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Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Yahoo Reinvents An Old Wheel: Paid Inclusion Gets a Facelift

 

Yahoo has revamped its paid inclusion program and it appears to be the forefront of a push to revitalize this archaic submission format. More on the history of paid inclusion and my opinion later, for now let us review the changes.

What Does it Cost to Submit to Yahoo?
The price to submit a URL is $49 which guarantees (for sites that are accepted):

  • Addition to a database of sites “that powers algorithmic search results for Yahoo! and other major web portals such as AltaVista and AlltheWeb.”
  • URLs are refreshed (essentially re-indexed) on a 7 business day rotation.
  • Access to a new personalized reporting centre that provides:
    - top 10 click through information itemized by the keyword clicked (see sample here)
    - trend charting which provides a visual reference for ups and downs in traffic
    - best practices SEO information

What are Yahoo’s Guidelines for Paid Inclusion?
Yahoo’s guidelines are extensive but nothing surprising. To sum it up don’t bother submitting your site if it:

  • offers no value to Yahoo’s readers
  • is composed of a significant percentage of affiliate content
  • endangers users
  • has offensive content
  • has pop-ups, pop-unders, or exit consoles
  • is designed purely to drive traffic elsewhere
  • infringes on copyrights or trademarks

So essentially Yahoo is exactly like any other search engine; provide them with unique content that adds value to its index and it won’t bat an eye.

Is Paid Inclusion at Yahoo Worth It?
It is too early to say if there is any certain advantage to submitting a website to Yahoo with paid inclusion. I submitted one URL into the new system and will provide feedback as soon as I have anything to report.

Aside from inclusion, there are of course the added reporting capabilities in this reinvented service. The analytics that Yahoo provides may be of benefit to some users but the information provided is hardly very useful. After all, increasing how many times a listing is clicked on is only a part of the analytics process; you still need to ensure they stay on your website when they get there. All of the information provided by Yahoo is far more powerfully attained, and your money better spent, using affordable traffic analysis solutions like ClickTracks.

Paid Inclusion: The Past and the Future
Most major search engines dropped paid inclusion services back in 2004 amidst pressure from users and industry leaders. Many felt it provided an unfair end result. After all, is paid inclusion fair to websites that cannot afford to use paid inclusion? Should their path to results be any slower than those who can afford it? I can understand the need to embrace capitalism wherever possible but the fact is that search engines are “supposed” to cater to the masses in a totally fair manner within organic results; in my opinion paid inclusion flies in the face of that.

Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo defended paid inclusion here but his defense is questionable since paid inclusion undeniably provides an unfair advantage; not for rankings but simply for the speed in which a paid site is indexed versus an unpaid site. Add to this that Yahoo is providing additional statistics and reportable data that the non-paying public cannot take advantage of and frankly this all smells rather sulfurous.

Food for Thought

Back in June 2004 Jim Lanzone, VP of Product Management at Ask explained why Ask.com dropped paid inclusion. He explained that the “improved freshness in the search results achieved by its Teoma technology” meant they no longer required site owners to submit URLs that Ask’s site spider had missed. He further noted that “keeping this program alive just because people would pay for it would be hypocritical.” With this reasoning in mind, by revitalizing paid inclusion is Yahoo saying that their spider is insufficient to index the web? On the other hand, is Yahoo’s bottom line so bad that Yahoo needs to reinvent and push this money grab?

I am intrigued to see how this new service launch is received by search engine users and industry leaders and I invite your views on this matter.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc.


3 Responses to “Yahoo Reinvents An Old Wheel: Paid Inclusion Gets a Facelift”

  1. rustybrick

    Nice find. :)

  2. Jim Lanzone, CEO

    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.

    – Jim

  3. Anonymous

    Jim I agree with you somewhat, but at least Yahoo has SOME way of including a site. Ask has a TERRIBLE index. You offer absolutely no way for quality sites to get indexed. No one wonders if you’re “gaming it” because you’re not even in the “game”.

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