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Google to publishers: Some butter for your bread

Indie Webmasters can now get a chunk of the change that's generated by ads related to Google search boxes on their sites.

Google is pushing two new services for independent Webmasters as a way to help expand its search and advertising business.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company, which is preparing for a $2.7 billion public offering, introduced a program that lets Web publishers add Google Web search to their site and then earn money from the related text ads. Google's other new service allows Internet publishers to narrow search on their site to a specific category of online information, such as children, nature or computer hardware.

"This is Google going out and leveraging the smaller network of saying, 'Help us get more searches, and we'll share in the revenue,'" said Danny Sullivan, a search expert and editor of industry newsletter Search Engine Watch.

The move comes as Google, Yahoo, MSN and others are in a vigorous race to capture the hearts--and clicks--of Web surfers worldwide. Because search is a popular activity for visitors, these companies are racing to be the most useful to surfers and inspire their loyalty.

Search is also tied to the fast-growing sector of online advertising: search engine marketing--with an expected worth of $2 billion to $4 billion this year. To capitalize on the market, all of the major search providers are seeking to expand search-related advertising to various nooks and crannies across the Web.

Google has made previous attempts at populating the Web with Google search boxes, in the footsteps of stalwart Web sites that held the spotlight before it. During the Internet heyday, Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos and others proffered their Web search--and brand logos--to small and midsize publishers as a way to broaden awareness among consumers and nudge people back to their own sites.

Overture Services, a top rival of Google and the pioneer of commercial search, was one of the first in 1999 to offer publishers pennies each time a site visitor would perform a search via its search box. Google introduced a similar service nearly four years ago but discontinued it shortly after and opted to take a different approach.

For several years, Google has disseminated its Web search box free to small publishers and has licensed it to larger sites, such as Yahoo and EarthLink. The free service has long been accompanied by Google's sponsored text ads, for which the company collects fees from advertisers each time people click on the listings.

Now, for the first time, Google plans to share the fees with those small publishers in a program called Google AdSense for Search. Available immediately, the program is set up for sites written in 15 different languages.

"In this very difficult model of how you (support) content on the Web, we have a program that works really well," said Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer Web products. "We want to make sure that the revenue generated from the (content) makes it into the site owners' pockets."

Google originally rolled out AdSense as a program for publishers to place text ads on the pages of their site. As opposed to search-related ads, which are triggered by keyword searches, AdSense ads were targeted to the content of a page and its meaning, so news about a soccer match might display a sponsored link for soccer gear.

As Google has grown that business among many small publishers, many ad executives with a bird's-eye view of the business have said the content-targeted ads do not perform as well as search ads.

In recent months, Google has also changed how it refers to AdSense so that the business now includes search- and content-related ads for publishing partners. Google AdWords refers to the program that allows advertisers to sign up and display promotions across the company's network of publishers.

Google's second new service, called Site-Flavored Google Search, is still an experiment at Google Labs, the company's research and development unit. It allows specialty publishers to customize Google search to reflect their own content.