Google: You Ain't Seen Targeting Like This Before

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Search engine Google announced yesterday that it has begun serving advertisers' links on other Web sites based on the subject matter of the pages viewed.


As a result, whereas online marketers typically buy ad inventory on publishers' sites by categories such as business or sports, Google's new service allows advertisers to have their ads delivered by specifying keywords like "baseball bats," or "cardiovascular exercise equipment," said Tim Armstrong, vice president of advertising sales for Mountain View, CA-based Google.


Google claims the service will deliver ads so targeted that it can help Web site publishers sell even remnant or run-of-site inventory because advertisers will see a return on investment from such inventory similar to that of Google's successful paid-search-advertising service.


"Our model is focused on monetizing hard-to-monetize areas of the Web,"Armstrong said. He added the service is turnkey for both publishers and advertisers.


Similar wiz-bang claims have been made in the past.


However, Google claims nothing targets like search technology and that its sheer number of advertisers bidding for inventory -- more than 100,000 -- makes selling publishers' run-of-site advertising on a targeted basis workable.


"There has never been technology as thorough as Google at understanding content, and there has never been an advertiser database as large as Google's, " Armstrong said. "You have to have both of those components to make this model successful."


The program is a new twist on Google's AdWords program and uses the same technology.


Using AdWords, online direct marketers select keywords they believe people will input when searching on Google for their product or service. They then bid on how much they are willing to pay for each user who clicks on their ad. When Google searchers use the advertisers' keywords, say barbecue or hot tub, ads appear from highest bidder on down in the form of eight sponsored links that run down the right side of the results page next to the unpaid results. Premium sponsored links also appear above the unpaid results but Google's advertising department typically sells those.


Under the new ad serving program, marketers will bid on keywords and Google's AdWords technology will determine the meaning of Web pages on participating publishers' sites and use advertisers' keywords to serve ads to those Web pages accordingly.


Charter participants in the program include HowStuffWorks.com and Knight Ridder Digital properties, which includes sites such as the San Jose Mercury News, the Detroit Free Press, the Miami Herald and the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Contrary to The Wall Street Journal and Reuters reports yesterday, the move does not put Google in competition with online advertising technology and services firm DoubleClick, Armstrong said.


DoubleClick has been out of the ad sales business since last summer. Also, Google's technology works with DoubleClick's, he said.


"This product works on DoubleClick's ad serving program," he said. "We work with DoubleClick every day and it's not a competitive relationship at all."


Content-targeted advertising is not new. Gator Corp. has built an entire business on the concept. However, Gator requires PC users to download its software and then serves content-related pop-up ads over site publishers' content.


Not surprisingly, many publishers have not taken kindly to ads appearing over content they paid to have created. As a result, Gator was sued in June by Washington Post Co., Dow Jones & Co., Tribune Interactive Inc., The New York Times Co., Knight Ridder Inc., Advance Publications Inc. and Gannett Co.


Calling Gator's business parasitic, the companies argued that Gator's ads obscured their own sites' advertising, and that consumers would not know the ads were being served by Gator and blame the site for serving them.


It was announced last month that the suit was settled. Details were not disclosed.


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