Ask.com’s CEO, Jim Lanzone responded to my recent article “Yahoo Reinvents An Old Wheel: Paid Inclusion Gets a Facelift” reconfirming his belief that paid inclusion is hypocritical. The following is Jim Lanzone’s comment to me which was confirmed authentic by Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land:
Hi Ross. Just came across this today on Bloglines.
Three years later, I’m still against paid inclusion, because I still think it is hypocritical to charge for something we need to do anyway to be the best search service we can be. I also think it’s a dis-service to our users to blur the line that much between paid content and editorial content.
“Welcome to capitalism”, Jeremy Zawodny once said in a post called “Defending Paid Inclusion.” Yes, Yahoo can do what they want, they’re probably not skewing the results, and even if they did, most people probably wouldn’t notice or care. Furthermore, since sites are paying a flat fee with the “Basic” version of Yahoo’s Paid Inclusion program, there is no incentive in those instances for Yahoo to increase traffic to submitted URLs. (Except, I suppose, to encourage renewals. One can assume you wouldn’t renew if you didn’t see any traffic from this.)
On the other hand, with Yahoo’s “Pro” version of Paid Inclusion, the pricing model is cost-per-click (http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/srchsb/ssp_pr.php). In these cases, Yahoo only makes money if a URL gets traffic. What are the odds that out of 2 million results for a given query, their partner sites will be ranked highly enough, consistently enough, on their own to: a) generate enough traffic for the partner site to make it worth participating in the program; and b) generate enough revenue for Yahoo to make it worth operating the program? I don’t know, and I’m not accusing Yahoo of anything. I just know that 75% of the clicks on a major search engine typically go into the top 5 results on the page. It would just be too much of a coincidence if paid (and unmarked) partners got those rankings/clicks instead of non-paying sites.
I’d rather not have anyone wondering if we’re gaming it. So Paid Inclusion is just not on the table for Ask.com.
A big thanks to Jim Lanzone for updating his view on this matter. I am happy to see that at least one major search engine representative has publicly spoken his thoughts on Paid Inclusion. I hope to hear from Jeremy Zawodny soon to get his take on my article and Jim’s comments.