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» Exclusive Interviews, SES Conference Coverage, Yahoo Search » Exclusive Interview with David Roth, Director of Search Marketing at Yahoo.

Exclusive Interview with David Roth, Director of Search Marketing at Yahoo.

David-roth-yahoo SemGeek is proud to present an exclusive online interview with David Roth, Director of Search Marketing at Yahoo. This interview is brought to you in cooperation with the Search Engine Strategies' Pre-SES San Jose 2009 Blog & Q&A Coverage.

About David Roth
David guides SEM and SEO strategy across all Yahoo properties, overseeing programs, managing infrastructure teams, and establishing internal best practices and campaign management standards. He has 10 years of SEM experience, recently working with Carat Fusion, a full-service advertising agency, as the director of SEM in the San Francisco office. Previously, Roth worked with Avenue A|Razorfish, eonMedia, and Inceptor. He holds an MBA from UC San Diego and a B.A. in sociology from UC Berkeley.


Question #1: As an employee at Yahoo, how do you objectively manage multiple search programs across business units?  Do you have an obligation to spend more of your Ad budget with Yahoo that any other search engine?

Answer: Because Yahoo! runs many different businesses with widely divergent business models, this can pose a real challenge. How do you think about prioritizing search marketing for Yahoo! Personals, where users pay for a monthly subscription, against Yahoo! Shopping, for example, where users click in, compare products and click out? The answer lies in a rigorous system of valuation. Once you understand what a SEM or SEO user (or any user) is worth to your business, it becomes very clear how much you should be willing to pay to attract such a user. From there, the math is relatively simple, or at least understood. Furthermore, we can tweak our valuation models to adjust to macroeconomic conditions. Many advertisers are doing this currently, moving, for example, from a growth strategy to a profitability strategy. Whatever valuation we’re using, we try to be consistent across businesses, and from there, the amount of money we can spend promoting any single property becomes apparent.

Speaking of ad budgets, we operate like most search marketers with regard to how we allocate our advertising spend. We invest as much money in any search engine buy or SEO program as it makes sense to, given the return that a program will provide to the business. We have very strict profitability requirements for all our programs, so this process sorts itself out fairly quickly. The only other thing I can tell you about this is that because we are Yahoo!, as you might imagine we have a certain amount of brand value that resonates on the Yahoo! network better than it does most advertisers, so our ad budgets skew more heavily toward Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM) than it might for other advertisers.
Question #2: Do you get any special treatment as a result of your close relationship with Yahoo! Search? YSM?

Answer: The short answer is ‘No’. As far as Yahoo! Search and YSM are concerned, we are either a large website or large advertiser, depending on the audience. That said, we do get to talk to product managers from time to time, who can tell us about upcoming features and enhancements. But no, we don’t get to talk to algorithm or marketplace engineers in a context that would allow us any advantage in the marketplace. Yahoo! is very aware of the perception that ‘special treatment’ would create, so we steer clear of this.

Question #3: What’s the biggest challenge(s) in deploying SEO, as well as PPC, across a large “search engine” focused company within multiple divisions?

Answer: My biggest challenge, and my primary focus in my time here, has been to develop a consistent and standard approach to search marketing across business units. When you’re in a big, complex organization like this, the most daunting task is to bring the same approach to every opportunity. In the process of tackling this, we’ve worked on developing internal tools that allow us to standardize our approach across the company. For example, we developed an SEM campaign brief to help businesses get up and running on paid search.

We built product development checklists for SEO that allow us to evaluate SEO-friendliness within the development cycle, as well as an underlying process that allows us to highlight necessary changes when they need to happen. We lined out standard processes for forecasting and budget movement that explicitly spell out all the stakeholders and their respective roles in the decision-making process. And finally we developed a standard set of scorecards for reporting SEM and SEO results internally to upper management. All of these tools have helped make my job much more manageable.
Question #4: With Yahoo, there are basically only (2) two keyword matches (Standard and Advanced Match) Can elaborate further about the key similarities and differences between Yahoo’s keyword matching and Google’s Keyword Matching. Can you tell us, in an “unbiased” manner, which provides better results.

Answer: I can’t say without bias which is better, because it really depends what your goals and resources are. I think the main differences between the two systems are 1) YSM uses a canonical keyword system that maps plurals and misspellings to the canonical keyword, and 2) Google’s extended broad match is a much broader target than YSM has. Both of these differences offer both advantages and drawbacks, but the bottom line is that it’s search marketing and it performs better than any other marketing channel, so you want to maximize the results of both systems given your resource constraints and business goals.
Question #5: There are many software companies emerging into the Search Industry offering many solutions to help both streamline and automate the typical tactics of everyday PPC management. Do you or your team at Yahoo use any of these software applications? And if so, which one(s) are you willing to disclose.

Answer: Part of my job is to evaluate tools in the marketplace, so
I take a lot of demos and I look at a lot of tools. What I can tell you is that right now we’re not using any off-the-shelf tools, but that some of them are getting quite good and I’m always looking for a good fit.


Question #6: When Yahoo acquired Index tools back in April 2008, were you obligated to use Indextools as your primary Analytics software? Do you use more than one analytics package?

Answer: We have made Yahoo! Web Analytics, the technology formerly known as Indextools, available to our Yahoo! stores customers, and we are currently looking at ways we can leverage this technology internally for our Yahoo! properties.

Question #7:  In your position at Yahoo, do you currently or in the past, provide the Yahoo R&D Department with new ideas and/or updates based on your experience working with Google Adwords platform? In other words, do you tell them what they should consider in future releases of the Yahoo Search Platform?

Answer: As I mentioned before, YSM views us as a large advertiser. So, to the extent that YSM looks for product feedback and feature requirements from their other large advertisers, we do provide similar feedback and feature requirements.

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