IndustryHow Overture (GoTo) Works

How Overture (GoTo) Works

In-depth explanation of how the Overture (GoTo) search engine works, for Search Engine Watch members

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The articles below appeared in the Search Engine Update newsletter and have important information not yet added to this page. Please review them to find out about any new developments. Further below, you will also find a list of other articles about this search engine that may be of interest.


Overture, which was called GoTo until October 2001, is a paid placement search engine. This means that sites that pay are guaranteed top placement for the terms they are interested in.

Overture is also a paid listings distribution network. Overture provides its listings to many other search engines. In fact, Overture estimates that more than 90 percent of those seeing its links do so at other search engines, rather than at the Overture site itself.

Because of this, you should view getting listed at Overture as primarily a way to improve your visibility at the search engines it has partnerships with. This is described further in the Overture Ad Distribution Network section, below.

This page explains how the Overture listing process works and how Overture results are presented both at the Overture site itself and at Overture’s partner sites. It is specific to the Overture service in the US, but Overture’s non-US sites are touched upon, at the end.

How Bid-For-Placement Works

At Overture, advertisers “bid” against each other to be ranked well for popular terms. These advertisers fund accounts with Overture, then they are charged for each person that clicks through from the search results to their web sites. This is why Overture is also sometimes referred to as a “pay-per-click” search engine. Advertisers pay for each click they receive.

For example, three sites may all wish to be found for “travel.” One advertiser may bid $0.49; another $0.48 and the third one, $0.50.

When someone searches for “travel,” the sites will appear in order of highest bid: the $0.50 site would come first, then the $0.49 site, then the $0.48 site.

The line-up isn’t permanent. People may change their bids at any time. Thus, the $0.49 cent site might decide to pay $0.51 per visitor. That would cause it to jump above the $0.50 site.

Another thing that can happen is that accounts may exhaust their budgets. For example, the $0.50 cent site might have funded its account with only $50. Each click is deducted from that budget. If it runs out, the listing ceases to appear. That would allow the sites previously below it to move up.

By the way, in case of a tie — such as two or three sites bidding the same amount — the site that has been bidding on the term the longest will be given the priority. That’s one reason why it may pay to maintain your listings continuously with Overture.

Opening An Overture Account

To begin paid placement at Overture, you need to open an account and create bids. This section takes you through the “self-serve” process. Overture also offer programs where they help establish your account and bids. All options can be found via the page below:

Overture: List Your Site

After selecting the self-serve option, a sign-up form will appear. On this page, you can choose terms and link them to pages within your web site. You’ll need to have at least one term ready, in order to open your account. You can always add more terms or modify existing ones, once your account has been enabled.

Search Term Selection

You probably already have some search terms in mind. However, if you need help, Overture offers its “Search Term Suggestion Tool.” This allows you to enter a word and see how popular that word and terms containing it are.

A link to the suggestion tool is listed on the sign-up page. You can also reach it directly via this link:

Overture (GoTo) Search Term Suggestion Tool

Overture also has a “Match Driver” feature that automatically includes the singular and plural forms of words, as well as misspellings and variations. This means that if you bid on “shoes,” you should also automatically appear for “shoe.” You wouldn’t need to bid on both terms separately.

In the same way, when you research terms using the Search Term Suggestion Tool, the results have already been processed by Match Driver, so that similar terms are consolidated into one.

More information about Match Driver can be found via the URL below.

Do I need to bid on both the plural and singular forms of my keyword?

Creating Your Listings

Once you have your terms ready, you can begin filling out the sign-up form. Simply place your first term into the first “Search Term” box on the sign-up page.

Next (and for each additional term), you’ll need to provide a title and description that will form your listing for that term. You can have up to 40 characters for your title and 190 characters for your description. Titles must be in title case: Where The First Letter Of Each Word Is Capitalized.

Overture recommends including your search term in both the title and description to increase clickthrough. So, if you were bidding on shoes, you might have a title and description like this:

Buy Shoes Online
Shoes Galore offers a wide-range of shoes with competitive prices and free delivery

Next, you need a URL for each term you purchase. An easy way to start is to use the home page of your site. However, you may send people to any appropriate page within your site. So, if you are selling a product, feel free to send people directly to a product information page, or to an order form. You can also change the designated URL at any time.

