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Yahoo Innovates Search Ads In Fight For Survival

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While Yahoo continues to slip in search share - by 0.3% in January, according to recent numbers released by comScore -- the company refuses to stop fighting for survival. The seeming weapon of choice: innovation. Yahoo has begun testing new ways to put ads in front of consumers with two projects -- Your Ads, and Search Assist Ads.

David Pann, Yahoo vice president and general manager of Yahoo search marketing, tells me that about half the searches consumers do on yahoo.com don't return an ad on the page. So the company started to analyze consumer search history and behavior. Rather than serve up those search pages without ads, Yahoo tapped into its behavioral targeting tools to serve up ads in search results through the Your Ads tool, based on content the Web browser may have had contact with in the past across Yahoo's network.

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Although the ads may not contextually match the search results in the Your Ads test, the ads would likely have relevance to the person searching on the keyword terms, given they had been the person using the same browser in the past.

The advertisements that serve up in the Your Ads test pull into Yahoo's search engine from its contextual-match database. Depending on the results from the tests, Yahoo will roll out or scale back the project.

Yahoo has filed, and recently updated, several of its patents on behavioral targeting technology.

Penn also says Yahoo began testing contextually relevant sponsored ads in its Search Assist feature on yahoo.com. In the Search Assist Ads test, people could begin to see sponsored ads in suggested search queries. For instance, start typing A-m-e-r-i-c-a-n-E-x-p-r-e-s-s and you could see an American Express sponsored search ad at the bottom of the Search Assist suggestions. Scottrade has begun testing this feature, according to ClickZ, who provides a screen shot of how the ad should appear. But I couldn't get Yahoo's Search Assist feature to duplicate the action.

Penn says Yahoo began testing the sponsored ad about two weeks ago. Today, you will find it on approximately 15,000 to 20,000 terms. These sponsored search ads in Search Assist serve up from Yahoo's sponsored search database. If the service rolls out, it could become an opt-in/opt-out feature in the content network.

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