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Yahoo! Shuts Out Branded Keywords

Yahoo! Shuts Out Branded Keywords Bob Heyman

It's no surprise that one of the major search engines has ended the practice of selling trademarked brand keywords to competitors. But it is a surprise that the motivation comes not from legal setbacks but from business pressures.

Yahoo (nee Overture) has long been more restrictive than Google in allowing this type of advertising. To buy a competitor's brand keywords you had to pass human review by Yahoo editors looking to be sure that there was relevant page content on your landing page to justify the use of the keyword.

In practice this meant that you had to have a feature comparison or some other type of comparative content in order to pass muster. Yahoo would also disapprove your competitive comparison if it was false or misleading. Of course this was something that could become quite subjective and contentious.

Google, on the other hand, sells competitive trademarked keywords without such a "comparative" standard or any review process, other than to require that the competitive mark is not used in the actual ad copy.

Generally, it is up to the advertiser and its agency to police compliance. Google's legal department is relatively quick to act on violations that are brought to its attention. Therefore, good SEM service needs to include monitoring the client's trademarked keywords to detect and report competitors who are breaking Google's rules. This can include not just use of marks within ads but also incorporating the mark into a URL. On behalf of Napster, we were able to have Google shut down a competitor who was using the URL "www.better-than-Napster.com".

Google's practice has been the subject of much litigation here and abroad. In the recent Geico vs. Google case, Google's right to sell such keywords in the U.S. was affirmed. However, in France, a court ruled against Google in a lawsuit brought by Louis Vuitton. As a result, Google will not sell competitive trademarked keywords in Europe. But wherever the practice is allowed, it has proved to be one of the most effective SEM techniques. 

In the Geico case, the court's reasoning was that competitive keyword ads were analogous to a merchant who buys a billboard across the street from a competitor. Suppose you are heading to the Ford dealership to buy a pickup.
If you see a billboard on the way for a Chevy pickup, then GM might intercept your purchase "intent" and entice you to the Chevy dealer. Of course others, particularly plaintiff's attorneys, see the search engine equivalent less as valid comparative advertising and more as blatant trademark infringement. Such is the argument being raised in several other pending lawsuits against Google.

It's against this background that Yahoo shook up many of its search advertisers by sending out a notice that read:

"In order to more easily deliver quality user experiences when users search on terms that are trademarks, Yahoo! Search Marketing has determined that we will no longer allow bidding on keywords containing competitor trademarks."

The new policy is effective March 1 and effectively ends the practice of trademark keyword bidding on Yahoo. The only exceptions to the new rule are for resellers, who must actually sell or facilitate the sale of the trademarked good or service and for truly informational sites where substantial information about the trademarked good or service must be provided and competitive products cannot be promoted or sold.

So why has Yahoo implemented this new standard? Surely this takes a goodly chunk out of Yahoo's keyword search revenue, even if it frees up the time of many an over-worked editor. Unlike Google, Yahoo has not been the subject of major litigation on this issue. So it is unlikely that impetus for the move came from the legal department. Instead, speculation has focused on business reasons for the policy change. Search Engine Watch's Danny Sullivan has suggested that the reason may well be Yahoo's desire to court big brand advertisers. Especially those that would like to tie their offline ads back to Search. Unlike Google, Yahoo has large scale deals with major brands to advertise across their entire portal. Their sales force may well be tired of hearing from advertisers who are irate that their brand has been "hijacked" by competitors in the search listings while they are at the same time paying a great deal of money to Yahoo. Many of the biggest brands have yet to put but a toe in the water in terms of internet advertising. To lure these brands into the pool, Yahoo appears willing to sacrifice short term search income from those brand's competitors. 

Will Google succumb to the same pressures? At this point is seems unlikely.

