Overture Alters Keyword Matching

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Yahoo's Overture Services unit told advertisers yesterday that it would change its keyword matching options next month to simplify its bidding process.

In early October, Overture will combine its "broad" and "phrase" matching categories into one "advanced" option. It will continue to offer "standard" matching, which displays listings only when users search for exact terms.

Advertisers choosing advanced match will have their keywords matched with search terms that contain their keywords or similar concepts. The new option resembles Google's broad matching system. Google also offers phrase and exact matching.

Overture introduced broad and phrase match in August 2003. With broad match, an advertiser's listing appears if a search contains its keywords in any order. Phrase match shows the listing if the keywords appear in the exact order in a search query.

Overture is introducing new concepts to match search intent with advertiser keywords. For example, a search for "auto insurance" would be advance matched to the keywords "car insurance." As with Google's system, advertisers can exclude certain words from triggering their ads.

Under the new system, advertisers will place a single bid for both standard and advanced match keywords. Overture will rank standard match keywords first, according to bid price, then fill in with advanced match listings.

The advanced match system will give Overture more flexibility in determining which paid listings apply to searches, allowing more coverage of what it calls the "search tail" of multiple-word search terms that do not draw as much advertiser attention.

"It's a way for advertisers to cover all their bases and make sure they're being matched to as many relevant queries as possible," Overture spokeswoman Gaude Paez said.

Search marketing's popularity has squeezed ad inventory. Nielsen//NetRatings in July reported that advertiser demand for search leads is outstripping supply. The imbalance will drive up click prices 26 percent this year, Jupiter Research forecasts.

"This will increase your spend, and that's a good thing," said Fredrick Marckini, chief executive of iProspect, a Watertown, MA, search marketing firm. "You're likely to reach more of your audience that expresses purchase intent on keywords you hadn't thought of."

The advanced match listings will give advertisers more exposure than phrase and broad match, since both Yahoo and MSN will carry them. Those search sites did not use phrase and broad match listings.

Advertisers with phrase and broad match keywords will have them moved over to advanced match in October. New advertisers will have advanced match set as the default option, though they can opt for standard match. Overture previously used standard match as its default. In Europe and Australia, all ads will move over to advanced match by default, with the option of moving them back to standard.

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