Why Buy The Milk When You Can Get the Cow for Free?

Yahoo Had No Leverage…

In case you didn’t look at the stock market today, Bloomberg highlighted what investors think of the Yahoo! / Microsoft deal

“This deal was a big disappointment,” said Moran, an analyst in Boca Raton, Florida. “They needed this deal, and it shows in terms of how the negotiations were concluded.”

…Because Their CEO Did Not Grasp the Importance of Search

In the same article Yahoo!’s CEO justified the Yahoo!/Microsoft search deal as something that clears fog:

“The priority was not to do the deal,” Bartz, 60, said in an interview. “The priority was to get the fog away from the company. Yahoo got pegged as a search company and we’re not a search company. Search is only one aspect of what our customers do.”

To look at the highest margin and highest income piece of a business and call it fog is absurd.

How Search Sets a Baseline

Search is the most direct way to target ads at consumers. It is easy to establish a baseline values and measure change. It allows you to implement (and advertise) new product ideas at no cost.

The other important baseline evolving search sets is the difference between spam and value added content. If you have ever read any of Google’s leaked remote quality rater documents you would see that the search result itself is a lower threshold to force the evolution of media.

Web Search Holds Everything Together

A lot of Yahoo!’s properties are somewhat average, but not remarkable. Some of them succeed ONLY because they are a part of the Yahoo! family of websites. Web search is the glue that holds the pieces together.

Search is the most profitable online ad market and having a big stake of that market allows them to promote their other business interests in a cheap & targeted way. Selling off the search assets does not suddenly put them in a strong competitive position.

It does not suddenly make their thin content sites thicker and more valuable. If anything it will make it harder for their other sites to compete as it will require them to be thicker to stay competitive when they lose the subsidy they were getting from search.

And Microsoft bought Yahoo! Search for $0:

Besides better exposure for its Bing search engine by placement throughout Yahoo!, Ballmer said, Microsoft hopes to improve the quality of its searches by analyzing over a decade of data Yahoo! has on how people search. The data improves search quality for everything from correcting misspelled words to likely patterns of search behavior.

Danny highlighted how much worse this deal is for Yahoo! than the deal offered last year in a side by side comparison and wrote a search eulogy. Yahoo! spent a couple billion dollars acquiring Overture/AltaVista, Inktomi, and AllTheWeb. And they sold it for $0!

Deal Terms

From Microsoft’s press release:

  • The term of the agreement is 10 years;
  • Microsoft will acquire an exclusive 10 year license to Yahoo!’s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo! search technologies into its existing web search platforms;
  • Microsoft’s Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo! sites. Yahoo! will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business such as enhancing display advertising technology.
  • Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers. Self-serve advertising for both companies will be fulfilled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform, and prices for all search ads will continue to be set by AdCenter’s automated auction process.
  • Each company will maintain its own separate display advertising business and sales force.
  • Yahoo! will innovate and “own” the user experience on Yahoo! properties, including the user experience for search, even though it will be powered by Microsoft technology.
  • Microsoft will compensate Yahoo! through a revenue sharing agreement on traffic generated on Yahoo!’s network of both owned and operated (O&O) and affiliate sites.
  • Microsoft will pay traffic acquisition costs (TAC) to Yahoo! at an initial rate of 88% of search revenue generated on Yahoo!’s O&O sites during the first 5 years of the agreement.
  • Yahoo! will continue to syndicate its existing search affiliate partnerships.
  • Microsoft will guarantee Yahoo!’s O&O revenue per search (RPS) in each country for the first 18 months following initial implementation in that country.
  • At full implementation (expected to occur within 24 months following regulatory approval), Yahoo! estimates, based on current levels of revenue and current operating expenses, that this agreement will provide a benefit to annual GAAP operating income of approximately $500 million and capital expenditure savings of approximately $200 million. Yahoo! also estimates that this agreement will provide a benefit to annual operating cash flow of approximately $275 million.
  • The agreement protects consumer privacy by limiting the data shared between the companies to the minimum necessary to operate and improve the combined search platform, and restricts the use of search data shared between the companies. The agreement maintains the industry-leading privacy practices that each company follows today.

What is not in the deal terms is that Yahoo! will slowly erode search market share to Bing. By the end of the 10 year period Yahoo! could become AOL.

SEO Stuff Up in the Air

As far as SEO goes, a lot of stuff is still up in the air. If this deal goes through, what happens to…

  • the Yahoo! Directory (a wonderful link source)
  • Yahoo! link data (they are the best free public source)
  • Yahoo! SearchMonkey & BOSS
  • Yahoo!’s paid inclusion

There is a good chance all 4 of them go away.

Increased SEO Costs & Increased Barrier to Entry

For established marketers there would be some major upsides as well…

  • anyone with a well established website has a bigger advantage over new sites, and
  • with less public link data link buying might become less risky as reporting paid links might decline, and
  • it would be harder for competitors to clone your link strategy

Bing SEO Tips

If you have not yet read Bing’s SEO Guide for Wembasters [PDF] then now would be a good time to get up to speed on it. When Bing launched we created a thread with a bunch of Bing SEO tips.

More: continued here

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