They continue to mount an aggressive defense to the lawsuits filed against them. As Google does not have a portal component, they do not have the same motivation as does Yahoo to court big advertisers. The early success of Google Adwords was with smaller businesses for whom Search was a level playing field to compete with the big guy. Google seems disinclined to spurn this base in order to earn the love of the big brands. For Google, any policy change is more likely to be motivated by an adverse legal ruling than by business pressures. 

Bob Heyman is chief search officer at Mediasmith, Inc., and is the co-author of Net Results.2 (New Riders) and the Auction App (McGraw-Hill). He co-founded Cybernautics (acquired by USWeb in 1997) where he is credited with pioneering Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Heyman was also co-founder of CybeReps (acquired by Interep). Mediasmith is a full service advertising media agency headquartered in San Francisco, California.

Sysomos, now a Marketwire company, is considered by many to be one of the best social media monitoring tools due to its features, such as its simple user interface, its data history, and its social media analytics. Sysomos has a product called Heartbeat that is a real-time social media monitoring and measurement tool that provides snapshots of online conversations, including a variety of graphics.

Its key features include:

  • Metrics measurement: It offers insight about the amount and sentiment (positive, negative or neutral) of activity, which you can compare against competitors.

  • Customizable dashboard: The dashboard is fairly simple to configure to meet your specific interests and needs, including a variety graphs.

  • Key influencers: It gives you the ability to identify the key people driving conversations that are most important to you, and then engage and manage with an activity trail.

  • Geography and demographics: It enables tracking of conversations by country, state, or city, as well as by gender and profession.

Two keys to this tool appear to be the advanced sentiment feature and the ability to drill down by region. Sentiment is very difficult for an automated tool, and Sysomos does a good job of adapting over time. It identifies context within each conversation and offers the ability to assess sentences within the same article.

Heartbeat isn't for everyone, though. With a fairly hefty entry-level price of $500 per month, it seems to be focused more on the enterprise. But if you are in that market, the ease of use alone should put this on your short list.

Radian6 is one of the most well-known and talked-about social media measurement tools. Its product, the Radian6 dashboard, allows you to view relevant conversations about your company in real time. It aggregates those conversations into visuals that are designed to make analysis and measurement meaningful and actionable.

Some key features include:

  • Comprehensive coverage: It monitors 150 million public sites and sources including blogs and comments, forums, mainstream online news publications, public photos, and videos.

  • Social media metrics: It gives you the ability to view coverage and mentions by vote count, comment count, Twitter followers, sentiment, media type, and more. Users can see influencer data to understand who has clout in your industry and see what they're saying.

  • Web analytics integration: It ties to Google Analytics, Webtrends, and Omniture to view social media results through the lens of web stats.

  • Automated sentiment analysis: It shows whether chatter about your topic is positive, negative, or neutral.

In our review of Radian6, although it's powerful and robust, the interface and the set up can be overwhelming and daunting, especially to new users. The learning curve and investment in customizing the tool to meet your specifications is high, which can lead to some initial frustration. Again, the price point is rather high as well, starting at $600 per month. However, once you are able to customize the tool, the results and reporting are very useful and worth the time investment.

Like the two listed above, Lithium Social Media Monitoring (the former Scout Labs tool) aggregates and analyzes social media content from Twitter, blogs, mainstream news, photo- and video-sharing sites, forums, and comments.

Some key features include:

  • Searches: It gives you real-time access to millions of social media sources, including social networks, blogs, forums, video, and photo-sharing sites.

  • Automated sentiment: It gives you a real-time look at the tone and sentiment of your social mentions. A big benefit is that you can change this as you make your own assessment.

  • Buzz tracking: It gives you real-time metrics around your industry chatter. You can compare yours to the competition and to the industry in general.

  • Saved items: This function lets you share bookmarks, notes, and social media mentions with the entire team or select recipients.

One feature that is particularly interesting is Quotes, which allows you to see what your customers are saying about your brand. You can directly see their praise, complaints, and issues with your company or products so you can be responsive -- fast. Also, where Lithium seems to break from the pack is in its focus on harnessing the most valuable social customers to deliver real business success for their users.

