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How I tried to Save the Yahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool

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So if you have a little time to read all of this you may actually find this post to be entertaining. Below is an email chain that resulted from me hearing that the person in charge of the Yahoo! Panama launch, planned to do what I consider to be one of the most wasteful things Yahoo! ever did.

It all started when we attended the Panama road show at the Harvard Club in Boston and this person (to protect his privacy I have replaced his name, contact info and title with XXXXX) announced that Yahoo! would be replacing the current Search Term Suggestion Tool with something that, instead of reporting historical search volume, would predict clicks. (Much like the Google Click Estimator.)

Now this flew right over the head of most of the people in the room but I raised my hand and said, “Wait a second, are you saying that the Search Term Suggestion tool that every search marketer on the planet loves and uses every day is going away?” His answer was, “yes.” Could this guy be unaware of how essential that tool was and how cool everyone thought Yahoo! was for proving search marketers with this info?

The strange part was his reaction was as if no body had protested before. So from there a whole little feud let loose between me and this person who admittedly said, “I am the one directly responsible for this decision.”

The really funny part was I started making a huge stink about this and when I told Yahoo! reps about it one of two things would happen:
A) They would say “Oh my god – I use that tool all the time in my presentations to show potential clients how much people are searching under their keywords – this is terrible.” (My reaction.)
B) They would say, “Oh I heard about you.” Clearly my protests had made their way around the company.

Ok, so the real reasons why I think they stopped maintaining the tool are as follows. ( It is certainly not that people were “confused” by it or that what they have given us as a replacement is better.)
A) Most people used the tool as an SEO keyword scoring tool and clearly that was of no benefit to Yahoo!
B) All that usage, data storage and other applications that scraped the results of the tool into their interfaces was probably very taxing on Yahoo! from an IT, storage and load balancing standpoint.
C) It could have shown that search volume on a month by month basis for certain terms was trending down on Yahoo! and that they were losing.

Now to XXXXXX’s credit he did have a conference call with me, let me express my opinions and engaged in the lengthy email exchange that I am about to share with you and I give XXXX and the whole Yahoo! team major kudos for that. Also Yahoo! did leave the tool up but it often does not work and now only displays 2007 data. However, it is still a good scoring tool and they should use it as a way to build a search marketing community made up of Yahoo! Search Term Suggestion Tool members. (Basically this is what I say in all the emails.)

So as you read these emails realize that they started right after the event at the Harvard Club. The last email was from me to on of our Yahoo! reps that was facilitating the dialogue between me and XXXXXXXX.

Actually, I must add that we did in fact all survive the Search Term Suggestion Tool effectively going away and all is well. Panama is indeed leaps and bounds above were it was and Yahoo! is very often the top performing property in many of our B2C paid search campaigns from a cost per action and ROI standpoint.

******************* Email # 1 **********************

From: Harry Gold
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006 13:32:44 -0700
To: XXXXXXX XXXXXXX@yahoo-inc.com
Subject: It was great talking to you!

Hi XXXXXXX,

I just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was to meet you the other night and talk to you about the coming changes at Yahoo! I also want to thank you for letting me express my views on the importance of the current suggestion tool and for you agreeing to take the time to see how our company uses it in the new business process.

I know you are either on or winding down from the road show so as we discussed I will give you a couple weeks to catch up then I’ll send you some of my pitch materials that use the tool and we can schedule a time to talk though them.

Again thank you so much for this opportunity, I look forward to talking again.

Best regards,
Harry-
___________________________
Harry J. Gold
founder, managing partner
617-254-5000 x 1100 direct
______________________
overdrive
46 Leo M. Birmingham Parkway
First Floor
Boston, MA 02135
https://www.ovrdrv.com/

******************* Email # 2 **********************

From: XXXXXXX [mailto:XXXXXXX@yahoo-inc.com]
Sent: Thursday, August 31, 2006 6:31 PM
To: Harry Gold
Subject: Re: It was great talking to you!

Harry,

Indeed it was fun meeting you and your team. I love the passion around this industry, and getting out of the “Panama factory” to get in front of actual customers really revs me up.I appreciate the perspective you brought me on how valuable keyword search data is to sell the search tactic to customers. Let’s definitely continue the dialog there.

If you have proposals ready to ship my way, please don’t hesitate, as I’d like to put my thinking cap on around this topic as soon as possible. But if you want to think on it for a bit, just send them along when you’re ready.

Looking forward to the next conversation!

XXXXXXX

XXXXXXX Sr. Director, XXXXXXX ManagementYahoo! Search Marketing searchmarketing.yahoo.comAddress: 3333 Empire Ave. Burbank, CA 91504 USAO: XXXXXXXXXXX F: XXXXXXXXXXX E: XXXXXXX@yahoo-inc.com

******************* Email # 3 **********************

From: Harry Gold
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2006 21:12:17 -0700
To: XXXXXXX XXXXXXX@yahoo-inc.com
Conversation: It was great talking to you!
Subject: RE: It was great talking to you!

Hello XXXXXXX,

Below is a link to a download page where you will find a portion of our capabilities presentation. In order to see the stats we use from the suggestion tool you will want to view it in Slide Show mode and then click on the live links embedded in the Current Search Situation slides. (Some links may require a user name and password to access the destination pages and they are listed in the presentation.)

I have included three Keyword Usage Analysis Tables from past pitches. What I am basically showing here is that there are millions of searches per year that describe these companies’ products and then illustrate with position reports that they have no presence in those terms responsible for the majority of those searches. I then present paid search as the best and fastest way to capitalize on this channel.

