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Google Extends AdSense Overseas

Search giant Google is taking its AdSense contextual advertising product international, and has begun taking online applications from publishers in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

The move, announced Friday, expands the program the company began in March in the U.S. in an effort to provide its paid search advertisers with more inventory. What it means is that advertisers who target their AdWords listing to these countries will have them appear on content pages in Google's distribution network, in addition to on search results pages.

"In the U.S. ...we managed to sign up thousands of publishers in a few months," said Fabio Selmoni, Google's director of European sales and operations. "We wanted to replicate this very same success internationally."

The company has already signed a few larger publishers to distribute its contextual ads in the five new countries. In Germany, it's signed Hubert Burda Media, Web.de and Gruner + Jahr. In France it's snagged Sports.fr and in Japan, Nifty, which is part of Fujitsu Limited. Now, Google is starting to build its network via a self-serve sign-up process. Google's team -- which has been augmented with account and editorial staff that speak Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese -- will go through the applications received online and determine whether sites meet editorial standards.

The program has been popular with publishers because it allows them to bring in revenue from previously unsold inventory, a problem that Selmoni says is more serious internationally than in the U.S. "They [publishers] have not yet gained the sophistication to extract the revenue from their sites," he said. When publishers are accepted into the program they can select the language for the ads, as well as their position on the page and the background color.

Contextual ads, though popular with publishers, have gotten mixed reviews from advertisers. Since Google introduced AdSense in the U.S. in March, some have found their contextual ads don't perform as well as ads on search pages. Advertisers' AdWords listings are included on content pages by default, but Google lets people opt-out if they choose.

It's thought the fact that people aren't in "search mode" when they see the ads may be one reason for poor performance. The quality of publishers' sites represented may be another factor. Industry watchers say Google cast a wide net when first signing up publisher partners for its U.S. network, but it has more recently begun to cull less-desirable pages and sites.