For example, let’s say you have two terms that you are bidding on, “shoes” and “running shoes.” Your listings for these terms can have different titles, different descriptions and lead to completely different pages, such as:

Buy Shoes Online
Shoes Galore offers a wide-range of shoes with competitive prices and free delivery!

Buy Running Shoes Online
Big race coming up? Shoes Galore has a wide-range of running shoes from major brands, with competitive prices and free delivery.

In the examples above, the first is your listing for “shoes” and would lead to your site’s home page. The second is your listing for “running shoes.” It has a different title and description, one that is specifically about running shoes, and it leads to a page within your site that is specifically about running shoes.

Making Your Bid

The last thing you do for each search term is to set a bid amount. This is how much you will pay Overture for each person clicking through on your listing to your site. You can bid whatever you would like, with the exception that the lowest bid allowed is $0.05.

You will occasionally see some bids for less than $0.05. These were bids made before Overture established its minimum bid policy in March 2001. The article below explains the situation with these bids, in more depth:

Most people want to have a good rank, so that means you’ll need to look at the results on Overture to see how much people are paying for the terms you are bidding on. That will help you understand how much you need to pay, in order to rank well.

For example, if you wanted to rank well for “shoes,” you’d go to the Overture home page and do a search for that term. You can also use the tool below:

Get Current Bid Tool

In either case, look at the sites that are listed. Next to each listing will be a “Cost to advertiser” notation. The amount shown there is how much that advertiser is bidding on the term. For example, here are some real bids for “shoes” that were listed on Jan. 15, 2002:


1. New Hot Roller Shoes only $49.95 (Cost to advertiser: $0.71)

2. Eddie Bauer Men’s Shoes (Cost to advertiser: $0.62)

3. – Free In-Store Delivery! (Cost to advertiser: $0.61)

4. Birkenstock Shoes for Comfort and Style (Cost to advertiser: $0.60)

5. New Balance Catalog Center (Cost to advertiser: $0.55)


In this example, if you wanted to become the top ranked site, you’d need to pay $0.01 more than the top bid of $0.71. So, your bid amount would be $0.72.

You might decide that being ranked second is good enough, especially given that there’s a big gap between the price of the first-ranked and second-ranked site (exploiting such “bid gaps” is explained more in the Managing Your Account section, below). To take over the number two slot, you’d need to bid a penny more than the current number two, or $0.63.

Perhaps just being in the top five is good enough. In that case, you’d pay a penny more than the current top five listing, or $0.56.

Whatever you bid, you’ll probably have to alter that bid within a few days. This is because when you first open an account, it will take between three to five days for Overture to approve your listings. By that time, the bids will have changed.

Because of this, you might consider opening all your bids at the minimum amount of $0.05. Once your listings have been approved, then you can view the current bids for different positions and determine what you want to pay. You can also alter those bids at any time, and you’ll likely need to, in order to maintain a position or to prevent yourself from paying too much. These issues are covered more in the Managing Your Account section, below

Payment Plans

After you’ve created your initial listings, you’ll need to provide contact details and payment information. You have three payment plan options:

  • Non-Stop Traffic Plan
  • Fixed Budget Plan
  • Pre-Payment Plan

All plans require payment by credit card except for the Pre-Payment Plan, where checks are also accepted.

Non-Stop Traffic Plan will automatically charge your credit card any time your account balance nears zero. This prevents your listings from ever going offline. You can choose the amount that will be charged to replenish your account. For example, if you selected the $100 option, then when your account balance neared zero, your card would be charged $100 to “top-up” your account. Be aware that your card will be charged as often as your account nears zero, so the charges could build up.

Fixed Budget Plan helps ensure that you don’t spend more than you want to, per month. You set a monthly budget, such as $150. If your charges add up to that amount in a given month, your listings will be placed on hold. The next month, your credit card will be charged $150, and your listings will be reactivated.

If you don’t spend your entire budget in a particular month, the extra money is rolled over into the next month and your account charged enough to reach your budget. For example, let’s say you had $25 left over at the end of a particular month. The next month, your card would be charged $125, so that with the $25 that was rolled over, you’d have a total account balance of $150, to match your budget.

