According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (and repeated by Reuters), AOL are set to announce a deal with MSN that would see them drop Google Search and Advertising in order to replace them with MSN Search and ads powered by the recently introduced MSN AdCenter.
“Time Warner Inc is closing in on a deal with Microsoft Corp. to team up on an online advertising service to compete with Google Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the talks. The paper said the two companies were now focusing on a deal that would combine their advertising-related assets, with little or no money changing hands. It said they expected to reach an agreement before the end of the year, but that it was still possible that Time Warner’s America Online unit could strike a deal with competitor Google instead. Time Warner has been holding talks with both Microsoft and Google over AOL, sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters and other media.”
If this comes to fruition there will be a lot of SEOs scrambling to optimize for MSN. Typically AOL visitors convert well, purchasing at stores and clicking ads – which is motivation enough to get good rankings at MSN Search. This is great news for the industry as a whole. If this deal actually pans out there will be a much more level playing field, and much more choice for webmasters.