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AOL gets Google to try busier ads

Google search engine users will soon see something they are not used to: advertising with logos and graphics.

Users of Google's search engine will soon see something they are not used to on the notoriously spare site: advertising with logos and graphics.

And the advertisers will not be limited to America Online, whose talks with Google prompted the change in policy, according to two executives close to the companies' negotiations.

As part of their deal, which is expected to be announced this afternoon, Google is providing AOL with $300 million in advertising on Google's Web sites, intended to use to draw Google search users to related content on AOL's sites, the executives said. That sum is on top of the $1 billion in cash that Google is to invest to buy a 5 percent stake in AOL.

Representatives of Google and AOL said their companies would not comment on any aspect of the negotiations. Google, which has been providing search technology and placing search-based advertising on AOL since 2002, emerged Friday with a tentative deal to renew and expand that relationship, fending off a challenge from Microsoft.

The executives close to the talks said that at AOL's request, Google would begin to test various forms of graphical ads and that it would make the same formats available to other advertisers. Google has started to sell graphical ads for placement on other sites; plans to do so on Google itself were accelerated by the AOL talks, an executive involved in the negotiations said.

Graphical advertisements, like the common rectangular ads known as banners, have been a feature of most commercial Internet sites for a decade.

Google made a name for itself, in part, because it went without graphical ads in favor of small text advertisements linked to the topics for which users search. Google's simple pages, quick to load and easy to read, helped the site build a following, and text advertisements proved valuable to marketers looking for people interested in their products.

Yet as AOL's parent, Time Warner, was exploring potential deals with Google and Microsoft, it pressed Google for ways that Google users could be directed to AOL pages. AOL is trying to replace the declining profit from its dial-up subscription business with advertising revenue from free Web sites like

The $300 million in advertising being provided to AOL can be spent on traditional text ads or on these new experimental formats, the executives close to the talks said; AOL will have to bid on the advertisements in Google's auction and will be charged out of the $300 million allotment.

One format being discussed is a box, which may include a photograph and a logo, that would appear on the main search results pages toward the bottom of the advertisements in the right-hand column. Traditional banner ads may appear on Google Image Search and the Froogle shopping site, which already include many photographs, an executive involved said. No advertising is contemplated for the Google home page.

In addition to the $300 million in advertising, Google has agreed to help put content from AOL on other parts of its site as well. Google, for example, will look for content and services from AOL to include in a feature it calls One Box, which puts very specific links and content above regular results for certain search topics, an executive involved in the negotiations said.

Google does not charge sites to be included in its One Box program. Google did not promise any exclusivity to AOL's content, but it did agree to consider it in any future One Box expansion, the executive said. One likely prospect would be for a new One Box feature on celebrities that Google is developing, the executive said.

Google also agreed to provide technical assistance to AOL to help explain how to make its pages easier for Google--and other search engines--to find and include in its index of the Web. Google has provided similar information for other large Web sites, according to Kevin Lee, executive chairman of Did-it, a search marketing firm. In general, Google will offer an engineer who recites publicly available technical information on how Google's search engine evaluates Web sites.

Lynn Fox, a Google spokeswoman, said no deals Google is contemplating would allow its search results to favor a particular company.