I-Search Digest Monitors AltaVista's Ad Placements

Posted on April 26, 1999

Last week AltaVista launched a controversial new program that enables advertisers to bid on top search terms and pay for their links to appear above the search engine's normal Web search results. Termed "Relevant Paid Placements," the program has caused a major stir in the Internet community due to the potential conflicts with the search engine's objectivity in providing search results.

AltaVista has stated that the results will be clearly separated and identified as advertiser content, but many feel that less sophisticated Web users will not make the differentiation. In addition, there is controversy over the relevancy of the keywords that advertisers are purchasing. Wired News reported that the word "Flowers" was sold to BrandsforLess.com, a site that sells a variety of merchandise including flowers, and "Free" was purchased by Netaddress.com, a company that offers free e-mail.

I-Search Digest, an e-mail discussion list on search engine optimization, is monitoring all major developments and providing news and updates on the situation to its subscriber base. The twice-weekly free e-mail newsletter boasts over 4,500 subscribers who discuss issues related to placing well in keyword queries on major search engines. The list is moderated by Marshall Simmonds, senior search engine strategist for the online marketing firm MMG.

"The members are split on the recent developments," said Simmonds. "What is truly incredible is the amount of posts I've received on the topic. The debate is very lively and informative. What's more, I've asked all members who submit to I-Search regarding the AltaVista thread to 'cc' AltaVista and Double Click, the company coordinating ad buys for them. Everyone has complied, resulting in over 75 e-mail messages, both supportive and discouraging, to the companies."

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