Without announcement, Google has begun serving up search results to users of the Earthlink web site, taking over a partnership previously held by Overture.
Earthlink is one of the largest Internet service providers in the United States, and it has used Overture's paid placement results to power search at its site for the past two years. That deal expired in January, and Google apparently was selected to take over.
The change is extremely good news for searchers. Last year, as search sites such as Go, NBCi and Excite went under, it seemed as if the pure paid placement model was going to take over. All of those sites dropped editorial-compiled results and went for the easy money of ad-dominated listings.
The Earthlink deal is a substantial shift back to quality. Those searching at Earthlink are now getting a healthy-dose of top-notch editorial listings from Google, rather than a lot of ads from Overture. It suggests that perhaps other sites providing search will be motivated to think about both money and quality.
The Google results are not ad-free. AdWords listings that run on the regular Google web site also appear on the Google results provided to Earthlink, in the clearly marked "Sponsored Results" section at the top of the page.
This is the first time Google had distributed its ads outside of its own web site and a first move in having the company compete with Overture. Until now, a weakness in the Google distribution strategy has been the fact that it charges sites to carry its search results. In a tight economy, that's a tough sell against Overture, which tells sites that carry its results that they'll share in ad revenues.
Google said it couldn't yet comment about the Earthlink deal. However, the new product from Google, which combines ads and search results, certainly helps make the company more competitive. It can now tell sites that carry its listings that they, too, can share in ad revenues.
Google results and ads are also showing up at Sympatico, a Canadian portal which is minority owned by Lycos. Google is also now providing international web search results at the Web.de German search site, though AdWords distribution does not appear to be happening there.
Google AdWords FAQ: About Syndication
Explains to Google advertisers how their ads are now being distributed outside of Google and how to opt out of syndication, if you don't like it.
Two-Year, $10 Million Premiere Partnership Puts Goto.com on Earthlink
Overture Press Release, Oct. 14, 1999
Details of the original deal between Overture (GoTo) and Earthlink.
Sympatico-Lycos, Inc changes search providers
WebmasterWorld.com, Jan. 28, 2002
Lots of discussion of the Google-Sympatico implementation here.
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