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Yahoo Search Marketing recently made what seems to be a drastic change to their Terms of Service. These new terms were sent out to all advertisers via email. Continued use of YSM services after June 13, 2008 constitutes acceptance of these new modified terms.

So What Actually Changed?

The new changes to the Yahoo Search Marketing TOS, listed ¾ of the way down the new TOS, seems to allow Yahoo to make any "Optimization" changes to your account without prior approval. According to a Yahoo Service Rep, this is supposed to help smaller advertisers who want to spend $100 a day, but are only able to spend $20 a day. To me it seems like Yahoo is saying, we know your business better than you, so if we feel the need to change adverts or add/delete key phrases we are going to do so. This new TOS change also seems to be targeted at the small advertisers as all those "not bound by an Insertion Order" meaning corporations and large companies with big budgets will not be affected. Below is the actual paragraph in question from the new TOS.

"OPTIMIZATION. In the U.S. only, for those advertisers not bound by an Insertion Order, we may help you optimize your account(s). Accordingly, you expressly agree that we may also: (i) create ads, (ii) add and/or remove keywords, and/or (iii) optimize your account(s). We will notify you via email of such changes made to your account(s), and can also include a spreadsheet of such changes upon your written request. If you would like any of such changes reversed, please reply to such email within 14 days of the change(s), and we will make commercially reasonable efforts to reverse the change(s) you specifically identify. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you remain responsible for all changes made to your account(s), including all click charges incurred prior to any reversions being made. It is your responsibility to monitor your account(s) and to ensure that your account settings are consistent with your business objectives."

What do I do

To keep an eye on any unwanted activity I suggest exporting your entire campaign, key phrases, adverts, landing pages, etc. into a spreadsheet and periodically checking for changes that could have been made by Yahoo. If you have any daily budget parameters that you are not currently meeting, I suggest you lower them unless you want Yahoo to spend the rest.

Email or Call to Opt Out?

You are able to email or call Yahoo to opt out of any unwanted changes. Tell them you want to "Opt Out" of the new "Optimization" changes in the TOS. I called Yahoo Support (1-866-924-6676) and was able to opt out of all "non-insertion" accounts within 15 minutes by supplying the username and password for all E-Power Marketing managed accounts. However conflicting stories from WebmasterWorld.com forum members leads me to believe that email/phone call or not, if Yahoo wants to make the changes they just might.

This may not seem like a big deal to some… and the intent may be inherently good, but for those advertisers that are affected and don't even know it, Yahoo may be crossing the line. Good intentions or not.

What happened to transparency? Why bury these changes in an unbelievable long TOS email?

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