How MSN and Yahoo Sells Your Traffic

Yes, it really happens. Now you might find it hard to believe but you will understand after I explain.

Prior to late 2004, Google undisputedly ruled the search engine world. During the second half of the year things took a dramatic turn when Yahoo and MSN decided to challenge the Big G for some of their lucrative market share.

Search engines are a big source of revenue especially when it comes to advertising and for many this is their bread and butter. With the emerging prominence of both Yahoo and MSN, advertisers have more channels through which to advertise their goods and services.

What marks Google apart from it's two big rivals in this area is the way they display their ads. They deliver their ads through a system called Adwords which is unobtrusive to viewers. The ads are placed to the right to clearly distinguish them from the search results. Occasionally they will place ads above the SERPS.

Overture is the company which handles the placement of ads for both Yahoo and MSN. Now if you should search for a popular keyword in either of them, you will notice that the ads are above the results, to your right and at the bottom of the page just above the Next button. This is where it gets interesting.

Having the privilege of working in a public computer lab, I decided to run some experiments. When customers came in and requested information on various topics I instructed them to use Yahoo or MSN for their search enquiries. The first one looked for "bridal gowns" and another looked for "tourism in Jamaica". In both cases they click on the first available information which of course is the relevant ads displayed.

I continued my experiment for a week and came to a decisive conclusion. Some search engines are selling our traffic right under our noses! The only time I observed the top ranking websites getting regular click through was when the keywords are not that competitive to involve ad placement.

This leads me to question the quality of traffic one receives from Yahoo and MSN. For every visitor you receive what is the ratio for that which you lose to a sponsored result? And what is the use of optimizing your website for them?

Now mind you, I enjoy a few good rankings on both Yahoo and MSN but they are for keywords that are not that too competitive. For these I enjoy consistent traffic flow but I think that the quality is something to take another look at.

I didn't write this to bash these guys on how they choose to do their business particularly how they choose to place their ads. My aim is to point out to you that while you may enjoy a top ten result on Yahoo and MSN, chances are you are not getting the amount of visitors you should and could receive.

Oceanroc Web Publishing

Nicholas Dixon is a Jamaican webmaster, writer and affiliate marketer. Visit my blog for feature articles from select article writers at

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