Contextual Advertising Articles


This page lists articles from Search Engine Watch and around the web about how search engines sell contextual ads that appear on web pages, rather than in response to keyword searches.

NOTE: Article links often change, especially the older an article is. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline. Also, some very old articles flagged “no longer online” might indeed be online — but the former URL no longer resolves, and it’s not worth the time investment for me to try and personally track down these down versus spending time producing new content.

Jump to articles from:
Sept. 2004 Onward
Jan-Aug 20042003

Articles From 2004

Marketers Want Content Listings Separate From Search, Aug. 3, 2004

Marketers want search and contextual to be kept separate, and for good reason. I can’t believe we’re well over a year into Google offering contextual ads and we’re still getting the entire “we can’t unbundle this from search because we’re trying to make life easier for advertisers” pitch. Just do it. Advertisers are grown-ups. They can handle the concept of running contextual campaigns separate from search campaigns. They already do this at Overture. Don’t make them opt-out. Make it easier to opt-into both separately.

Feds Arrest Alleged Google Extortionist, March 22, 2004

We’ve long done sessions at Search Engine Strategies involving how to monitor your PPC campaigns for fraudulent clicks. Despite safeguards in place by search engines, things still get through. But here’s an extreme case of a man accused of trying to extort $100,000 from Google. He allegedly threatened to “destroy” Google with software that would run up fraudulent clicks on Google’s contextual ads during a meeting with a company. Another good account of the story here from the San Jose Mercury News. For some past Search Engine Watch articles on the topic of auditing your click charges, see Ask the Search Engine: Coping with Fraudulent Pay-Per-Click Traffic and Perfecting Paid Search Engine Listings.

Kanoodle Joins Contextual Advertising Fray
SearchDay, March 18, 2004

Kanoodle has joined the competition between Overture and Google for distributed search marketing dollars, launching a content-targeted sponsored links program. Battling Google for Contextual Ads
eWeek, March 15, 2004,4149,1549395,00.asp

One of the distinguishing points of Sprinks, the company used to pitch, was that contextual ads were placed on sites only after careful human review. Then Google ate Sprinks, and all the Sprinks executives ran to Kanoodle to rebuild a new human-based, Sprinks-like contextual ad service there. But guess what? Google’s AdSense program is in part so successful because anyone can easily place ads on their pages. So now Kanoodle is going to have its own automated program. It doesn’t seem like you can have it both ways — careful human matching or automated delivery — so we’ll see if the Kanoodle pitch begins to change.

IndustryBrains Signs New Web Publishers
MediaPost, March 10, 2004

IndustryBrains signs new contextual ad deals with The Motley Fool,, and

Questions for Dana Todd, Executive VP of SiteLab International
ClickZ, March 10, 2004

Dana Todd’s well known and popular with attendees at Search Engine Strategies for sharing her decade’s worth of online marketing experience and forthright comments about where the search engine marketing industry is headed. In this Q&A, she discuss the difficulty in getting behind Yahoo’s new paid inclusion program (“they’re shoving it down people’s throats”), the desire to buy contextual ads priced differently than search-targeted ones, thoughts on local ads, personalized search results and the small bubble she sees developing around search engine marketing.

Contextual Ads, Bidding, and Market Inefficiency, March 3, 2004

In this open letter to Google, Traffick’s Andrew Goodman calls for Google to allow contextual ad buys separately. Add me to the list of people who agree. Contextual ads are not search. Forcing advertisers to only buy them as part of a search campaign makes no sense. The ads appear in a different environment, where you may wish to use completely different creative. There’s also the continuing debate about conversion. Give the advertisers the choice to run both types of ads, or just one of either type. Believe it or not, there are some people who might want to buy only contextual and not search.

The Brains Behind B2B Paid Search
eMarketer, Jan. 23, 2004

Profile of B2B paid search and contextual ad provider IndustryBrains.

