AOL, when combined with other search sites from its parent, Time Warner, accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. Web searches, far below Google, Yahoo and MSN, according to comScore Networks Inc. AOLs share also has fallen almost 3 percentage points since July. Google leads with 34 percent of searches, while Yahoo holds a 32 percent share. MSN has a 17 percent share, according to comScore. But Campbell said AOL is determined to reach a broader audience both with search and with AOL.coms other services.Read more here about AOLs plans to offer a general, Web-based e-mail service. AOL is taking a different tack from other major search sites. It has continued to partner with Google for its main search results, rather than building its own Web index from scratch. The partnering strategy became more apparent in the search upgrade. It licensed the technology behind the new clustering feature from startup Vivisimo Inc. AOL also is working with FAST Search & Transfer Inc. to develop a crawler for geographically targeted results, and confirmed that it is licensing desktop-search technology from Copernic, Campbell said. Click here to read more about FASTs introduction of products aimed at local and vertical search. Campbell declined to say when the FAST-powered crawler would be ready or when AOLs desktop search would move out of beta. AOL last year began testing a desktop-search tool that is tied into a forthcoming AOL-branded Web browser. "Our strategy very simply is to innovate on top of a great partnership," Campbell said of Google. To Gartner Inc. research director Allen Weiner, AOL is making significant user improvements in its search site with features such as clustering. He said the company is smart to continue down a path of partnering. "One of things that is important in search is to balance the big investments in technology with bigger investments in how end-users are going to be able to utilize the search experience," Weiner said. "I like what they have done here in achieving that balance." On the revenue side, AOL also expanded beyond its Google partnership. AOL already displays Googles sponsored listings alongside search results. Now it also is selling search-based ads to companies holding major trademarks. Called Trademark Layer, the AOL program lets brands buy a search term for which they own a trademark. When a user queries the trademarked term, an ad with a company logo appears before search results, Campbell said. The program is in beta, and AOL has been testing it for several months, he said. Googles sponsored listings also will appear in paid results, but the program offers a way for trademark-holders to ensure that they appear first, Campbell said. Google lets any company bid on the use of trademarks as keyword triggers for paid search results, and Googles approach has led to legal challenges from trademark holders. In another partnership, AOL is moving into pay-per-call ads from startup Ingenio Inc. The pay-per-call ads are targeted to business without a Web presence and will work like sponsored listings. Advertisers will pay when a searcher calls a special phone number rather than when they click a link. AOL also will receive a share of the revenue. Read more here about FindWhat.coms push into pay-per-call ads. AOL didnt give a timeline for when it would start using Ingenios pay-per-call ads. When asked whether the new ad programs would hurt AOLs relationship with Google, Campbell said the programs are different. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the relationship. "Theres nothing at odds here, and we will continue to sell advertising in search in addition to running ads from Google, and well make sure we have the right mix of advertiser opportunity," Campbell said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.
"Its not a small task, but its one the company is committed to," he said. "We know that people make portal decisions largely on the search experience that is delivered."