Yahoo will test displaying Google search ads in a small number of its search engine queries, a move likely to be interpreted as the latest in a series of Yahoo maneuvers to resist Microsoft's acquisition attempt.
The test, expected to last up to two weeks and be limited to up to 3 percent of Yahoo search queries in the U.S., is specifically for Google's AdSense for Search service. In other words, Yahoo would be acting as one of the Web publishers that carry pay-per-click text ads from Google. The ads will appear only in Yahoo.com.
Yahoo noted that "the testing does not necessarily mean that Yahoo will join the AdSense for Search program or that any further commercial relationship with Google will result." Yahoo will not comment on the nature or timing of any potential relationship with Google.
Microsoft, whose acquisition offer was rejected by Yahoo's board in February, on Saturday said it will launch a proxy fight to attempt a hostile takeover if Yahoo doesn't agree to the acquisition in the next three weeks.
The announcement was first reported Wednesday afternoon by The Wall Street Journal, quoting anonymous sources. A broader agreement to outsource its search ads to Google could let Yahoo increase its cash flow, because Google ads generate more revenue per search, the Journal reported, referring to a consensus belief among financial analysts and Yahoo investors.
Since Feb. 1, when Microsoft made its US$44.6 billion offer, Yahoo's CEO Jerry Yang and the members of Yahoo's board have been reportedly trying to come up with an alternative deal. In addition to this Google plan, Yahoo has also held discussions with AOL, News Corp. and Disney, according to various reports in the past two months.
Should Yahoo enter into this deal with Google, it would be an acknowledgement that it has failed to attain its goals in search advertising, despite numerous efforts, including a significant upgrade of its system called Panama.
It's not clear what would happen to Yahoo's search marketing division, which runs the company's search advertising, in the event that Yahoo outsourced this business to Google. For Microsoft, it clearly wouldn't be palatable to have an agreement of this sort bundled in with its acquisition of Yahoo.
Google didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.