Please do let me know what you think and in the mean time I will try and send you more relevant materials as they arise. I have dozens and dozens of these pitches and these types of analysis slides have been critical parts of the close every time.

I look forward to speaking with you about this further and again thank you so much for this opportunity.

Talk to you soon,

Harry-

******************* Email # 4 **********************

From: XXXXXXX [mailto:XXXXXXX@yahoo-inc.com]
Sent: Friday, September 22, 2006 1:48 PM
To: Harry Gold; XXXXXXX
Subject: Re: It was great talking to you!

Harry,

Hope all is well and that you’re enjoying a nice early fall in New England. This is the one time of year where we southern Californians are justifiably jealous of your climate. We’re going gangbusters here to get project Panama ready and out the door. You’re going to like it.

I’ve spent time with some of the Product Managers on my team thinking about the use case around search volumes that we discussed in Boston. We think that the Panama offering actually will allow you to make your pitch in a much more compelling manner. We’d like to get an hour to talk with you (and others from Overdrive if you want them there) to kick the tires on what we’ve been thinking. Can you suggest a couple of times in the latter part of next week or early in the first week in October that might work for you? If you can, I can rally our team here and get a call set up for us to talk.

Thanks,
XXXXXXX

XXXXXXX Sr. Director, XXXXXXX ManagementYahoo! Search Marketing searchmarketing.yahoo.comAddress: 3333 Empire Ave. Burbank, CA 91504 USAO: XXXXXXXXX F: XXXXXXX E: XXXXXXX@yahoo-inc.com

******************* Email # 5 **********************

From: Harry Gold
Sent: Monday, October 02, 2006 8:56 PM
To: ‘XXXXXXX’; ‘XXXXXXX’
Subject: RE: It was great talking to you!Importance: High

Hi XXXXXXX,

Please let me know that you are getting my emails as for some reason our IP is getting blocked here and there. I sent you some dates but have not heard back from you and I am a bit concerned you didn’t get my emails.

I am very excited about seeing your new tool but I still get the feeling from your email (below) that the tool that is at the foundation of everything we do is going to go away. I am still a bit mystified as to why you would want to remove the most valuable search marketing tool on the entire web. One that is used literally several times a day by every search marketer on the planet. Why not simply leave it and offer the other one to?

Also, look at the interface for your current tool:
http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

If people are confused by it simply put more info on it to tell them what they are looking at. (Tell them specifically they are not looking at click or traffic projections if it is causing confusion.)

I always look at that interface and the lack of promotions and registration requirements you have on it and think it is the biggest lost opportunity for Yahoo! Again, why not leave it and use it to your benefit? You could:

1) Use the interface as a branding, marketing and cross selling page for search marketers
2) Use it to promote the new tool
3) Make search marketers register for access to it – think of the amazing email/direct mail database you guys will be able to create

I can understand closing it to tools that use it to display the info in their environments but if you put a password on it like the bid viewing tool you would stop those kinds of queries. Finally, why even risk upsetting a community that represents a significant customer base and disrupt their research and selling process? (I know I am incredibly stressed about it. Its absence will rock the foundation of my business and force us to change a winning way of doing this that scored many clients for us and you.

Again, I am very excited about the tool you are launching and if it gives the total search volume on Yahoo! for a previous month then I am all for it and we have no issue. If it does not give that data and replaces it with click and position projections based on max bid levels then you are changing the whole way we and thousands of other search marketers pitch our services. It is my sincere hope that you choose to simply leave the tool alone and add the new one. The current tool is the only credible source of the simple info it provides and the whole industry loves Yahoo! for providing it! (See all the links to it below.)

I hope to connect with you soon.

Best regards,
Harry-

The links below are typical of thousands of pages on the web that promote and link to the tool. (According to Yahoo! there are over 4500 links pointing at the tool. According to MSN there are over 5400 links pointing at the tool. Why not capitalize on that presence with my suggestions above?)

(I removed the long list of links for this blog post.)

******************* Email # 6 **********************

This was the one to the Yahoo! sales rep that was trying to appease me – I definitely commend her for her efforts – she was really great about the whole thing.

From: Harry Gold
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 1:31 PM
To: XXXXXXXXX
Subject: RE: Yahoo! Buzz Index Information

Hi XXXXXXXX,

Thank you for this information. After the call with XXXXXX and team I have to confess that I am still as concerned and confused as ever. I am really grateful that he would take the time to talk to me but I think Yahoo! should ask themselves quick question from a sales point of view:

Taking away a tool that is known, loved and used everyday by the search marketing community (see me email from last week below) will a) make search marketers happy or b) upset search marketers?

The reality is that no matter what John says this new system is not going to make my life easier or my sales process better. I am sure the new tool is great but why take the other tool away? Again – the big question is “Why take the other tool away?”

It is like telling a person who has been eating toast everyday for the past 5 years that your are now going to take the toast away and give him a bagel. On top of that you are telling them that they will like the bagel more because you think bagels are better. Why not offer them both and let them decide?

I am sorry to be such a nudge on this but it just makes no sense to me since the forecasted click and cost data that the new tool is going to provide is going to be equally, if not more, inaccurate as the historical date the current search term suggestion tool provides.

Harry-

Ok, in conclusion I may have devoted way to much energy to this but I still believe to this day that the Yahoo! / Overture Search Term Suggestion tool was an amazing resource and I will miss it. I guess I am grateful that it is still up in its current form but I do wish it was more reliable.

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