ith the launch of Yahoo's Panama, some major differences in creative standards and account structures among the search engines are disappearing. Yet campaigns often aren't portable between engines. What may initially seem like common standards aren't as common as advertisers would like.

There's hope, however. Evidence of cooperation among engines shows up not on the PPC (define) side of the business, but on the organic side. Many of my SEM (define), SEO (define), and Web development colleagues joined me in my enthusiasm for the recent adoption of standardized sitemaps. They were thrilled to see Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft jointly agree to support the sitemaps protocol originally developed by Google.

It's about time the search engines agreed on standards within PPC paid placement SEM systems as well. Advertisers and their agencies spend far too much time reconciling account structures, dealing with different creative specifications, and building tools that allow for translation of other special features provided by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and second-tier engines.

Top search engines may believe standardization will result in their losing a competitive edge, but there are lots of things all engines share that could and should be standardized. The time marketers waste resolving duplicative issues among accounts would be far better spent finding ways to add efficiencies to the campaigns, which would result in more overall PPC spending. More spending helps all the engines. Some of my favorite candidates for standardization are below.

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