Yahoo: User Data and Smart Ads
Emergence-Media has been hot on the idea of Yahoo’s potential to do Behavioral Targeting and Social Search in a big way for awhile now. Yahoo has a mountain of user information (Y! Jobs, Upcoming, Flickr, Del.iciou.us, Y! Games) that the ability to do customized ad servicing (behavioral targeting) and social search is quite obvious.
The introduction of Yahoo’s SmartAds is a major step for Behavioral Targeting (BT). Behavioral Targeting has been a buzz since 2004 (if not earlier), which makes it interesting that it took this long for Yahoo, who has oodles of user information, has taken its first step in doing BT in a big way.
As per Yahoo’s demo on SmartAds, the system works by matching a user’s behavior to a customized on the fly advertisement. In the demo, it has user Joe (who Yahoo knows lives in Los Angeles and plays Yahoo! Poker Superstars II game), being served â€œLA to Las Vegasâ€ flight ads (which is a banner ad created on the fly):
Beyond Tim Mayer’s â€œCool Lampsâ€ Social Search
Yahoo’s demo with SmartAds gives a glimpse of what Behavioral (with Social Search) can look like. Tim Mayer, Yahoo’s VP of Product Management, is fond of giving the â€œCool Lampsâ€ example of Social Search: A user would be receive not only what is traditionally algorithmically ranking for â€œcool lampsâ€ but also what the user’s friends have tagged as being â€œcool lampsâ€.
While that’s the “Social” side of search, what about the behavioral (intent) side of search? The SmartAds example of the gambling enthusiast named Joe can be applied to both SEO and PPC:
PPC: Link Joe’s search for â€œcheap flights to Vegasâ€ with more accurate geographic information â€œJoe is from Los Angelesâ€ (than by using IP information), giving greater weight to ads for Casino.
SEO: Like PPC, organic SERPs could give higher relevancy to websites with â€œLos Angelesâ€ in them due to Joe’s geographic location. Also, more generic searches like â€œLas Vegasâ€ will lean towards Las Vegas casinos, since Joe is a gambler. On the Social side, maybe webpage URL recommendations based on the behavior of his fellow gambler players online.
Note that the above is pure speculation, but it is not difficult to imagine Yahoo eventually adopting their SmartAds system to the Search world. In any case, the impact will be more evolutionary than revolutionary: SEO is already increasingly more about PR and relevancy and PPC has been moving to a similar model with the use of Google and Yahoo’s Quality Score. Attempting to assess user behavior and their social network is just one more layer of complexity.