Pre-Payment Plan leaves it to you to monitor your account balance. If you hit zero, your listings will go offline until you replenish your account manually. No automatic charges take place, unless you’ve failed to meet the monthly minimum spend, as explained below. Overture will send an email notification before your budget is exhausted, so you have time to recharge your account.

Initial Deposit & Minimum Spend

In all plans, you are required to make an initial $50 non-refundable deposit. This means you cannot have the money back, once you’ve opened the account. However, the deposit is used to cover your bids, so you get it back in the form of traffic.

In all plans, there is a $20 per month minimum charge. You either spend this much per month with Overture on bids, or the company will charge the difference, to meet the minimum spend.

For example, say your clicks cost you $7.50 in a particular month. Overture would then charge the difference, $12.50, so that you would be billed $20 in total. If your clicks cost $20 or above, then there are no additional charges. Also, if your account is inactive for an entire month (i.e., you don’t have any active bids), there will be no minimum charge.

More about minimum bid and minimum monthly spend charges can be found here:

Minimum Bid & Minimum Monthly Spend

Being Approved

Once you submit your listings, they’ll be reviewed by Overture to see that they meet the company’s listing guidelines, as covered more in the Relevancy & Appropriateness section, below. The process takes between three to five days, though it may happen much faster than this.

Once completed, your account will be opened and your listings will go live. You can then use Overture’s online management area to make changes to your site. That will be discussed more in the Managing Your Account section below. But first, let’s review some of the relevancy guidelines.

Relevancy & Appropriateness

Overture is not a free-for-all. The company reviews all listings that are submitted for bids and claims to reject 25 percent of these for failing to meet its guidelines.

One key reason your bid may be rejected is if you choose a term that is deemed unrelated to your site. How do you know if a term is related to your site? According to Overture’s guidelines, you will have “substantial content that is clearly and obviously reflective of the search term.”

Obviously, Overture will be the judge of what qualifies. It definitely does not consider your site relevant if all it does is link to another web site. For instance, let’s say you were bidding on “books.” You don’t actually sell books nor do you offer any original content about books. Instead, you simply have a page with affiliate links to different books at Amazon. Overture is likely to reject your bid.

In addition, you cannot entice visitors with misleading titles or descriptions. You are expected to direct visitors to the most relevant portions of your site. You cannot bid on the same term more than once.

Overture also special rules that apply to using geographical names, “popular” search terms, adult and gambling web sites and more. A complete rundown can be found via the page below:

Advertisers’ Guide to Listing with Overture

Overture also has rules that apply to how your listings are formatted, such as the use capital letters and exclamation points. These are described on the page below:

Style Guidelines

Beyond the information from Overture above, the article below provides an in-depth look at Overture’s editorial guidelines:

Compare & Contrast: Ad Guidelines At Overture & Google
The Search Engine Update, Aug. 5, 2002

Finally, Overture only accepts bids on search terms with “sufficient search volume.” To know whether a term has enough volume, search for it using the Search Term Suggestion Tool listed above. If you see the term listed when you search on it, then it has enough volume. If not, you’ll be told that there are “no suggestions,” which means that you can’t bid on that term.

If You Are Rejected

If you get a term rejected, you should certainly appeal the decision, if you feel a mistake has been made. Explain why your products or services are indeed relevant for a particular term or address any specific concerns that were raised. Make sure that you are also pointing your listing to the most appropriate page on your site relevant to those terms.

You might also have examples of sites that are allowed in despite violating the same rules Overture cites for keeping you out. Don’t make this your first line of defense. Instead, keep the issue clear by arguing your own case. If you are still refused, then cite examples where exceptions are being allowed.

The articles below cover issues involving Overture’s relevancy guidelines and may be a helpful guide in case you find yourself in dispute.

Ongoing Reviews

Be aware that any time you bid on a new term, that term will be reviewed for relevancy. In addition, if you bid on a term, then delete it, then bid on it again, a relevancy review will again occur.

Managing Your Account

Once your account with Overture has been created, you can make changes to it through the “DirectTraffic” account management center. It can be reached directly via this link:

Advertiser Login & Information

The center lets you view your account balance, daily estimated click charges, traffic reports and most of all, manage your bids. You can add new terms, delete terms and change your bid amounts, at will. Deleting terms and changing bid amounts should happen nearly instantaneously. New terms are added within three to five days (and often faster), once they are reviewed and approved by Overture’s editorial staff.

