Overture Breaks Up Contextual, Search Listings

  |  January 7, 2004   |  Comments

Overture will offer the option to bid on each of its products individually.

Yahoo's Overture Services will hand more control to advertisers later this month, letting them bid for contextual listings independently from search listings.

Received wisdom in the industry contends that users are less likely to purchase goods or services after clicking on contextual ads, which appear on content pages, as compared to those that appear on search results pages.

The proof will soon enough be in the pudding, or at least the conversions, as Overture advertisers will be able to make different bids for Content Match keywords later this month. (Content Match is Overture's name for its contextual advertising product.)

"We've always had the intention of creating a separate marketplace for the product because inherently it's a different experience," said Paul Volen, Overture' VP of partner product marketing. "We got information from advertisers that they would like to control it separately." It's all about control, Volen maintained.

If advertisers take no action, their bid rate on Content Match will remain the same as it was before the change. The 20 percent discount in effect since Content Match's June launch will end with the launch of the new product.

Though contextual listings, which competitor Google offers through its AdSense program, are said to bring advertisers more traffic, many find such listings lower their ROI. This has led to the demand for the ability to bid for each product individually.

Will Google follow Overture's lead? At present, Google does not separate out the search and contextual listings. Kevin Lee, CEO of search engine campaign management company Did-it.com, says it might.

"They may. But you can make the argument that Google doesn't have to. They have over 100,000 advertisers. Let's say contextual advertising works as well for half of them, so half shut it off. You still have a lot of money coming in. So why make life more complicated with a whole separate auction you have to watch?" said Lee.

Lee maintained that results from contextual listings vary and advertisers should keep an open mind.

"Marketers and advertisers should use the tools and technologies at their disposal to figure it out by themselves," Lee said.

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