Day of Reckoning in Search Engine Advertising
SearchDay, Jan. 14, 2004

Overture’s announcement that it plans to separate contextual advertising from regular search results has garnered kudos from the search engine marketing community. Will Google follow suit?

Articles From 2003

Search Engine Contextual Ads Gain Momentum
SearchDay, Dec. 23, 2003

A relatively new form of search engine advertising has nothing to do with search engine results. Instead, ‘contextual ads’ are displayed on other sites’ Web pages, based on the content of pages people are viewing.

Contextual Advertising, Part 2 of 2
ClickZ, Oct. 13, 2003

A further look at contextual advertising with ample comments and observations from Google.

Search in the Spotlight
ClickZ, Aug. 22, 2003

Larger than ever, the latest Search Engine Strategies conference underscored that search is an established industry — and increasingly, an advertising dominated one. A summary of top trends, such as the need to balance paid and free organic listings, the complexity involved in managing paid listings and concern over tracking search listings placed into contextual ads.

Contextual Ad Debate Rouses Critics, Aug. 21, 2003

The panel on contextual ads at Search Engine Strategies got heated — though as the session moderator, I felt the defensiveness on both sides wasn’t necessary. Panelist Brad Byrd, a marketer, presented two case studies that found Google AdSense contextual placements cost much more in terms of conversion than search-targeted AdWords placement. Another marketer on the panel said his experiences were similar. This put contextual ad providers Google, Overture and Sprinks on the defensive. They shouldn’t have been. Neither marketer said that contextual ads were bad or should be avoided. They simply wanted the ability to purchase and track them separately. Most defensive was probably Sprinks — and no doubt because Sprinks does currently allow for separate purchase and tracking of its contextual ads.

Google Backtracks on AdSense Changes, Aug. 8, 2003

Google quickly drops related searches functionality from AdSense ads after content owners raise concerns.

If You Liked the Web Page, You’ll Love the Ad
New York Times, Aug. 4, 2003

A look at the rollout of contextual ads from Overture and Google. Mentions how targeting isn’t perfect, as when Google placed a luggage ad on a New York Post article about someone who was murdered and packed in a suitcase.

The SEM Content Conundrum
ClickZ, July 11, 2003

Contextual ads are not the same as search ads — so when your search ads are placed in a contextual setting, you need to be monitoring performance closely. Tips on how to do the necessary measuring.

Putting Online Ads in Context
Business 2.0, June 2003,1640,49475,00.html

Contextual ads from Google and soon Overture may do more than help large publishers. They offer the ability for small players to potentially survive and thrive with revenue.

Overture signs deal with Gator, April 4, 2003

Overture has made it official and signed a three year deal to distribute its paid listings through Gator’s new SearchScout program. Those who run Gator, an application that stores passwords and form data, will be shown SearchScout results via pop-under windows when they do searches at other search engines, such as Google. Gator’s system of delivering contextual ads has upset some site publishers in the past, while some users consider the software to be “scumware,” claiming it gets installed unknowingly — something Gator itself strongly denies. The main issue for Overture advertisers, however, is really one of conversion. Will the ads convert as well as those that are search-targeted? Gator and Overture say yes. It may be so, but it would be nice to see Overture offer an opt-out to advertisers who don’t want contextual placement via Gator or other distribution partners, in the way that Google provides.

Google Throws Hat Into The Contextual Advertising Ring
The Search Engine Update, March 4, 2003

Written to explain the launch of Google’s contextual ads program, this also is a primer about what contextual ads are generally.

Search engines get “Gatored”, Jan. 14, 2003

Got Gator? Do a search on Google, and you might be surprised to discover a pop-under page appears containing paid listing from Overture, FindWhat and Lycos. This might be a great way for advertisers to get a new source of search-related traffic, but it could also be that the audience being indirectly solicited this way doesn’t convert as well. Can’t say either way, so far. It’s also pretty likely Google doesn’t like the idea. It’s an issue I’ll try to explore more in the future, from all angles.

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