Overture offers a variety of bidding options. You can choose to have all the listings in your Overture account moved to the first position automatically. You can also use the “PremiumBidding” option to move your listings into one of the top three positions (you choose exactly which position you want). These are called “Premium Listings” because many major Overture partners carry Overture’s top three listings, as explained in the Overture Ad Distribution Network section below. Finally, there’s the more traditional option of setting bids for each listing manually.

Bid Gaps

One thing you’ll want to adjust for in the account management area are bid gaps. These are situations where you can lower your bid without losing position.

For example, let’s say a search for “shoes” showed these rankings and bids:

1 - $0.68 2 - $0.62 3 - $0.60

Notice the gap between the first and second listings? This means that the top bidder could drop down to 63 cents and still stay at number one. Similarly, the second bidder could drop to 61 cents and still remain at number two.

Making these changes by hand can save you money but takes time. It can also be hard to keep up with rapidly changing bids. That’s where “bid management tools” or “bid managers” can help. The most advanced of these will manage your account automatically, looking for bid gaps that you can exploit.

A rundown on some major bidding managers can be found on the Bid Management Tools section of the Search Engine Optimization Toolbox page. Be aware that only some of these are “authorized” by Overture to interact with its service. The article below explains this issue more:

Overture Names “Authorized” Bid Management Providers
The Search Engine Update, Jan. 22, 2002


Overture Broad Matching

Overture added broad matching in August 2003. Below is a recap from the Search Engine Update newsletter outlining key changes. It’s followed by a non-Search Engine Watch article with additional information.

  • Overture now allows “phrase” and “broad” matching in addition to “standard” matching, a new name for matching that Overture has always offered.
  • In standard match, if you bid on “running shoes,” then your listing would only come up if someone searched on those exact words (more or less — standard match would also bring up a singular version like “running shoe” and some misspellings).
  • In phrase match, “running shoes” would match any search that contains those exact words, in that exact order — such as “discount running shoes” or “nike running shoes”
  • In broad match, “running shoes” would match any search that contains those words, regardless of order — such as “discount running shoes” or “good shoes for running races” or “reviews of popular running shoes.”
  • Overture will always display standard match bids before any phrase or broad matches. This is a crucial point to understand.
  • For example, let’s say you use PHRASE MATCH to bid on searches containing the exact phrase of “running shoes” and agree to pay up to $0.75 per click. Now consider what happens with a search for “nike running shoes.” First, Overture will show all the people using STANDARD MATCH to target that search term. Currently, there are 38 advertisers doing this, with the lowest bidding $0.05. If you use phrase match, your ad will come after all these other advertisers — even though you are willing to pay much more.
  • Because of the above, it’s imperative that if you consider a term extremely crucial, you need to go for standard matching, rather than phrase or broad matching.
  • Should you try phrase or broad matching, Overture has a very cool “exclude” tool that will show you exactly what popular terms that you’ll be targeting, and it’s easy to exclude terms that for whatever reason aren’t applicable to the audience you are after.

The New Overture Best Practices, Part 2
ClickZ, Aug. 29, 2003

Start with Part 1 of this two part article — you’ll find the link from this article. Part 1 introduces new features at Overture, especially those that allow “broad” and “phrase” matching in bids. Part 2 stresses that you’ll want to stick with standard matching to stay on top for important terms, since broad and phrase matching only kicks in when all listings for standard matching have been finished.

Overture Directory

In addition to keyword searching, the Overture web site also presents a directory-style structure on its home page. However, selecting a topic doesn’t bring up human-classified results, as with Yahoo. Instead, each topic simply passes along search terms when you select it.

For example, click on the Computing “category” from the home page, and Overture does a search for that word, exactly as if you had just searched on “computing” yourself.

After performing a keyword search, topic links also appear in the upper-left hand corner of the results page. For example, a search on “sports” brings up links to the “sports personalities” and “sports news” topics.

If you want to be listed for a particular “category,” just bid on the main words of that category. For example, to be in the “Travel > Air Travel > Flight Times” category, you bid on the last words, “flight times.”

Unpaid Listings

You can still appear at the Overture site and even be ranked tops if you’ve never bid on a term at all. That’s because Inktomi provides Overture with results that supplement its paid listings.

