Since Microsoft embraced the search industry, they have been committed to making MSN Search a relevant and viable alternative to other industry leaders like Ask, Google, and Yahoo.
MSN Search officially launched in February of this year, complete with a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. Since the launch Microsoft has spared little expense in their efforts to thrust MSN Search to the forefront. However, one area where MSN Search falls short is offering users a non-third party advertising service. Currently, Microsoft uses Yahoo-owned Overture to provide search advertisements.
However, a number of leaks and grapevine-speak indicate a MSN Search-owned advertising service will be announced soon. A story in Bloomberg.com reveals Microsoft is on the verge of announcing their own search engine advertising service, maybe as soon as tomorrow, March 16, 2005.
The service will be similar to competing programs from Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. Microsoft will announce a pilot program March 16, said the people, who asked not to be identified. These paid searches auction off placement next to Web search results to companies with related products.
The program may help Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the world's biggest software maker, boost advertising revenue at its MSN Internet unit and revive sales growth. Microsoft's revenue will rise 8 percent this fiscal year, the lowest pace ever, after an average of 38 percent in the 1990s. The U.S. market for paid search will more than triple to $12.6 billion by 2010, according to Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray Cos.
On SearchEngineWatch forums, Danny Sullivan had these thoughts about Microsoft’s service and their agreement with Overture, which expires next June:
“I think toward the end of the year is more likely for a rollout, and I'd suspect we'd see Yahoo as a backfill until the advertisers have filled in the new program.
The Yahoo contract does expire June 2006. But it's typical with these things that you can end earlier, if you want. That's what happened with both the Looksmart and Inktomi contracts. June 2006 certainly would be a hard date for when you'd completely expect them to swamp over, but they could bring it up in scale before then, I'd say.”
Currently, Microsoft has not released any official word about their upcoming search advertising service. If the launch is announced tomorrow, expect Microsoft to issue a press release outlining the company’s goals.
Google Gets AutoLinked?
Recently, Google released an update to their toolbar, which includes the controversial AutoLink feature. Since the launch, AutoLink’s functions have been the center of a number of discussions. The majority of those who follow the search engine industry do not like AutoLink’s approach to providing product links on pages that didn’t have them to begin with.
On Threadwatch.org, the consensus concerning AutoLink is not positive. In fact, a recent post introduced a Firefox plugin called Butler. The plugin is designed so it “dramatically alters the pages on many Google services.” A description of Butler says, “Butler enhances Google search results by adding links to competitors. It also removes ads, changes typography, and a few other useful things.” It is essentially the same as AutoLink, but Butler focuses on Google pages.
A look at the features offered by Butler speaks volumes about the motives behind such a plugin.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
- removes ads on most Google pages
- fixes fonts on most Google pages
Google web search:
- adds links to other search sites ("Try your search on...")
- in news results, adds links to other news sites
- in movie results, adds links to other movie sites
- in weather results, adds links to other weather sites
- in product results, adds links to other product sites
Google image search:
- adds links to other image/photo/art sites
- adds links to other news sites
- adds links to other product sites
- Removes image copying restrictions
- adds links to other book sites
Google Toolbar Firefox page:
- adds links to other Firefox-friendly toolbars
A Threadwatch comment originating from Google Blogoscoped summed up the implications of Mark’s tool:
Now the catch-22 in Mark’s approach is obvious: would Google complain about his Butler add-on, they’d be offering arguments that could be used against their Toolbar, effectively hurting their own product. And if they don’t react, they’re allowing Mark to set an example of what’s possible and legal to do in terms of changing Google’s content, opening up a door for others to follow. Just imagine Microsoft would be implementing such Google ad removal as default behavior for Internet Explorer 7 – they’d be depriving their competitor of nearly all of their revenues.
The AutoLink discussion continues.