Ask Jeeves announced its long rumoured Sponsored Listing Program which will be officially introduced on August 15. Advertisers will be able to purchase paid-ad placement above paid-ads generated by Google AdWords. Using auction-for-placement format similar to Overture (now Yahoo! Search Marketing), bids are expected to start at 5-cents per click.

While the relationship with Google is not ending, Ask will provide premium placement to advertisers who bid directly through the Sponsored Listing Program. As the program populates itself with advertisers, it will choose placement of ads based on which is more profitable to Ask, leading to situations where a Google generated ad might appear higher than one generated through Ask.

At the same time, Ask today announced they are reducing the number of ads appearing beside organic search results in a bid to increase user numbers as an April 27th article at ClickZ noted, “Significant user experience improvements were tested over the past two quarters, and implemented in April. Most notable is a 31-percent reduction of paid ads “above the fold.” This brings up more natural search results from Jeeves’ Teoma technology, which the company has found to lead to stronger user retention and increased frequency of use. The company feels long-term gains in site visits will offset any impact on revenue-per-query resulting from the move.

On Monday, Ask Jeeves announced the integration of AJinteractive, with IAC Partner Marketing, the advertising division of Ask owner, InterActive Corporation, to form IAC Advertising Solutions. IAC Advertising Solutions will focus on search, media and performance marketing with the massive branded resources of IAC as the foundation for a massive advertising network.

For advertisers, benefits of the Sponsored Listing programs will include,

  • premium placement on Ask Jeeves, Ask properties, and the IAC network,
  • lower bid costs for prominent placement
  • an easy to use, self-serve system

Ask Jeeves is the fourth most popular search engine in North America and one of the most popular in Europe. It has spent the last two years redefining itself and its search technology. When it was acquired by IAC earlier this summer, the pieces started to appear to fall into place. While the Sponsored Listing Program is not as sophisticated as Google’s AdWords, it is a large step forward in closing the chasm between Ask Jeeves and its larger competitors.