These non-paid results come immediately after the paid listings (those that show a “Cost to advertiser” amount, or they appear in place of paid listings, when there are no bids on particular terms.

Overture uses page clustering in its Inktomi listings, which means it lists only one page per web site in the top results. This prevents any one site from dominating the listings.

To appear in the unpaid listings, you need to be listed with Inktomi. See the How Inktomi Works page for more information on this. Also, be aware that most of Overture’s major partners only carry Overture’s paid listings. This means getting into Inktomi will not somehow propel you into top rankings for free at Overture partners, in the same way that Overture’s paid listings can.

Quick Hit Results

For some searches, you’ll see a “Quick Hit Result” at the top of the listings. These appear in response to queries involving popular brand or company names. For example, search for “united airlines,” and a link that says “Quick Hit Result: The official site for united airlines” appears at the top of the page. Clicking on the link takes you straight to the United Airlines web site.

These links are created for free by Overture’s editorial staff and are designed to help users find “official” web sites, even if those web sites have not paid to be listed with Overture. There are over 20,000 such links.

There is no formal way to request such links for your company. Instead, if you think your company has a brand large enough to deserve Quick Hit recognition, try contacting Overture via its general feedback page.

Overture Contact Page

Be aware that it is rare for Overture’s partners to carry these Quick Hit Results and that most people encounter Overture listings via its partners. Given this, it’s probably not worth a huge effort trying to gain such a link.

Legal Issues

Some people are shocked to discover that Overture allows companies to purchase listings that involve their trademarks. For example, a search for “nike” will bring up many listings from companies that are NOT Nike.

Is this legal? We don’t know. There have been lawsuits over making banner advertisements appear when linked to trademarks, and so far, the courts have not ruled against the search engines for doing this. Presumably, the same situation would apply to selling listings. However, we won’t know for certain if this is legal until someone actually challenges Overture in court.

If you find your trademark is being bid upon, you might be able to stop this without legal action. Overture has some established relevancy guidelines, so you might be able to show that the sites being listed have failed to prove their relevancy for the term in question. Review those guidelines here:

Advertisers’ Guide to Listing with Overture

You may also find the threat of legal action is enough. A cease-and-desist letter sent to Overture might be enough to cause the company to refuse ads involving your terms.

Conversely, if you are bidding on terms that are also trademarks, you might find that a challenge by the holder could cause Overture to withdraw your approval to bid on those terms. In that case, you’ll want to explain clearly why it is entirely relevant for you to be using such terms, such as if you sell products from a particular maker.

Keep in mind that the above advice has no legal founding. I am not a lawyer, and even a lawyer doesn’t yet know what the legal situation is involving such situations, since they haven’t been challenged in court.

For more information about legal issues such as these, see the Advertising Section of the Search Engines & Legal Issues page.

Fraud Detection & Advertiser Disputes

Overture offers extensive protection to protect against fraudulent clicks. However, if you suspect that you’ve been the victim of fake clicks, you should contact Overture and ask them to investigate. The page below explains more about how Overture watches for fraud:

Advertiser Security

This article also examines fraud detection at Overture:

Spam Scam Targets GoTo Listings
Wired, July 6, 2001,1367,44901,00.html

Overture has had several major incidents were advertisers have been upset with its policies or practices. The stories below recap some of these:

Overture Ad Distribution Network

Originally, the primary way users encountered Overture listings was by going to the Overture site itself. However, during the year 2000, Overture made a major change in its business strategy, choosing to instead concentrate on distributing its listings to other search engines. That means that these days, it’s possible to find Overture listings on major search engines such as AltaVista, Lycos and AOL Search.

This change makes it possible to “buy your way to the top” at some search engines. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’ll pay a price. While Overture lists up to 40 listings per page at its own site, most of its major partners carry far fewer than this. That means you need to pay more money to appear higher in Overture’s listings, in order to ensure you will appear at its other partners.

The chart below shows where you have to be placed at Overture in order to be carried by some of its major partners, as of Jan. 16, 2002.


