One real benefit of the impending consolidation of Microsoft and Yahoo’s paid search programs will be, I hope, added visibility into their true market share.
The latest Hitwise report on search engine market share in the US shows Yahoo and Bing combined still managing to drive 24% of searches in the marketplace. Yet anecdotally, this doesn’t stack up well with what businesses are actually managing to spend on clicks through the paid search platforms. That’s even when you discount for quality of platform and the non-search inventory that Google serves.
With a single, consolidated platform that brings Yahoo Search clicks into the same buy, it should be easy enough to tell whether it’s feasible to drive around 24% of spend (again, discounting appropriately for relevant factors in order to compare oranges to oranges). If not 24%, then most search marketers are at least hoping for a solid 15%. Scale matters, if you’re going to make the effort to optimize and manage a campaign.
If that number doesn’t seem to be happening, Microsoft and Yahoo are going to have some ‘splainin’ to do. All of which will be healthy for the industry, despite being painful for the publishers involved.
The first order of business, I suspect, will relate to a growing chorus of advertisers who will resent not being given separate control over the Yahoo inventory. The need for such separate control was well spelled out in a recent post by George Michie.