MSN Expands Overture Ads


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NOTE: Story is now corrected with new information about how paid listings are swapped on the page, highlighted in bold.

MSN Search has rolled out a new format for showing paid listings, a change it hopes will allow it to carry more sponsored results while still keeping its overall relevancy high.

MSN receives paid listings from Overture, which have been historically shown in the “Sponsored Sites” section of its search results. However, unlike some other Overture partners, MSN Search has been selective about the listings it would carry.

MSN never explained exactly how it filtered the paid listings it would accept, but many observed that ads for low-volume queries were often those that failed to appear.

Now MSN is embracing all the ads Overture has to offer. This means that Overture advertisers should no longer find it guesswork about whether they will appear at MSN. If they’re in the top listings for a query at Overture, then they should be showing up for the same query in the Sponsored Sites areas of MSN Search’s results.

“Areas” is the operative word in all this. MSN Search now has two separate areas labeled Sponsored Sites that contain Overture listings, rather than the single section it had before.

Generally, you’ll still find the traditional implementation appears, a section of results in the main column of the search results called Sponsored Sites that contains three paid listings from Overture. However, along the right-hand side of the screen is a new box that’s also called Sponsored Sites, which contains five additional listings from Overture.

The new box isn’t just a way to get more paid listings on the page. MSN is also using the box as an area where it may demote paid listings that don’t perform well when they appear in the traditional main column setting.

In other words, let’s say for a search on “used cars,” MSN Search shows three paid listings in the traditional area. Now let’s say one or more of these listings fails to attracts clicks in the percentage that typically would be expected for listings in that area. Because of this, the entire Sponsored Sites area in the main column is essentially switched off — and the links that were there now move over to the Sponsored Sites sidebar box.

The theory is that by doing this, MSN will help ensure the relevancy of the paid listings it carries. User clicks should help ensure that the most relevant paid listings appear in the important main column. It’s somewhat akin to the system that Google uses, where a high clickthrough on an ad can help ensure it will maintain a prominent placement.

“It is incredibly important to maintain the balance of relevant results for users, while servicing advertiser needs,” said MSN product manager Karen Redetzki. “The addition of the right column offers more relevant results to benefit both advertisers and consumers. Consumers decide by what they click on where a paid link gets placed on the page.”


A longer, more detailed version of this article is
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