Rank At Overture Means you WILL appear
in paid listings here
Means you WON’T appear
in paid listings here
1 or 2 AltaVista, AOL, Ask, Direct Hit, Excite, Go, HotBot, iWon, Lycos, MSN, NBCi, Netscape & Yahoo n/a
3 AltaVista, AOL, Ask, Direct Hit, Excite, Go, HotBot, iWon, Lycos, MSN, NBCi & Yahoo Netscape
4 or 5 AltaVista, Ask, Excite, Go, iWon, NBCi & Yahoo AOL, Direct Hit, HotBot, Lycos, MSN & Netscape
6 to 8 AltaVista, Excite, Go,
iWon (6 or 7) & NBCi
AOL, Ask, Direct Hit, HotBot, Lycos, MSN, Netscape & Yahoo
9 or 10 Excite, Go & NBCi AltaVista, AOL, Ask, Direct Hit, HotBot, iWon, Lycos, MSN, Netscape & Yahoo
11 to 15 Excite & Go AltaVista, AOL, Ask, Direct Hit, HotBot, iWon, Lycos, MSN, NBCi Netscape & Yahoo


To make things easier for its advertisers, Overture promotes the idea that it has “Premium Listings” that appear at all of its major partners. Premium Listings simply means that a site is listed in positions 1, 2 or 3 at Overture. In turn, that means they’ll show up at nearly every major Overture partner, as reflected on the chart above.

Overture pushes that advertisers should get Premium Listings, such as by saying, “Our research shows that listings in the top three positions (called Premium Listings) get double the number of clicks than our Classic Listings.”

Well, of course Premium Listings get more clicks. That’s primarily due to the fact that they show up in more places, since listings in positions 4 or lower aren’t going to appear at as many partners.

What Rank Should I Aim At?

If you are looking for the widest distribution and have the budget, then paying for the premium spots of 1 through 3 is probably worth it. However, you may find that there is a significant price break for being in spots 4 and 5, yet you’ll still be distributed across many major partners.

If you are in positions 5 through 10, while fewer major partners will carry your links, you’ll still likely be distributed across many major meta search engines, such as Dogpile. Many popular ones carry paid listings from Overture.

Overall, being in the top ten positions is important if you want significant distribution. However, being ranked 11 or below may not be a complete waste. People do continue to go directly to the Overture site, which lists 40 sites on the first page of its results. There are also many smaller sites that carry Overture listings. So, even if you aren’t in the top 10 spots, you’ll still get some traffic — just not as much as you could if presented prominently on the most important services.

Being ranked below 40 at Overture is probably worthless, since you won’t even appear on the first page of results at Overture.

Can I Pick And Choose?

As Overture has expanded its distribution, some advertisers have wanted to target particular search engines but not others. For example, an advertiser may want to be listed at Yahoo but not at AltaVista. Unfortunately, Overture is showing no sites of giving advertisers this flexibility. Essentially, you are stuck with running your ad across the entire Overture network, whether you like it or not. Your only real recourse is to exclude some major partners by not showing up high enough in the Overture results to be carried by them.

Partner Issues

Overture does not tell its partners how to display Overture listings. That remains up to the partners, which can cause headaches for Overture advertisers. Some partners may not show all or any of your description. Other partners may suddenly carry more Overture listings than in the past, which can increase your distribution (and thus costs) unexpectedly. Overture links may or may not be labeled in a way that helps you identify them.

As a guide, the Buying Your Way In chart lists every major search engine and summarizes where paid listings appear, as well as how they get these listings. As a supplement to this, there is a page about most major search engines within the Members-Only area of Search Engine Watch. These pages, which are listed on the How Search Engines Work page, provide further guidance as to how Overture results are integrated in particular places.

Overture also maintains its own guide, which you will find here:

Premium Listings Examples

Finally, here is a rundown on some major issues with Overture partners:

AltaVista: The search engine can’t make up its mind about how many Overture results to carry, where to place them or what to call them. Expect it to carry anywhere from three to eight listings from Overture.

In addition, AltaVista will not carry listings for certain terms from Overture, due to agreements with its own advertisers or partners. The same is true for several other Overture partners. This is why you may not see your listing appear at these partners, even if you have bid high enough to be carried by them.

AOL Search: Only the title of paid links are immediately visible to users, not the descriptions. So, be sure your titles are catchy.

