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Google ads now self-serve

The search giant is expanding a self-service program to let a wide network of Web sites small and large host its search term-targeted advertisements.

Google, which rose to prominence by making it easier to find information on the Web, is now making it easier to sell ad space there.

How much easier? One early user of Google's new self-service ad program says he can do it in his sleep.

"Google is a virtual salesperson for us," said Robert Hoskins, group publisher for the Broadband Wireless Exchange, a media company in Gilber, Ariz., near Phoenix, that covers the wireless computing industry. "We still sell our own advertising. Sometimes we sell a lot, and other times it's slim. But Google sells advertising for us while we sleep at night, and we make several thousand dollars extra a month, every month."

Six weeks ago, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google quietly launched AdSense, a self-service program to let a wide network of Web sites small and large host AdWords, its search term-targeted advertisements. On Thursday, Google expands that program and adds ways to customize the ad-sharing service.

"Small sites have a lot of content pages and didn't have a way to reach advertisers," Susan Wojcicki, director of product management at Google, said in an interview. "Six weeks ago, we told publishers they can sign up online for AdSense, a program for publishers or Web sites to serve targeted ads on content pages?It's aggressive and generous to the publishers."

Google started advertising with simple text links placed atop its search results, along the lines of competitor Overture Services, which Yahoo proposed to buy last month. That model proved so successful that the company in February launched AdSense, by way of which it let affiliates--including its own acquisitions, like Blogger.com--host text ads on pages that the search engine's algorithms deemed relevant to the ads.

The June version simplified that system to a self-service model, opening it up to smaller sites. Thursday, the company launches new features for those who sign up for AdSense online, including preset color palettes to coordinate colors for the Web sites and the ads, automatic user feedback mechanisms, and reporting tools that tell participants their click-through rates and how much money they've made at any given time.

Google claims 100,000 advertisers. On the other side of the ad sales equation, current AdSense participants include the Food Network, Weather.com, ABC.com, Internet Broadcasting Systems, Lycos Europe, New York Post Online Edition, Reed Business Information, U.S. News & World Report, and iVillage.

Webmasters who want to become AdSense partners can apply online. Google promises to process the application within 24 hours, after which it provides a passage of code to be pasted into the Web page. Google examines the page to determine relevant ads for it, and the Webmaster shares in any revenue the ad generates.

Google would not disclose how many sites had signed up for its new service, but said demand was strong. The company also declined to disclose revenue figures, either for individual sites or for the program as a whole.

But Hoskins, who uses the service to serve relevant ads to an array of online publications devoted to specific wireless-computing technologies, gave an idea of how much participants could expect to earn.

In July, Hoskins said, his AdWords generated approximately 160 to 220 click-throughs per day--or between 2.6 percent and 4.1 percent of those who saw the ads. In return, AdSense generated $2,359 in revenue for the month.

Hoskins admitted that it wasn't riches, but he said he wasn't complaining.

"It's not bad for something we don't have to work for," he said.