Google Positions Ads As Search Answers

Query a search on an engine and find a list of informative ads at the top of the results page. The concept might be closer than most think. In what some might consider a contradiction in Google's business practices, the company explains in its most recent United States Securities and Exchange Commission 10-K form filing that "after all, ads are just more answers to users' queries."

While the line supports a description of recent changes to ad formats, it may appear to be in opposition to the company's strategy to reduce the number of ads above the virtual online fold. Matt Cutts, Google engineer, recently wrote in a company blog post the company would penalize Web sites with too many ads above the fold.

Informative ads aren't such a farfetched concept, especially as more brands build social elements into them. Would Google serve an ad unit based on keywords a searcher might query, similar to the way they search for a game on Facebook? 

Dave Schwartz, head of client services from DataPop, said technically it could be done, but questioned the rationale. "Google and MSN crawlers looking for page content aren't going to find very much desirable in a flash-based ad, and it would be bad for quality scores," he said. "I could see dropping an ad on a Facebook page, which is similar to an ad unit, before dropping on an ad unit itself."

Interestingly, Mike Barbeau, senior vice president of sales, North America at SocialVibe, a digital advertising company, said the company could be exploring plans to expand its business model and determine how to use an "engagement experience to make search more effective."

But it's not clear how engagement with an informational ad would fit into Google's future plans. "It's not in the scope of what we do, but we are thinking about things like that," Barbeau said. "You also need to think about what consumer would actively search out an ad." 

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