MSN: May not carry all of Overture’s listings, as explained further in the article below:

  • MSN Search Testing Paid Listings with a Twist, 12/01

Yahoo: Overture results are only being carried by and also only to those who visit the site from the US and Canada. Yahoo uses Espotting for some of its European-sites (more information is below, in the Overture Clones section).

Lycos drops Overture amid dispute
CBS MarketWatch, Nov. 4, 2003{DC717AA3-518A-4ABA-96C0-46E94C4E232A}

Terra Lycos files a lawsuit against Overture in a contract dispute and also drops Overture paid listings from its search pages at and Google’s paid listings are now being used instead, in cases where Lycos doesn’t have its own interally-sold Lycos AdBuyer listings, Unpaid and paid inclusion results continue to come from LookSmart and Yahoo-owned AllTheWeb.

Overture UK & Germany

Information on the page so far has been relevant to Overture’s US-based site and the distribution of its listings to US-based search engines. Overture also operates listing services for the UK and plans to launch in Germany in early 2002. Getting listed in these places is similar to being listed with Overture in the US. The key difference is that the listings are distributed to different places.

For example, if you are listed with Overture UK, your listings there would appear in places such as AltaVista UK and Ask Jeeves UK. In contrast, if you were listed only with Overture US, then your listings on the US site would not be distributed to important UK search engines.

Both Overture country-specific sites are listed below, along with the major partners they distribute to. See also the article after the sites, for Overture’s future plans in Europe.

Overture UK

Provides results to AltaVista UK, Ask Jeeves UK and Freeserve, a major ISP in the UK. The service has a minimum bid of 5 pence per click (roughly 7.5 US cents) but no minimum monthly spend. Overture UK also has its own Search Term Suggestion Tool, that brings back UK-oriented search data.

Overture Germany

The Overture Germany site is expected to launch in early 2002. Advertisers can sign-up for more information via this page. The company already has an agreement to distribute results via the T-Online portal, one of Germany’s most popular web sites.

Europe’s Paid Placement Warriors
The Search Engine Update, Feb. 4, 2002

Explains Overture’s future plans in Europe, plus has a chart showing where Overture Europe links are distributed to, among major search partners.

T-Online drops Overture for Google, Aug. 12, 2003

Major European ISP T-Online has dropped Overture in favor of Google, since Overture is to be purchased by T-Online competitor Yahoo.

Beyond The UK & Germany

The articles below recap recent international developments with Overture’s distribution:

Overture expands paid-search umbrella
ZDNet, Feb. 5, 2004,39020372,39145504,00.htm

Say g’day to Overture Australia.

Overture Enters Spain, Sept. 17, 2003

Overture opens for business in Spain, the latest country in its European expansion.

Overture Extends MSN Deal Abroad, July 7, 2003

MSN extends its agreement with Overture to provide paid listings for sites in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea through December 2004. This happened before the announcement that Yahoo was to acquire Overture.

Overture continues European rollout with Italian move
Revolution, May 21, 2003

Overture has launched in Italy with several partners, including live links due on MSN this month.

Overture Makes Official S. Korea Debut, April 22, 2003

Overture opens its doors to South Korean advertisers, who will find their links distributed on MSN Korea and through other partnerships.

Overture Fleshes Out International Plans, April 14, 2003

Overture plans to launch in seven new regions this year. South Korea has happened, Italy follows by the middle of this year, then launches to follow in Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Also notes new estimate that the paid search market should generate $2.1 billion this year, rising to $7 billion by 2007, according to U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

Overture Expanding Globally With MSN Korea, April 1, 2003

Overture will be providing paid listings to MSN Korea through December 2004.

Overture Clones

Overture was the original major paid listings search engine, when it launched back in February 1998, but these days it has plenty of company.

In the United States, Overture still remains by far the largest paid listings service. However, FindWhat is another paid listings service that has some significant traffic. Sprinks also has good distribution, given that its links are carried by Sprinks-owner There are also a variety of other smaller paid listing services, many of which are carried by metacrawlers.

Google should also be considered, by those investigating paid listings. Google runs its own paid listings service that places ads on the Google web site, and it is expected that these ads will be distributed to other sites beginning in Spring 2002.

In Europe, Espotting should be considered, because it has partnerships with many major search engines in the region, including Yahoo. Google also has the ability to deliver country-specific ads on its various and popular regional web sites. The article below discusses Espotting in more depth, plus has a chart showing how its links are distributed to various major search partners.

