Things aren't going according to plan at Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), so a shakeup isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bill Demas and Will Johnson, a pair of vice presidents at Yahoo!'s beleaguered YPN paid-search division, are moving on.

One can't be naive and pin the company's paid-search shortcomings on just these two men, however. And although YPN is a problem for Yahoo!, it's clearly not the only problem. Yahoo! has had way too many quarters of posting lackluster results while Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been hitting it out of the park. The trouble at Yahoo! is on a grander scale.

Wait a minute. Three paragraphs in and you aren't familiar with YPN? Well, that's part of the problem, too. YPN stands for Yahoo! Publisher Network. It is the Yahoo! equivalent to Google AdSense -- third-party publishers rebroadcast search-engine ads on their sites in exchange for the lion's share of the ad revenue.

It's a pretty sweet proposition for a webmaster, especially since the opportunity to run relevant text-based ads is often more appealing and more financially lucrative than sticking to old-school graphical ad networks, such as those run by ValueClick (NASDAQ:VCLK).

However, even ValueClick kicked off the month with a healthy quarterly report and an upbeat outlook. Yahoo!, meanwhile, has been struggling, even though it had the early advantage of acquiring the patent-rich industry pioneer in Overture.

Everyone seems to have a cure for Yahoo!'s ills. Last month, Mad Money's Jim Cramer spent an entire week suggesting potential buyout candidates. I'm not sure whether a buying spree will cure the company's maladies.

In my opinion, YPN's shortcomings are not self-inflicted. As a third-party publisher, I was able to kick around the beta version of YPN, and I quickly yielded more of that billable space to Google's AdSense once it became clear that Google was serving up more relevant ads. The Yahoo! ads paid comparably well -- if not better -- on a per-click basis, but serving up too many general ads led to fewer clicks. So AdSense proved to be the higher-earning option at the end of the day. That also seems to be the general consensus on webmaster-related forums like Webmaster World.

Unless Yahoo! fattens up its ad network, rearranging the deck chairs at YPN won't have much of a effect.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a frequent Yahoo! visitor, but he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.