05:59 PM

Microsoft To Launch U.S. Pilot Of Paid-Search Service Next Month

Microsoft has launched its paid-search service in Singapore and France, with AdCenter soon to launch in the U.S. with many more advertisers.

Microsoft Corp. on Monday said it has launched its paid-search service in Singapore and France, and plans to launch a pilot in the United States by the end of next month, as the software maker looks to catch up with rival Google Inc. in the multi-billion-dollar market.

Microsoft, which has yet to grab a significant slice of paid search through its MSN portal, launched AdCenter in France on Monday and in Singapore Aug. 31. The pilot program for both services started in March and involved fewer than 100 advertisers.

The U.S. pilot, by comparison, is expected to involve as many as 650 advertisers and last until spring of 2006, Karen Redetzki, MSN product manager, said. The pilot is set to launch in three to four weeks.

While the U.S. operation of AdCenter is substantially bigger than the other programs, they have identical features. All are focused on paid search, and online tools include one to help choose keywords based on geographic location, gender, age range, time of day and day of week.

A site analyzer assists advertisers by suggesting keywords based on the content of a Web site, and an audience profiler gives advertisers an expected profile of customers most likely to search for specific keywords.

Another tool can estimate, rank, traffic and cost per month per keyword, while another can make adjustments to campaigns already in progress. Reporting tools provide detailed reports on campaign performance and audiences reached, as well as click-through rates and estimated position and spending levels.

Besides paid search, Redmond, Wash.-based, Microsoft plans to expand AdCenter to cover display advertising and contextual search on MSN, as well as email marketing, Redetzki said. Eventually, AdCenter will cover all of Microsoft's online properties, not just MSN.

Microsoft has lagged behind rival Google in the paid-search market, which has generated billions of dollars in revenue for the leading search engine.

For the month of June, Google captured 47 percent of all search queries on the Internet to hold on to its No. 1 position in the market, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Yahoo was a distant second with 22 percent, followed by MSN, 12 percent.

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