MSN Altering Paid Search Listings

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-03-19 Print this article Print

Microsoft's Internet group next week will announce changes coming to MSN Search in July that better distinguish between paid search listings and non-paid Web results.

Microsoft Corp. next week will announce a series of changes to its MSN Search site that further separate paid search listings from Web results. The companys MSN group plans to launch the changes on July 1. MSN Search will place fewer sponsored link ads at the top of search results to ensure that non-paid Web search results appear higher up on the results page, said Lisa Gurry, director of MSN. To achieve the goal, MSN is limiting to three, rather than four, the number of paid links that appear atop Web results in a section it calls MSNs Search Featured Sites. MSN will share the changes with the 400 marketers and advertisers planning to gather next week at its Redmond, Wash., offices for its Strategic Account Summit.
"Were making it easy to distinguish between what is a paid link and an unpaid link," Gurry said. "And were putting algorithmic results in the top half of results 100 percent of the time."
MSN sells it own search advertisements and contracts with Yahoo Inc.s Overture Services division for sponsored listings. The Search Featured Sites will be predominantly MSN-sold paid links, while Overture results will fill the paid links designated for the right-hand column of the search results page. MSN also will tweak the look and feel of the search results page to better distinguish listings, including adding a shaded background to the sponsored links, Gurry said. The changes to search ads wont affect the unpaid Web results, which MSN draws from Inktomi, now part of Yahoos revamped search engine. Yahoo has faced some criticism for a program launched earlier this month that lets Web sites pay to be included in its Web search index, though it has maintained that its algorithm gives equal weight to paid inclusion and organically crawled Web pages. MSNs changes will not alter the paid-inclusion Web search listings it gets from its Yahoo partnership, a spokeswoman said. The Federal Trade Commission also has weighed in on the issue of paid listings, suggesting that they be clearly labeled as separate from non-paid Web search results. Click here to read more about the debate over paid inclusion the dominated the recent Search Engine Strategies conference. MSNs paid-listing changes were one part of an MSN Search beta, which MSN has been testing with a limited number of users since the fall. Gurry said that MSN is developing its own algorithmic Web search engine to launch later this year but declined to offer further details on it. Last June, MSN began crawling the Web with its MSNBot. Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at for the latest news, reviews, analysis and opinion about productivity and business solutions.
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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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