Google ads can be targeted on AOL sites

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NEW YORK -- Companies will be able to use Google's advertising system to purchase ads targeted to only AOL sites such as MapQuest, Moviefone and the AOL.com portal under a program AOL launched Monday.

Google Inc., which paid Time Warner Inc. $1 billion for a 5% stake in AOL Llc., powers AOL's search engine and provides the keyword ads that run alongside search results, targeted to a user's search terms.

Now AOL's new Search Marketplace will give marketers the ability to customize search ads to the AOL audience. Those ads could run alone or be part of broader campaigns with video and display ads throughout AOL sites.

The program stems from AOL's December 2005 agreement with Google, in which the search leader expanded its partnership with AOL and agreed to invest in the company.

It's the first time Google is offering the ability to target search ads on specific sites, and advertisers will be able to buy ads directly from AOL rather than through Google. Google would not say whether it would offer similar targeting for other companies upon request.

Mike Kelly, president of the AOL unit in charge of advertising sales, said many advertisers had been requesting the ability to target AOL users. AOL and other portals tend to get more repeat visitors than the typical Web site because they offer e-mail and others services people continually check.

Google has "got an incredible list of publishers in their network, but they've got a lot of them," Kelly said. "Whenever you focus on one targeted group or another, you're going to get better results."

Until now, Google has made the same set of ads available to all third-party search sites that participate in Google's AdSense program. Marketers already have been able to specify the sites on which they don't want their ads to appear; the new program adds the ability to select the specific sites where ads would appear, in this case AOL's.

(A separate program, in which keyword ads are targeted to a site's content rather than a user's search terms, does allow advertisers to both select or reject specific sites.)

AOL is one of Google's largest ad partners, accounting for 7% of the search company's revenues last year.

AOL, which is increasingly relying on advertising revenues to make up for declines in its Internet access business, said it has been testing the service with about 30 advertisers over the past five months.

AOL's search service is roughly even with IAC/InteractiveCorp's Ask.com in usage in the United States, but far behind Google, Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, according to comScore Media Metrix. Google has nearly half of the search market.

AOL also trails Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in monthly visitors, with 109 million U.S. users landing on an AOL site at least once in February, compared with more than 114 million each for Google and Microsoft and 129 million for Yahoo!
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