New: Targeting Specific Sites with Google

by Harold Davis

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In a further departure from its roots in searching, Google has announced a new program that will allow advertisers to choose sites for target ads.

I've written in the past about Google's transformation (at least looking at revenue) from a search company to an advertising broker. But contextual advertising - Google's other-than-search bread-and-butter - still involves technology that automatically caluclates relevancy, just like a searching algorithm, and produces a marketplace for words. Whether the context is evaluated correctly or not by the automated mechanism is another story (analagous to questions of how well searching works).

In the new Google order of things, advertisers interested in branding can pick their sites without regard for contextual relevancy. The New York Times bills the changes as a move away from search for Google, and Google-commentator Brad Hill in his blog calls the move "industry shaking."

Advertisers will pay for the new-style ads on a CPM basis, or per ad impression (not per ad click as with contextual ads), although the process of purchasing these ads will be blended with the traditional Google CPC (pay per click) word auction process.

These ads are intended to appeal to big advertisers who are looking for general branding (for example, all kinds of advertisers of luxury goods would probably like to appear on BMW's site, even if the ads were not contextually relevant to cars).

Context-free ads may also work for advertisers who are better able to determine relevance than the automated algorithms - it makes sense to put ads for cheese on a oenophile site, but AdSense probably doesn't think so. Google's revenue stream will be a winner, as will big advertisers and owners of desirable Web content. Possible losers: anybody but Google in the business of brokering ads.