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Yahoo! has started testing its Panama contextual search advertising platform in the UK and will roll out the full service shortly.

The company last week invited search marketing professionals to a preview of the service, which seeks to improve return on advertising investment by better targeting ads to users.

At the UK event, attendees were given information on how the ad engine, which was launched in the US in February and on which so many of Yahoo!'s hopes of rivaling Google are pinned, will be implemented on this side of the pond.

But the company has already begun a limited test of some portions of the service, according to an email sent out by Yahoo!.

"To help ensure we launch our new ranking model successfully, we have started running a limited test across our UK advertisers listings in which the display order of sponsored search listings in some keyword markets is based on factors other than bid," the email read.

"Our new sponsored search system will be rolled out in the UK soon, beginning with advertiser migration later this quarter."

Yahoo! has previously said Panama will be available to the UK in the second quarter of the year (ie. between April and June).

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