Europe’s Paid Placement Warriors
The Search Engine Update, Feb. 4, 2002

Also see:

Espotting Enhances Client Tools
The Search Engine Update, March 18, 2002

Espotting gets six new European distribution partners
Revolution, Nov. 20, 2002

European-based paid listings provider Espotting picks up new outlets for its ads.

Overture Signs Lycos Europe, June 11, 2002

Explains how Overture has ousted Espotting from Lycos Europe. UK listings from Overture will begin in Fall 2002, then Germany and France come online after the new year. Espotting had promised Lycos Europe $9.2 million over the three years that its original agreement, started last year, was to run. Overture won’t say how much it is promising, but to win the deal, no doubt major truckloads of cash were dumped on Lycos Europe.

Links to FindWhat, Sprinks, Espotting and other paid listings search engines can be found on the Paid Listings Search Engines page. Information about Google’s ad programs can be found on the How Google Works page.

Contextual Ads

The articles below provide more information about Overture’s contextual ads program.

Overture Will Separate Bidding for Contextual Listings, Jan. 6, 2004

Overture plans to offer contextual ads as a separate buy, but the price of those ads will go up. Google is apparently sticking by the idea that its contextual ads won’t be sold separately. Expect that will probably change, both due to advertiser demand and to avoid being outdone by competitor Overture.

Overture Licenses Contextual Ad Technology, Aug. 13, 2003

Overture signs a new deal with Quigo to make use of that company’s technology to power even more contextual ads.

Overture joins scumware company
Pandia, April 11, 2003

Some are upset that Overture has partnered with Gator, software that some consider to be scumware. See more about the partnership in a further article, below.

Overture signs deal with Gator, April 4, 2003

Overture has made it official and signed a three year deal to distribute its paid listings through Gator’s new SearchScout program. Those who run Gator, an application that stores passwords and form data, will be shown SearchScout results via pop-under windows when they do searches at other search engines, such as Google. Gator’s system of delivering contextual ads has upset some site publishers in the past, while some users consider the software to be “scumware,” claiming it gets installed unknowingly — something Gator itself strongly denies. The main issue for Overture advertisers, however, is really one of conversion. Will the ads convert as well as those that are search-targeted? Gator and Overture say yes. It may be so, but it would be nice to see Overture offer an opt-out to advertisers who don’t want contextual placement via Gator or other distribution partners, in the way that Google provides.

Conversion Tracking

The articles below provide more information about Overture’s conversion tracking service.

Overture unveils ad-tracking system, Nov. 20, 2003

Overture rolls out a low-cost conversion tracking tool that anyone can use to track ad campaigns, not just Overture-based ones.

Overture to upgrade analytics software, Aug. 1, 2003

Overture’s planning to roll out an ROI and ad analysis tool later this month, which will also be available through 20 resellers.

Overture: A Conflict of Interest?
ClickZ, Aug. 8, 2003

Overture’s soon to roll out new ROI measuring tools that lets people measure across any ad platform, including its own. But Kevin Lee wonders if marketers will trust a tool that’s owned by one of the major ad networks they are buying.

Overture’s Conversion Counter — Too Good To Be True?
Traffick, Aug. 17, 2003

Overture’s new conversion counter sounds pretty cool — but Andrew Goodman points out that this free tool may cost you $50 per month in the future.

Past Articles

Non-Search Engine Watch Articles About Overture’s Ad Program

Also see the More Search Engine Marketing Resources: Paid Listings section for articles that involve paid listings through Overture and other providers.

Overture and MSN extend sponsored search deal, Oct. 20, 2003

Overture’s deal to provide MSN with sponsored listings has been extended an additional six months. Previously, it was to expire in December 2004. Now it will run in the US and the UK through June 2005.

New Overture UK Rule: 5 Searches Per Month Minimum
Web Marketing and Site Promotion, Dec. 9, 2002

Overture UK announces that you can no longer bid on terms that receive less than 5 searches per month, especially because they require too much editor time to review. Ammon Johns looks at the change and suggests that Overture hires more advertisers.

Eight-Point Winter Overture Advertising Tune-Up
SearchEngineGuide, Nov. 22, 2002

Quick, important tips on doing better with Overture.


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