AlmondNet Patents Plan To Target Consumers Based On Search History

Contextual ad network AlmondNet announced Thursday that it has patented a technology that allows marketers to target consumers based on their search activity even after they have left the search engine's site.

The new service, dubbed "post-search," gathers search data through partnerships with companies that have access to Web users' search history. These could be Internet service providers, software companies that track user search activity, or the search providers themselves.

This tracking process is cookie-based; AlmondNet said its partners do not provide the company with access to personally identifiable information. AlmondNet retains individual behavior data for 30 days, but does not aggregate it into more specific profiles. AlmondNet then sells the search data to advertisers.

"We're very, very excited about the patent," said Roy Shkedi, AlmondNet's founder and chief executive. With the patent, other companies that want to use the same technique might have to pay AlmondNet a licensing fee, or tap AlmondNet to provide the service.

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As with paid search, advertisers pay for the service on a cost-per-click basis. AlmondNet also is buying standard banner inventory from publishers on a cost-per-thousand-impression basis. AlmondNet will display the text links within the banner ads.

Michael Benedek, vice president of business development at AlmondNet, said the company had signed agreements with several companies, including an Internet service provider, an adware company, and a search provider. He declined to name the companies, but said that the partnerships should give Post-Search a combined 15 million users, and over 100,000 advertisers.

JupiterResearch Analyst Nate Elliott said that reselling paid search behavior is "smart," but amounts to very little without the blessing of the industry's two major players--Google and Yahoo!.

But Elliott was quick to add that the idea would make a lot of sense for both companies, Google in particular. He said: "Google has a huge contextual network full of bad inventory," and that taking such a clear indicator of user intent and spreading it across that "bad inventory" could help the overloaded AdSense network. Elliott added: "Behavioral advertisers have known for a long time that search behavior is the most useful behavioral data."

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