on your currency. As you make your way through the transition tool, you will be prompted every time a bid needs to be changed to reach the new minimum.

Match Types

Yahoo! (somewhat annoyingly) always used "standard" and "advanced" match, which essentially equates to "exact" and "broad" match, respectively, in most other PPC platforms. The transition tool will automatically switch all "standard" keywords to "exact" match, and "advanced" to "broad" match. In addition, AdCenter offers "phrase" match, much like AdWords and other PPC platforms.

Account Daily Spending Limit

Yahoo! had a feature that allowed users to set an account daily budget on top of individual campaign budgets. Much like AdWords, AdCenter does not have an account-wide budget feature per se, because your account daily spending limit is really just the sum of your campaign daily budgets.

Keep a close eye on your campaign budgets over the next few weeks. With the traffic merger, you could be missing out on a bunch of good traffic, or spending dramatically more money than you would have liked.

Excluded Words/Negative Keywords

The concept is the same for negative keywords, but the account organization is a bit different. Excluded words in Yahoo! could be set at the account, campaign, and ad group level, whereas negative keywords in AdCenter are set at the campaign, ad group, and keyword level. As the transition guide says:

When you transition to adCenter, we will apply all of the Excluded Words that you had previously set in Yahoo! to the corresponding lowest level within your campaigns on adCenter.

Advertisers that make use of excluded/negative keywords should read over the differences in the two following the transition.

Ad Titles

Yahoo! allowed for some monster titles of up to 70 characters. Unfortunately, AdCenter uses the industry standard 25 characters, so many of your YSM ad titles will need a rewrite. Ad titles that are transferred over with over 25 characters will be paused or disapproved until shortened.

Other Odds and Ends

Some of the more advanced features like dynamic text insertion in ads and geo-targeting will require some tweaks, so be sure to review any of these after the transition. Also, if you're a YSM user switching to AdCenter, don't forget to add the AdCenter conversion code to the appropriate page on your site.

Door Number Two: Set Up Account Only Option

This option will simply link your current YSM account to your current AdCenter account. This includes opening a new sub-account within your AdCenter account and transferring over your basic information. If you do not yet have an AdCenter account, you'll be prompted to create one, and your YSM account information will transfer to your newly created account.

This option does not include any transferring of campaigns, ad groups, or keywords. The expected next step would be to start to build out new campaigns manually, or to import campaigns from a spreadsheet into the AdCenter import tool.

Door Number Three: No Help Needed

Pretty self-explanatory here. Remember, you are locked into any option that you choose, so be sure you really don't need help before doing this. Your campaigns will be downloadable from Yahoo! afterward, no matter which option you choose.

What To Expect After the Transition is Complete

Ok, so we understand that our AdCenter account is about to take on more traffic, but how much? The Yahoo! and AdCenter team point out that the alliance will expand advertisers' reach to 159 million Americans and 15 million Canadians, but if you're like me, you could easily replace "million" with "kajillion" and it would mean the same (which reminds me of my favorite Futurama soundbite).

One Jillion Dollars!

Its hard to know exactly how much your account will change exactly, but your best bet is to review your analytics over the past few weeks to get a feel for how much traffic each search engine is sending. If you currently use both AdCenter and YSM, it's a pretty safe bet that the visitors and ad spend will combine into one, though average CPC may vary across the networks in different industries.


Got Futurama for the soundbite.
Gormogons for the Indians Jones pic.
ICanHasCheezeburger for the lol-builder.

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