AdSubtract Blocks Paid Search Results

A new version of the AdSubtract ad-blocking software will hit Web search engine companies right in the cash register, blocking sponsored search engine results.

The feature, called Search Sanity, is included in AdSubtract PRO Version 3, according to a statement from InterMute, which makes AdSubtract.

Search Sanity culls out links that appear because of advertisement agreements between the organization and the search engine company, rather than because of their relevance to the search, InterMute said. These sponsored results are sometimes known as "paid placement" advertisements.

"Search engines have lost their way with paid placement [search results]," says Ed English, Chief Executive Officer of InterMute. "They're showing the highest paid advertisers first, and it's a disservice to end users, who are often naive about how [search engines] work."

Mixed Messages

While some search engines, such as Google, do a good job of segregating paid advertisements visually and spatially from legitimate search results, other search engines stack links to commercial sites on top of legitimate search results lists, regardless of whether they're relevant, according to English.

"People do a search for 'Ed's old sneakers,' and get a result asking them to 'Click to see books about Ed's old sneakers,' regardless of whether there are such books," he says.

EBay is another major source of paid search results, with links to auctions often topping the list of search results, English says.

AdSubtract will block paid placement ads using the same technique it uses to block pop-up and banner advertisements: by looking for HTML formatting and other attributes distinguishing the advertisements from legitimate search results, he says.

Users will also be able to designate which search engines to filter paid placement ads on, English says.

Money Matters

In recent months, paid placement advertisements have been a gold mine for Google, Yahoo, and others as online shopping has continued to grow and online advertising has recovered in recent years.

That growth spurred consolidation in the search engine and paid placement advertising market in the past year.

In July, Yahoo announced that it was buying paid search service provider Overture Services of Pasadena, California for $1.63 billion. Overture, a wholly-owned Yahoo subsidiary, is a leading provider of paid search services, with more than 88,000 advertisers as customers and had itself acquired search engine AltaVista for $140 million in February.

"Paid search results have been the savior of online advertisers, but users are paying for it in terms of lost productivity when they're clicking onto sites that are not relevant [to their search]," English says.

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