AOL To Capitalize On Yahoo Ending Paid Inclusion Program

Aol./stack of money

AOL is readying a test paid inclusion program in the hopes that it will capitalize on Yahoo's decision to end its program on Dec. 31, Julie Levitas Greenhouse, vice president of product sales at AOL, told MediaPost at the Search Insider Summit. The conference kicked off Thursday amidst the snow-covered mountains in Park City, Utah.

In October, Yahoo confirmed it would shutter its paid inclusion program by the end of the year to focus on display advertising, mobile services and producing more and better content.

Marketers are looking for a replacement to Yahoo Paid Inclusions, says Levitas Greenhouse, who came to AOL through Yahoo. The project has been churning in her head for three years. The opportunity to bring "enhanced listings" using an image, price, product and information on availability to AOL began about six weeks ago.

The plan will connect advertising data with algorithmic results, explains Levitas Greenhouse. AOL will not change or reorder the search engine results in any way, but if the search company can find a match, the paid inclusion program should improve the experience for the person searching on the engine, she says.

Similar to the spinoff of AOL from Time Warner scheduled for Dec. 9, AOL's paid inclusion program seems to be practically a done deal. When the spinoff becomes effective Dec. 10, the search engine will sport a new logo and look -- and hopefully, a new paid inclusion program, too. The legal department is crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. "It's going through a legal and approval process, contractually," Levitas Greenhouse says. "One thing we have to make sure is that we're out yielding the sponsored links results. We need to monetize our relationship with Google well and make sure it's a good user experience."

AOL's approach aims to enhance the results with graphical images or links to another page. The strategy should give advertisers more control, but remain under the guidelines of what's most relevant to the person searching on the engine, which is based on Google's algorithmic results.

Levitas Greenhouse initially envisioned paid inclusions running down the right rail of the search engine query page. "I really just want to bring something to AOL that is based on relevancy and feeds, and that's what we're starting to do," she says.

Levitas Greenhouse presented the sneak preview at the Search Insider Summit, but there are many stages to go through to get approval.

AOL has also been working on AOL Travel Deals, Sponsored Listings, MapQuest Search Results, and AOL Shopping. The Sponsored Listings, a display advertising service, integrates behavioral and other data to dynamically target ads to consumers.

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