Again, the entry price is not for the casual marketers. Packages start at $1,500 per month -- but for 50 searches and unlimited users (more searches than the others listed). Although this is a higher price point, the value it delivers warrants consideration.


Other paid applications to consider:

Alterian SM2 is a social media monitoring and analysis solution designed for PR and marketing professionals. Like the others above, SM2 helps you track conversations, review positive and negative sentiment for your brand, clients, competitors, and partners across social media. The solution also has a freemium version that allows you to have limited searching capabilities.

Collective Intellect bills itself as "social CRM" and focuses heavily on real-time text mining and analytics. The platform enables you to collect, process, and synthesize intelligence from online conversations to show you what is being said and provide early warnings on important trends. Collective Intellect also has an interesting semantic search feature that can be used by anyone on its site.

The free and low-cost applications included below and on subsequent pages obviously do not have the same power and functionality as the paid tools I've mentioned. But for those on a tighter budget or with few resources, one of these might just do the trick. While the options below are not full social media monitoring systems, they can get you started on monitoring your presence in social media.

Beevolve is a professional-looking and extremely cost-effective alternative to the paid applications mentioned above. Starting at $29.99 per month (for three search terms) and $99.95 per month (for 12 search terms), companies can get a lot of the same features, tracking, monitoring, and analysis, including:

  • Broad coverage on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, traditional news publications, and the real-time web

  • Real-time monitoring that gives updates as they are happening on the web

  • Sentiment analysis that gives you an automated evaluation of tone of conversations

  • Competitive analytics that compare key metrics against the competition

  • Demographics and geography capabilities that slice and dice the conversations by geographic regions, age groups, gender, or interests

  • Engagement workflow that enables you to collaborate with your team members and clients for engagement and to measure your social media ROI

Beevolve appears to be a fairly comprehensive tool that can help you make decisions about creating marketing strategies and developing you product line, as well as measure advertising and PR performance.

ReSearch.ly is a powerful low-cost alternative (with a free 90-day trial period) to the larger, paid platforms. It allows you to search for topics, your brand, competitors, etc., and shows you not only the raw results, but also the results by demographic and sentiment. It delivers the information in easy-to-read charts that can be easily embedded onto blogs and websites.

Most powerful for many marketers is the ability to see search results within communities. For example, you can view a search term "iPad" and see which reporters, which mommy bloggers, which CEOs, etc., are addressing this topic in real time. It will also show you a chart with frequently occurring words related to your search term.

Features include:

  • History, with access to as many as 1,000 days of Twitter conversations

  • Interest graph, which lets you discover the most interconnected community around any keyword

  • Demographics and psychographics that let you filter your results by community, gender, sentiment, and location

  • Degrees of separation in terms of the connections between your brand and industry influencers

  • Share functionality that lets you save and publish your time-stamped ReSearch.ly search with easy-to-use embedded links

Social Mention
Social Mention is a widely used free tool that allows companies to conduct social media searches and analysis, aggregating user-generated content from a variety of sources and turning it into a single stream of information. Using Social Mention, you can track and measure what is being said about your company in more than 100 social media venues. Social Mention operates in a similar manner to Google News Alerts.

While Social Mention's social media search and alerts are popular and allow you to receive instant notifications of conversations happening across platforms, it lacks the real analysis of data that most companies require. Social Mention does have an API that will allow developers to access and integrate social media data into other applications. This would really enhance the product and allow for more detailed analysis.

Other free and low-cost applications to consider:

Addict-o-matic: This platform has a good interface and is easy to understand. While it does not offer analytics tools, Addict-o-matic can instantly create a custom page with the latest buzz on any topic. All results are linked to the source. You can customize the page and bookmark it to visit at any time for updates on your search term. Results are shown from a variety of sources, including videos, blogs, news, and social media networks.

