Yahoo has officially dropped the Overture brand name from its paid-search products. The company announced plans to drop the Overture name in the North American market at the beginning of March. Yahoo will phase out use of the brand internationally in the coming months though they will retain the Overture name in Japan and South Korea.

The branding change comes eighteen months after Yahoo announced it had acquired Overture in October 2003. Overture was the original innovator of the pay-per-click advertising business model. Introduced as GoTo.Com in 1998, Overture proved that advertisers would be willing to pay based on a search-driven ad’s performance. After changing their name to Overture, they started to provide paid-search results to other search engines, which generally appeared as three “Featured Sites”, or “Sponsored Sites” listings directly above organic listings.

Overture grew rapidly but almost immediately faced stiff competition from Google whose AdWords program eventually replaced Overture’s offerings as the most popular paid-advertising vehicle. After absorbing smaller search firms AltaVista and All-the-Web, Overture itself was absorbed by Yahoo. While many speculated at the time that Yahoo was fishing for the data-mine of patents held by AltaVista, AlltheWeb and Overture, paid-search now provides about 40% of Yahoo’s annual revenues.

By dropping the Overture name and bringing all paid-search services under a common name, Yahoo Search Marketing hopes to clear any lingering confusion about who offers which services. They also hope the move increases their competitive position against rivals Google, MSN and Ask Interactive.

“Unifying all our search marketing and related products under one umbrella is one of the many steps we will be taking to provide an easy, one-step experience for our advertisers”, said Steve Mitgang, Yahoo Sr. VP of Product Marketing in a press statement.

Yahoo Search Marketing has changed a couple of other familiar names as part of the rebranding process. The core, contextually driven paid-advertising product, Precision Match, is now being sold under the name, Sponsored Search. Local paid search is now called Local Sponsored Search.

Yahoo has also added three new features. The first, called Travel Submit, allows tourism and travel operators to submit packages, deals and other offers that will be displayed on Yahoo’s travel search site. The other two features are tools designed to make the jobs of search-marketers a bit easier. Marketing Console is a tool designed to help marketers track paid-advertising campaigns while Search Optimizer is meant to enhance ad-copy and keyword targeting to improve campaign performance.