March 31, 2003, 12:00 AM

Placing ads in context

Google has rolled out an extension of its year-old AdWords marketing program to deliver customers` ads to sites not related to Google.

Search engine Google.com gets lots of visitors-more than 50 million a month, according to Gartner-but it’s still not enough for some advertisers. Last month, Google rolled out an extension of its year-old AdWords marketing program to deliver ads to sites not related to Google.

With AdWords, retailers and other marketers contract with Google to place small ads on results pages for products relevant to the search term. Under its new program, the same ads will appear on other sites where the content is relevant to the advertiser.

“Advertisers are always telling us they want more, but we have no control over how many times people come to Google to search on a term,” says Susan Wojcicki, director of product management. “This gives our advertisers more reach by going to other sites.”

Google’s 100,000 advertisers will automatically participate in the new program, Google says. If their ads are relevant to the content that a user is viewing on a site with which Google has an agreement, the ad will appear automatically. The ad program is based on pay per click so there is no cost to the retailer or other marketer unless a consumer clicks through.

Overture Services Inc. is working on a similar contextual marketing project, which it announced just days before Google unveiled its.

Google uses the same technology it uses to search the web to determine the content of a page and then deliver relevant ads. Google also delivers search results to AOL, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo Japan and other portals and search sites. “Because of search, we look at pages all the time and figure out what they’re about,” Wojcicki says.

Analysts say this offering builds on Google’s strength. “They have a sophisticated search engine and technology to categorize pages by content, then classify those pages,” says Denise Garcia, principal analyst, advertising, for GartnerG2. “Search is only as good as the search engine technology and Google has wonderful technology.”

Google will not say how many web site operators it has deals with to provide ads, but it has identified the Knight Ridder group of newspapers and HowStuffWorks.com as customers. “It’s been hard for publishers to monetize their sites,” Wojcicki says. “This is a way to extend our 100,000 advertisers to those sites.”

AdWords advertisers get five times the click-through rates on AdWords ads that they get on traditional banner ads and Google expects its new program to produce similar results. Wojcicki says the ads will appear on the site where ads would normally appear. They will not be pop-up or pop-under ads and will not obscure content.

This program and Overture’s similar offering are a big step toward fulfilling the promise of the web as a marketing vehicle, Garcia says. “The promise of the Internet was that it could deliver the right ad to the right person at the right time,” she says. “But it has never fulfilled that promise. This is a step in that direction.”

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