Social.Media.Tracking: While many of the platforms cover all social media tools, Social Media Tracking is focused on Facebook and offers a very useful tool. Using this product, you can track the performance of Facebook pages in a competitive environment. For no cost, you can compare the performance of your Facebook page to two competitors.

Although there are hundreds of applications to try, consider first what your business is willing to invest in order to monitor and measure your social media presence. Then determine your goals and objectives for social media and how they align with your business objectives. Only then should you decide which solutions will be most effective in measuring social media's impact on your goals, culture, and budget.

Adam Boyden is president of Conduit.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

When should you post to Tumblr?

Of course there's no one best time to post to Tumblr. The optimal time will vary depending on exactly who you're trying to reach and when they're most active. In general, though, Tumblr is more active in the evenings and on the weekends. So if you want to engage with the Tumblr audience when they're most likely to be paying attention, post content outside traditional U.S. business hours. It's easy to queue up content that will automatically post at different times, so consider building up a content queue to go out after hours, specifically between 5 p.m. and 12 a.m. ET on weeknights, and on Saturdays and Sundays. This will ensure your content is posted when the Tumblr community is around and active. Plus, you'll probably have less competition from other brands that tend to post during their business hours.

Denny's does this really well, reaching its audience when they're awake, which is often later at night. Tumblr users appreciate posts with a sense of humor, and content that is funny or even a little weird works well late at night. Denny's has captured this tone well in its approach to Tumblr, as the popularity of its blog demonstrates: Denny's posts average around 10,000 notes each.

How much original content should you post?

It can be difficult to find or create enough original content to sustain a blog day in and day out. But on Tumblr, there's a ton of great content constantly being created by the community that you can find and share with your followers. The most successful Tumblr blogs post a mix of reblogged and original content. In general, we recommend that you aim for a ratio of at least two original posts to every reblogged post. Unless you're specifically running a blog featuring mostly fan-generated content, which is a great idea for brands with an active fanbase, sharing a healthy mix of both original and reblogged content will engage your followers with new content and reward your fans by amplifying their work.

Netflix does a great job of finding and sharing fan-created art related to its programming.

And Disney established a Big Hero 6 fan art Tumblr to provide fans a dedicated space to share the artwork they created about the movie.

What kind of content should you post?

Finally, the big question. If you don't have a long queue of cat GIFs, should you even bother with Tumblr? Yes! There's a space on Tumblr for every brand. It's true that most of Tumblr's content is visual; we've found that nearly 90 percent of all original brand content on Tumblr is a photo or GIF. (Photo posts take a variety of forms on Tumblr, from a single still image to the popular moving GIF image, to a set of multiple photos or GIFs.) So yes, we do recommend focusing on visual content. High-quality photography and funny GIFs perform very well on Tumblr, as do interesting or unusual visual imagery. But don't feel like only cute or humorous content can be successful. Some of Tumblr's most popular brand blogs aren't what you might initially expect from the platform, like General Electric, IBM, and NPR, all of which stay true to its brand voice while creating rich visual content. However, depending on your brand voice, other post types can work well, too. We've seen brands do well with video, text, quote, link, and answer posts. So start with visual content, and mix it up accordingly, depending on the kinds of content you have and the audience you're trying to reach.


If you're newer to Tumblr, keep at it. It will take some time to build a large and engaged fan base. But if you focus on sharing the right content at the right times, you will find those fans. And when you do, you'll see that your content lives longer on Tumblr than on any other platform and can generate engagement for weeks or months after you post. The commitment is worth it. 

Jenn Deering Davis is editor-in-chief at Union Metrics.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Close up of tumblr website under a magnifying glass" image via Shutterstock.

Bob Heyman is the Chief Search Officer for Mediasmith. Mr. Heyman is a leading author and entrepreneur in the field of Internet Marketing. At Cybernautics, a company founded by Heyman in 1994 and sold to USWeb in 1997, Heyman coined the terms...

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