MSN, eBay Ink Search Ad Pact

EBay and MSN announced a marketing deal on Thursday that will prominently display the auction giant’s listings on the results pages of certain matches.

The deal calls for MSN to display links to eBay listings on the top of the search results page for certain queries. The eBay links will appear in response to queries from MSN’s homepage, Internet Explorer search, as well as searches in its shopping and auctions sections.

The pact’s financial terms and length were not disclosed.

With the arrangement, MSN hopes to find another way to capitalize on the booming market for search marketing. The company has a deal in place with Overture Services to provide paid listings, while Inktomi complements its own algorithmic search. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, has tabbed search as a major priority for the company, which has tripled its search staff. It also recently released MSNBot search software, which many see as a forerunner to MSN building its own algorithmic search capability.

According to research done by WebSideStory in December, consumers turn to search in looking for products. The analytics company found that MSN accounted for 24 percent of the shopping referrals in its sample.

The two companies also said eBay ads would appear in relevant positions across the MSN network, to drive users to the auction site. EBay users can already sign up to receive “auction ending” or “outbid” alerts via MSN Messenger.

The search deal with MSN is not eBay’s first foray into fencing off real estate on search results pages. The company has an arrangement with AOL Canada for text links to its listings to appear at the top search results pages. AOL and eBay also have a marketing deal, struck in 2001, which gives the auction site exposure throughout AOL. That deal expires in 2004.

The agreement builds on an alliance cemented between MSN and eBay in March 2001 that linked eBay to Microsoft’s .Net Web services and integrated its auction site into some MSN properties like Carpoint and bCentral.

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