Yahoo is getting ready to throw richer advertisements - think video - into its search results page, bringing a much-needed facelift to the boring ads that are made up of a headline, a couple of lines of text and a link.
More importantly, Yahoo - now under new management - may be telling us that they're not quite ready to sell off the search business to Microsoft, as has been suggested across the blogosphere for months. When new CEO Carol Bartz came on board last month, it was one of the first questions she faced.
Months ago, selling off search seemed to be the best thing that Yahoo execs could do. But, as Larry Dignan pointed out in a post following Yahoo's second quarter earnings announcement, search may be the recession buffer for Yahoo.
But now, there's new life in search advertising for Yahoo. The rich ads are still being tested by a handful of invited advertisers, such as Pedigree and Esurance. But now that the program is gearing up for a broader rollout, Yahoo is starting to pitch the benefits. The company says rich ads allow customers to:
- Post images and video, which can increase the branding impact of search advertising. Pedigree has added video to its campaigns, for instance.
- Create deep links to relevant pages, which can help drive conversions directly from the Yahoo! search results page.
- Include boxes within the listing that lets users search for their desired product or a store location directly without additional navigation. Esurance’s listing lets users enter their ZIP codes from the results page for insurance quotes.
- Show their logo, which enhances user trust.
Mixing up that section of the search results page is a good idea. I love a good video and might be willing to click on one that's part of an ad. If it's really creative or funny, I might even share it with friends - which is what I already do with video, whether it's an ad or not.
For Yahoo, there's also that whole momentum thing. Comscore this week reported its U.S. search engine rankings for January 2009 and found that, while Google remains the leader, Yahoo saw strong growth from December to January in three categories - search share, search queries and expanded search queries - compared to Google.
For search share, Yahoo's gain - only a mere 1/2 percent, mind you - was also Google's loss: the same one half of one percent. In search queries, Yahoo gained 9 percent, compared to Google 6 percent. And in expanded search queries, Yahoo jumped 10 percent, compared to Google's 5 percent.
I don't know if that says something more about Google than it does about Yahoo. After all, even Microsoft saw better growth than Google.
Regardless, the gains aren't huge and Yahoo's rich ads still aren't quite ready for widespread rollout. But, I have to say, it's refreshing to see Yahoo news that has more to do with enhancing the company than it does with saving it.