Business.com Pulls Display Ads From Site

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Business.com pulled all display advertising from its Web site as of this month.


The Santa Monica, CA, business search engine no longer will sell ads on a CPM basis because that conflicts with its paid search model, CEO Jake Winebaum said.


"It also slows down our site," he said, "and we're all about the direct response model."


Live since 1999, Business.com has 35,000 categories online, which it plans to expand to 100,000 by the end of the year. Its company database, now 500,000, is to reach 1 million this year. The search engine has 700,000 keywords associated with categories and personally thought of by linguists and library scientists on its staff. The Business.com staff also personally writes copy for many listings, except self-service ones, which it only reviews.


Eliminating display ads is an attempt to compete better with rivals like Google, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo's Overture and myriad other search engines populating the Internet.


"There's an inherent disconnect between display ads, which belong on a destination site, whereas listings are designed to move a user as far away from our site," Winebaum said.


In that respect, Business.com takes cues from Google, which similarly does not run display ads. However, Yahoo does show banners on its search results pages. Ask Jeeves' Ask.com runs branded units, too.


The move from display ads has resulted in the loss of 40 to 50 advertisers. Among the most recent CPM advertisers that no longer can buy banners with Business.com are Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp., American Express Co., Lufthansa, Monster.com, Visa, Delta Air Lines and Verizon.


Business.com's network -- its search results appear on BusinessWeek.com, FastCompany.com, Inc.com and FT.com, among others -- records 20 million unique users and 100 million searches monthly. Of that, 2 million unique users monthly make 15 million searches on Business.com. Weekend traffic is half of weekday searches on Business.com.


Business.com has three forms of paid listings -- sponsored links on the sidebar of search and directory results; featured listings at the top of search results and directory pages; and a standard $99-a-year paid-inclusion service that includes several keywords.


In the sponsored links, ads in blue boxes are Google Adwords, for which Google pays Business.com.


The featured listings in the well contain editorial descriptions that "go through the same exact scrutiny and same guidelines as our free editorial listings," Winebaum said.


A bugbear for Business.com with display ads was the requirement of third-party auditors to validate. This was problematic for a business search engine that gets most of its traffic at work.


"Third-party auditors do not effectively measure at-work audiences because of firewalls," Winebaum said. "The at-work sample is not as representative as the at-home sample. In performance-based advertising, the advertiser itself measures performance. Impression-based advertising is very dependent on third-party audience measurement. But I am confident third-party measurement of at-work audience will improve over time."


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