Google searches for more moola

Making Overtures in the European market...

Making Overtures in the European market...

Google may currently be king of the consumer search engine outfits - but it's not resting on its laurels. In fact, recent initiatives suggest it's gearing up for a head-to-head battle with one of its few serious rivals in the corporate space: Overture. Stefanie Olsen reports...

Google is quietly expanding its advertising sales efforts in several European markets and Japan, setting the stage for a renewed turf battle with rival Overture.

The internet search company recently introduced its ad-buying program, called AdWords Select, in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Japan, according to the company. In addition, Google is hiring additional sales staff to court bigger marketers in several of those countries, including the UK, Germany and France, according to job postings on its US site.

With the new growth spurt, Google is on a collision course in Europe with Pasadena-based Overture, which is the top commercial search provider in England and has been escalating sales efforts in other foreign markets in the past year. Sales in Japan will rival Overture's expected launch in that market in the first quarter of 2003 in partnership with NTT-X, which operates the Goo portal and Lycos Japan.

Google has already proved a serious threat to Overture's US business, which is licensing advertiser-paid results to customers such as MSN, Yahoo and Lycos. Google's ad-listing service has snagged high-profile customers away from Overture, including America Online and EarthLink.

Foreign expansion for both companies also highlights advertisers' growing appetite for search-engine marketing, a booming segment of an otherwise ailing online ad industry.

Google's business has two key components. The company has developed a search engine that returns results based on site popularity, plus other other factors. That engine powers results on Yahoo, Netscape, Sony and others.

In addition, Google's AdWords Select allows web sites to pay for top ranking in search results, set off to the top right of the page. Earlier this year, the company redesigned the service by allowing advertisers to bid for placement in the results and pay only when visitors click on a link, a method that takes a page from rival Overture, which has filed a patent infringement suit against Google.

Upping its potential for revenue, Google syndicated the program so that search partners including AOL and EarthLink could licence the paid listings, as well as unpaid ones, and make money from the alliance. This venture through Google is in direct competition with Overture's licensing business.

At the same time, Overture has become the number one paid search provider in the United States and one of the few profitable public companies whose business is largely tied to the internet. It also commands a huge audience in Europe, with 80 per cent reach in the UK and 73 per cent in Germany, said company spokesman Jim Olson.

Its popularity in these two countries, and profitability in the UK for two straight quarters, is largely due to deals with T-Online, Germany's largest destination site, British ISP Freeserve and AOL Europe, with which it has a deal until February 2005. In September, the company plans to enter France in agreement with Tiscali, a major European ISP based in Italy.

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