Overture Enhances Contract with MSN

Officials at pay-for-performance search engine Overture announced Tuesday the Microsoft Network is continuing to use its service for Web searches through 2003.

The popular search engine company has been busy the past couple months signing its crop of portal affiliates to extensions in response to the consumer popularity of Google, a relative fledgling to the business that has won the lion’s share of consumer approval.

In December, Google was able to pry away one of Overture’s clients, Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. . The news gave Google instant legitimacy as a business rival, not just a kitchy consumer fad.

Days later, Overture executives announced they had signed one of their major portal distributors, Yahoo , to a contract extension and said they weren’t intimidated by Google’s rising popularity.

John Gentry, Overture senior vice president and general manager, said MSN’s highly-popular portal with tens of million visitors per month is important to retain.

“MSN has been a tremendous partner to work with and we look forward to supporting them as they continue to evolve their search product,” he said.

As part of the contract, every Web search performed on MSN Search will produce a page with Overture’s top three advertisers related to the keyword search in question at the top. So, if a user is looking for “flowers,” they will find links to, say, 1-800-FLOWERS.com and two other florists listed in the first three results and earmarked as “Sponsor Matches.”

Overture has 49,000 advertisers throughout the world who sign on as affiliates in hopes of getting their company’s link next to a consumer’s search results. It’s a trend in the continuing evolution of search engines, many of which faced lean times when the floor dropped out on online advertising. Most search engines are heavily dependent on banner ads.

Overture was one of the search engine darlings of the late 90s and early 2000, signing America Online to a distribution deal and garnering the support of other major portals like EarthLink, MSN, Yahoo, Lycos, AltaVista and Netscape.

Originally called GoTo, the company changed its name in October 2001 and officials say their search engine is used by 75 percent of the online world.

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