Google Adsense vs. Yahoo/Overture Sponsored Search – An Advertiser's Review

As an advertiser from an agency who has worked with both systems for more than a year now, placing multiple client campaigns, here’s my take on the good and bad of Google versus Overture (rebranded Yahoo):

Google – What’s Good?

  1. Campaign can be started immediately without having to wait through a review cycle (except for particular flagged keywords)
  2. Easy to see all the expenses on a particular account and print invoices for each charge (even if there are lots of them)
  3. Useful tool to help aggregate multiple client accounts into a single view "Client Center" (great for managing multiple campaigns)
  4. Comprehensive online help system
  5. Good online training resources to help new users better navigate the system and even get certified as Google Professionals

Google – What’s not so Good?

  1. Locked down post-pay model of invoicing based on scaled billing increments rather than letting you prepay your account (unless you live in some countries outside of the US). If the feature exists to prepay for others, why not allow me to give you all my money in one transaction?  With post-pay, I have to do expenses with 25 unique charges instead of just one per account … wasting lots of my time.
  2. $5 activation fee per account (I get why, but would love for this to go away or be credited to click charges)
  3. Extremely limited area to write a text ad and have it make sense + deliver a compelling message
  4. Suspicious new method for determining what the minimum bid for keywords should be (in one case, the minimum bid for a keyword I was interested in was $5 per click … the next day it mysteriously went down to $2 per click) 

Yahoo/Overture – What’s Good?

  1. Ability to prepay a single amount for your campaign and have click charges deduct from this amount
  2. Enough room to write a compelling sponsored text ad and have it make sense
  3. $25 or $50 promotional bonus each time you start a new account (may not last, but it’s great for now)
  4. Great sales material and descriptions for how sponsored search works and why advertisers should consider it (selling not only their services, but the category as well)
  5. Good login security through graphic security code requirement

Yahoo/Overture – What’s not so Good?

  1. Adding multiple client accounts under a single login must be done manually by calling and requesting it, then waiting from 1 hour to 2 days for it to be done
  2. Automatic billing system charges when balance is low, rather than allowing advertisers to set a fixed campaign budget (very frustrating when you come in to find 15 charges for $30 each to your account overnight)
  3. Review process for all keywords and descriptions means getting a campaign up quickly in cases of crisis or tight timelines is nearly impossible
  4. No easy way to see all expenses/payments on an account (get a report, but no single invoices for each payment, which we need to account for charges)
  5. Financial reports are done per month, but not updated quickly enough (ie – it’s now Sept. 9th and I still don’t have access to my August invoice)
  6. Page by page help not very useful in finding answers to general problems not related to the page you’re on
  7. 95 day max for generating reports, which means to get overall campaign performance, I have to do two reports and manually add the numbers together.

Bottom line, I get that neither company wants to talk to me on the phone … and I’m over it.  Search marketing is a self-service online advertising option and for the near future, advertisers will need to live with that (unless, of course, you’re spending big bucks and have a dedicated account person).  The good news is that as a result, both services are making efforts to connect with customers in other ways, including the Inside Adwords blog from Google and the Yahoo Search Blog (more generally about search rather than search marketing, but it’s the closest they have).  Hopefully, the blogs can also work to enable a two way communication where feedback like this post can make it to the right people, without being filtered by the gatekeepers.

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