Software maker Microsoft Corp. on Monday said it would start selling paid search listings, which allow advertisers to purchase advertising space alongside search results on its MSN Internet site.
The widely expected move comes as Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, continues to take on Google Inc. in the Web-based information and services market.
At stake is the lucrative income from online advertising, particularly ads that are displayed next to search results, the main driver of search leader Google’s revenue.
Microsoft, which previously signed up advertisers via Yahoo Inc., launched the paid search service called adCenter in France on Monday after beginning in Singapore on August 31. U.S. testing of adCenter is set to begin in October.
Microsoft’s paid search system allows advertisers to indicate whom they want to reach based on criteria such as geographic location, gender, the subject of their search and helps advertisers estimate the cost of their ads. (MSNBC content is distributed by MSN. MSNBC itself is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
According to research firm JupiterResearch, Internet search advertising is set to overtake more commonplace online banner advertising by 2010, as online sales double to $18.9 billion.
Growth in search-based ad reflects both rising advertiser confidence in the market, as well as the sophistication of software technology.