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Any Google Classifieds Likely to Focus on Content, Not Paid Advertising

Google's probable expansion into classified advertising — a service not announced by the search giant but found by Google watchers Tuesday — likely will affect the site's search listings but may not turn the online classifieds world on its head.

The move to launch “Google Base,” which invites users to post items such as cars for sale, likely will be more of a content service than a paid advertising service, industry analysts said.

Though Google is staying fairly quiet on the new service, several Web sites posted a “Google Base” page that the engine may have inadvertently displayed. It stated, “Post your items on Google. Google Base is Google's database into which you can add all types of content. We'll host your content and make it searchable online for free.”

Google would not confirm or deny whether it is launching a classifieds service. But Tom Oliveri, Google product marketing manager, wrote on the company's blog: “We are testing a new way for content owners to submit their content to Google, which we hope will complement existing methods, such as our Web crawl and Google Sitemaps. We think it's an exciting product, and we'll let you know when there's more news.”

“Google tends to get content and expand it across their network and make it searchable,” said Fredrick Marckini, president of search marketing firm iProspect, Watertown, MA. “I don't think Google wants to set up a call center and take people's credit cards.”

Executives with Craigslist, the nation's newspapers and numerous other online classifieds services may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. However, the move likely will affect Google advertisers and search listings.

“If information is relevant, they might put it in their search results,” Marckini said. “That's unpaid inclusion of advertising, and increases Google's content availability.”

But Joshua Stylman, managing partner of Reprise Media, said Google Base gives Google an advantage over Craigslist and eBay because it comes with built-in distribution. Listings on Google Base become available anywhere that Google search results can be found.

“Worst of all for eBay? It appears that the Google listings will be absolutely free,” Stylman said. “Google is essentially handing users the controls and allowing them to build the next Citysearch, PR Newswire or HotJobs right on top of Google's current architecture.”

Classified ads are an extension of local search, so Google likely would include links to Google Base content in its main search results, said Kevin Lee, executive chairman of search marketing firm Did-it.com, New York.

“Google serves Froogle, Image, News or Local Results right under the paid listings … I'd predict the same thing would happen with classifieds,” Lee said.

But Google would have to implement an efficient IP address geo-targeting system or some type of user registration to serve the most relevant local classified ads.

“Google's current IP address-based geo-targeting system has gotten pretty accurate, but still has room for improvement,” Lee said.

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