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Google, Switchboard Ink Content-Ad Deal - InternetNews.
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Google, Switchboard Ink Content-Ad Deal

Google has signed a deal with online yellow pages provider Switchboard for its keyword-based contextual advertising to appear on Switchboard.com, the companies said Friday.

Switchboard.com now displays at least two contextually relevant paid links on the results pages and other areas of its online yellow pages directory. Google draws the listings from its base of 100,000 advertisers, using its algorithmic search technology to scan the content page and match it up with relevant links. Switchboard.com had 5.4 million unique visitors in June, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Google and Switchboard will share the revenue generated from clicks on the text advertisements. The deal is for one year.

"It's advertising space we've sold in the past, but we've sold it with traditional banner ads," said Dean Palnerow, Switchboard's president. "What we're doing is bringing content-targeted advertising to the local space. We feel directories are more suited to this than editorial content. When people come to our directories, they're ready to buy."

The Switchboard deal is the second recent distribution deal Google has stuck with a local flavor. Last month, the company linked up with AOL-owned MapQuest to display its paid listings on the results pages to queries for directions and maps.

With the deal, Google also adds another partner to its five-month-old contextual advertising program, AdSense, as it girds for head-to-head competition with Yahoo! across many fronts in the wake of its impending acquisition of Google rival Overture Services.

Overture rolled out its own competing contextual advertising product, Content Match, just three weeks ago. In announcing the merger on Monday, Yahoo! executives said Overture's contextual advertising would be more deeply embedded throughout the network. Overture also has distribution deals with the Away Network, Edmunds.com, and MSN. In the wake of the Yahoo! acquisition, however, many industry analysts have questioned whether Overture's deep ties with MSN will survive.

Google has made a number of deals to gain wide distribution for AdSense, which includes a self-service option that allows small sites to sign up online. Google's contextual ads also appear on Lycos Europe, sites in the FastClick and Burst Media ad networks, and a number of Web logs through Google-owned Blogger.com.

Both Overture and Google face competition in the space from Primedia-owned Sprinks, which has its targeted paid listings on CBS MarketWatch, Forbes.com, and AOL properties like Netscape and CompuServe. Unlike Google and Overture, which rely on search technology to figure out the content of the pages, Sprinks maps Web pages to taxonomies.

The market for these ads is still quite small, but companies in the sector expect it to grow rapidly. Overture estimates the market could be worth as much as $2 billion in five years.