Make Yahoo Syndicated Search a No Parking Zone

By Tad Miller | Sep 16, 2009
More Articles by Tad


Yahoo used to advertise that it’s Sponsored Search  (Syndicated Search) Product “reaches active users on top search engines”  and they said that “ads are shown in search results on the webs top portals and search engines”  There really isn’t any language like that on the Yahoo Sponsored Search pages for advertisers, in fact it’s hard to even find any explanation about what Syndicated Search traffic even is on Yahoo right now.  Which seems intentionally vague considering that the overwhelming majority of Yahoo PPC traffic isn’t even coming from searches on Yahoo.com.

Yahoo has also publicized how it was improving its traffic quality.  See:

  • http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/trafficquality/ – The Yahoo Traffic Quality Center;
  • How the Yahoo Click Protection Center is ‘working around the clock to identify clicks Yahoo  believes you shouldn’t have to pay for’; and
  • How Yahoo expanded the number of domains that you can exclude from showing your Yahoo ads up to  500 sites.
  • How Yahoo is paying site owners less based on their traffic quality – which isn’t supposed to hurt advertisers as bad

But, Yahoo never gave advertisers any insight into where it’s Search Network traffic was actually coming from, until late last week when it introduced the new Ad Delivery Report.  We absolutely applaud that Yahoo did this for its advertisers, although I think it has more to do with integrating Syndicated Partner traffic with Bing in the future, than for actually helping advertisers.

After reviewing the first few days of Yahoo Ad Delivery Reports, all of our beliefs about the quality of Yahoo Syndicated Search traffic have been reaffirmed.  We believe that a significant portion of this traffic is rife with click fraud and is not providing ANY value to Yahoo’s advertisers.  Yahoo has been making significant sums of money off of this traffic for years, and has looked the other way rather than look out for the interests of its advertisers. The Yahoo Click Protection System isn’t working around the clock on this traffic.

Even with minimal reviews of the ad delivery report we easily found that at least 5% of our Yahoo clicks and costs were coming from highly questionable sources – and not “the webs top portals and search engines” as was advertised.  In fact many of the legitimate search partners that Yahoo portrays as being representative of the Search Partner Network are getting less traffic and impressions than the no-name likely fraudulent traffic sources we see in our reports.

The traffic found on our clients ad delivery reports shows significant click traffic to Thousands of Parked Domain websites, with typo-squatted URLs.  These sites can’t even be found in natural searches on Yahoo.com by searching for their URLs – so how are they even getting ad impressions, much less clicks?

A check on Alexa, Compete and Google Trends for websites doesn’t find ANY traffic for them.  Which could suggest that the traffic is NOT Domestic.  Note: our ad settings are for the US only.  A check of the WHOIS database shows that a huge number of these sites are owned by Chinese companies or individuals and by quite a few British companies or individuals.  These same site owners are found to own Thousands of similarly named URLs – I honestly think they are using random character generation to come up with the URL names because they own so many.  Example: ZXKBK.INFO.

Additionally, we are getting traffic from Canadian URLs (.ca), Irish URLs (.ie) and United Kingdom URLs (.uk).  Not to mention several sites that mention foreign countries in the URL name like www.ukautosale.com.  Again our settings are for US traffic only.

The number of parked domains in this traffic stream is the most disturbing data to examine.  This kind of traffic is usually reserved for Content Network sites, not for sites in a Search Partner Network.  The loophole is that the domain owners are “skinning” these sites to look like search engines – the difference being that ALL the results are not natural search engine results at all, but instead are all Yahoo Sponsored Search results made to look like natural results.  There isn’t ANY content on these sites that isn’t advertising and they aren’t providing any service to whoever could even find them anyway.  These sites exist for one purpose – getting advertising revenue from Yahoo Advertisers.  All of the keyword navigational links are for highly searched, highly competitive, highly expensive keywords.

We believe that the only traffic to these sites is for the purposes of click fraud – in this case likely for the benefit of the site owners – not to deplete competitor budgets.

The easiest method of detecting a great deal of this traffic in your ad delivery report is to export the report data to a CSV and then sort out all of the .INFO websites.  They are the preference of a great deal of domain parking sites because they are so cheap.  I could buy tadmiller.INFO right now for only $0.89 on GoDaddy.  The overwhelming majority of the .INFO sites in the Ad Delivery Report look exactly the same (same template) – only the URL changes.

The same can be done on the ad delivery report with URLs that start with “search4” as in search4.improvesearch.net.  However, you have to type improvesearch.net into your browser to make the page load.  There are thousands of pages that look exactly like improvesearch.net.

As mentioned above, Yahoo will let you exclude up to 500 domains from showing your ads, but the reality is that there are thousands of these disreputable sites and 500 sites simply isn’t enough.  Yahoo needs to act in the interest of its advertisers and take steps to clean up their mess:

  • Get rid of Parked Domains from the Syndicated Search Product or at least give advertisers the option to opt out of ALL parked domain traffic.
  • Or move Parked Domain traffic to the Content Network – again with the option to exclude all Parked Domain traffic
  • Or make the number of Excluded Domains UNLIMITED for advertisers – this will discourage the domain owners

Domain owners on the Yahoo Syndication network are already complaining about the reduced revenues based on their TQ score.  But it’s also being reported that Yahoo isn’t renewing deals with domain owners with low TQ scores. This is encouraging for advertisers going forward, but it does little to make advertisers wonder how much money has been wasted over the last few years of blindly accepting these clicks.

“active users on top
search engines.”

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