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Yahoo Opens Panama For New Business

Yahoo's new search marketing system is finally open for new business.

Code-named Panama, the long-awaited and often delayed system is built to monetize Yahoo search with sponsored links. It is meant to compete with Google's AdWords for search engine advertising dollars.

And while the news might mean an end to company re-organizations, leaked memos and Wall Street poundings, it also means a new option for search marketers who want to promote their businesses on the world's second-most popular search engine.

Yahoo said in a statement that Panama's five-step sign-up process is streamlined and user-friendly. When signing up, advertisers will, in sequential order, target their customers by geographic location, choose search keywords to set their sponsored links against, set their budgets, create an ad and then finally activate it.

Advertisers familiar with Google's sign-up process will note Panama's similarities. It's hard to fault Yahoo if that was the company's intent.

Google's third-quarter results are only the latest in a series to indicate that, while Yahoo's Overture may have invented search marketing, Google now owns the model to copy.

But will new search marketers sign-up? SearchEngineLand's Danny Sullivan told internetnews.com that the sign-up process itself won't be a barrier.

"So far, I haven't heard a lot of marketers in the test program say they've had major difficulties," Sullivan said.

If sign-up is as easy as Yahoo said it is, then the company has plenty to gain. Search marketing growth increased Internet advertising 30 percent in 2005, and according to Nielsen//NetRatings, Yahoo's search engine is second only to Google's in number of searches performed.

Yahoo said it will transition marketers to the new platform through a "phased and deliberate" rollout on a market-by-market basis.

Advertisers in the U.S. will receive invitations to upgrade to Panama into the first quarter of 2007. Those who'd like to jump on it can request an early upgrade on a Yahoo reservation page.