Yahoo and MSN and a Billing Nightmare

October 21st, 2010 by Nikki Kuhlman

Yahoo and MSN are in the midst of their big merge, and from a PPC standpoint, it’s really quite business as usual. Until you get the billing end of it and then it’s a nightmare.

MSN is supplying the results of the search, but Yahoo is handling all the billing. What that means is that all charges will come from Yahoo on your credit card statement, not from MSN. On its own, that’s confusing enough – I’ve had quite a few confused emails from my clients who wonder, if Yahoo is “going away” why are they still getting charges from them? But the nightmare end of it is what’s happening on those client’s credit cards – multiple, crazy billing charges.

Yahoo billed on a prepay plan (money in an account which click charges were taken from, like a checking account). MSN billed on a post-pay plan (accrue the charges, then MSN would charge you for them later, like Google AdWords). And that’s where the craziness is coming in – Yahoo is switching all these clients from post to prepay, and charging clients to build up their account so they have money to withdraw from.

One client I have was billed $1 on 10/1 and $25 on the 3rd, 7th, 11th, 14th and 17th. And I’m sure they’ll be hit again on the 21st.

A bigger mess is what happened to the client I heard from yesterday. They were billed $500, $400 and 13 times for $25 on 10/18. And yesterday they were billed another $600. That’s $1825 in two days.

The charges are legitimate, but the large amounts charged so fast are difficult for some to afford. Plus the $25 is such a low number and so many times.

While poking around in MSN, I was able to find a setting on the account details page for the Auto Recharge Amount. Looks like the default setting is $25. You are able to change that to whatever you would like. Why they picked $25, I don’t know. Why they didn’t require the client to select that amount, again, I don’t know.

We’re also having issues with clients where we’re unable to enter a billing credit card. Doesn’t seem to matter what we do, the card just won’t go in. It’s not that the card is declined, it’s just technically able to be entered successfully.

I am hoping that this merger will prove beneficial to my clients, but the confusion and amount of time being spent on fixing crazy issues is definitely beneficial to noone. Thankfully, the customer support is coming from Yahoo, which I’m grateful for. We have a fantastic dedicated Yahoo rep named Lynda who is doing her best in a really crazy situation. We’re talking to her multiple times a day with all these issues, and she’s really going to bat for our clients. I’m sure it will turn out okay, but for now, what a mess.

Bing or Bust for Microsoft – Bing.com is Born

May 28th, 2009 by Brad Garlin

Increasing speculation suggests that Microsoft will overhaul its search engine strategy this week and unveil “Bing” as an all new search engine. Various sources confirm that Microsoft to Launch Bing.comMicrosoft already registered several variations of this URL in other countries, including “bing.com.au”, “bing.co.nz” and “bing.co.uk.” Furthermore, in March, Microsoft trademarked the term Bing, which is near the time many also think they purchased the Bing.com domain, but that purchase has not yet been confirmed.

Katherine Egbert, an analyst at Jefferies & Company, says that Microsoft is planning an advertising blitz to publicize its search efforts, stating, “Microsoft is set to spend $80 million to $100 million to advertise ‘Bing’… The budget for the ad campaign suggests that Microsoft plans to go head-to-head with the Google brand.” They need to do something if they actually intend to compete with Google, which commands about 70% of all search queries, while Microsoft currently serves less than 9% of searches, a number that has been shrinking. However, advertising alone cannot ensure success, as learned by those behind Cuil, the last new search engine to receive significant media and advertising exposure. Unfortunately for everyone involved, users decided it was not so cuil after all.

Is Yahoo on Microsoft’s Agenda? 

Several sources indicate that just last week Microsoft registered a limited liability company (LLC) in Delaware, a move that often precedes acquisitions or joint ventures. Microsoft also raised $3.75 billion in its first-ever debt offering this month. Coincidence? “The timing of the registration and recent debt raise indicate to us that it might be more likely Microsoft uses the LLC to force a partnership or to boost the amount of traffic flowing through its search engine,” wrote Katherine Egbert in a note released Tuesday.

The newly registered LLC could be the precursor to a Yahoo! deal. Just yesterday, when questioned about a possible Microsoft alliance, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz confirmed ongoing Microsoft-Yahoo talks and stated, “if there’s boatloads of money, and there’s the right technology, and the information we would have to have, then yeah… it’s that simple.” Of course, there is also speculation that Microsoft is interested in various other potential acquisitions as well.

So what does Bing promise to bring? Well, that remains to be seen. In the meantime, we’ll see if Microsoft can first push Bing.com’s traffic past that received by bingo.com or even bingcrosby.com, each currently receiving considerably more traffic than Microsoft’s new proposed venture (view stats). To date, Microsoft’s search platforms failed to achieve wide public appeal, with Google basically controlling the market. Microsoft is desperately trying to challenge Google’s dominance. Is Bing the answer? And will Yahoo somehow be part of it? Internet history and the search marketing landscape continues to evolve and develop before our very eyes.

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