After weeks of rumors, Ask Jeeves unveiled a new automated paid listings service -- Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings. It allows anyone to purchase ads on the Ask Jeeves network directly, rather than having to buy placement via Google or to work through an Ask Jeeves account rep.
Google is the primary way most advertisers currently appear at Ask Jeeves. Those buying ads on Google also automatically show up at Ask Jeeves and other Ask-owned properties through a partnership that began in September 2002, unless an advertiser specifically chooses to opt out of the Google Network to run ads only on Google's sites.
The Ask Jeeves-Google partnership isn't ending. Google's ads will continue to show up on Ask Jeeves. But now, advertisers can easily purchase placement directly through Ask Jeeves itself.
"The relationship with Google is a strong one, and the intention here is not to replace it," said Paul Gardi, executive vice president and general manager of the new IAC Advertising Solutions group within Ask Jeeves' parent company, IAC. His group runs the new program. "The intention is to help advertisers who want a direct relationship with Ask Jeeves."
The move means that over time, many of Google's ads will be "backfill" to Ask Jeeves ads. That is, Ask Jeeves will first list its own ads, then show ads from Google if it doesn't have enough ads of its own or when Google ads would generate more revenue for Ask Jeeves.
Google ads have already been backfill to a minor degree because of the preexisting Ask Jeeves Premier Listings program. Through that program, advertisers would negotiate directly with Ask Jeeves to keyword-target their ads on a CPC (define) basis.
Because the program involved ad reps, it was only really available to high-end advertisers making a significant spend. In the new program, any advertiser can buy directly through Ask Jeeves.
"We've not had the ability to service the larger number of advertisers that want to be on Ask Jeeves. With the new product, it's automated and allows a large number of advertisers to purchase and manage the advertising directly on our network," said Gardi.
Will They Buy Direct?
Ask has built it. Will advertisers come? Those who were in the existing premier listings program almost certainly will and have now been transitioned into the new one, which officially replaces Premier Listings. As for others, time will tell once the program opens August 15 to anyone wishing to reach the Ask Jeeves network in the U.S. Within the next 12 months, it will also come to Ask UK.
Why would people buy direct? Most likely because they'll want to pay a premium to be ranked well on Ask Jeeves. A premium? Yes, because Ask will show more than one ad from its own program only when it determines it will earn more from theirs than by carrying Google's. The easiest way for most advertisers to influence that will be to pay more than they'd pay through Google.
Why wouldn't people buy direct? The hassle factor. Creating and managing search ads is a complex task. Automation makes things easier, but it's still a case of diminishing returns when deciding how many program advertisers will explore.
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Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Watch as of Dec. 1, 2006.
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