Search Engines Target Contextual Ads

SAN JOSE, CA — Executives from Google and Yahoo said they are working on more targeted contextual ads for advertisers at the opening panel of the Search Engine Strategies 2005 Conference and Expo here yesterday.

Yahoo soon will roll out LinkSpots, which it began testing in 2003, to provide more relevant ads or links next to content on parts of its site. For example, Yahoo users who receive their daily horoscope might see an ad for a related service, such as Personal ads.

“After testing this pretty extensively, you’re going to see this roll out in Yahoo Music and more spots,” said Barry Chu, senior manager, product development for Yahoo Content Match. He thinks the program will attract more volume and qualified leads for advertisers.

Meanwhile, Google may expand its site exclusion program in the future to let advertisers better target contextual ads.

“Site exclusion today is limited at 25 sites. There are many more ways to offer more controls in the future,” said Brian Axe, senior product manager at Google.

Google’s contextual site selection program gives advertisers “the flexibility to cherry-pick the sites you want to run on,” said Peter Hershberg, managing partner of Reprise Media, one of the speakers on the panel.

Search engines and search marketers on the panel also stressed that it is important for advertisers to track their contextual and search ad programs differently.

“We view content and search separately,” Chu said. “We’re investing pretty heavily to make sure you can track content different from search.”

“You need to build content campaigns separate from search campaigns and track your content campaigns uniquely,” said Brad Byrd, vice president of NewGate, a search marketing firm in Sausalito, CA.

Marketers should use different tracking URLs for each keyword in their content campaigns than each URL in their search campaigns, Byrd said.

One way to do this is via Google’s “fast track” tags, implemented about a year ago, to help advertisers identify whether a user’s search originated from their content or search programs.

“You can get specific information on where that content was run, when Google sends traffic to you,” Byrd said.

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