It appears that Yahoo!’s bold and less than brilliant foray into ” Looksmart-like ” paid inclusion may have been the final nudge that AskJeeves needed to shut down their paid inclusion program, Index Express (not Index Connect which is Inktomi). This significant shift of AskJeeves away from their 18 month-old paid inclusion program appears to be a timely distancing from the pending storm coming to Yahoo! after it announced its new Site Match system.

Why did AskJeeves shut down their Index Express service?  To get to the bottom of that I spoke today with Jim Lanzone, VP of product management at AskJeeves. First I should mention that he very carefully noted he does not believe there is a ‘dark underbelly’ to monetary search engine inclusion models. He noted Yahoo!, Looksmart, and many others when he emphasized that. When we concentrated on the topic of the cancelled Index Express service he explained that AskJeeves came to this decision based on two elements; the first was technical and attributed to significant testing of their paid inclusion model, the second was entirely monetary. The testing revealed that the differences between a page submitted via a trusted feed (xml feeds via Index Express customers) and a page indexed by the Ask spider were so significant that attributing proper relevance was very difficult. As a result, users, advertisers and Ask technicians alike were finding Index Express submitted pages ranking in odd places; sometimes ranking inordinately high or low. The second reason focuses on what is likely the shareholder’s bottom line; the model was “not a very good monetization vehicle.”

Will the AskJeeves database take a big hit with this change? This is difficult to say but considering that Jim Lanzone said 30,000 of the 2 Billion pages indexed in Ask were Index Express pages there could be a miniscule drop in Ask’s database size. Other than that I cannot foresee any significant negative impact. In fact, I only see a brilliant move here since paid inclusion models will undeniably be under the FTC and SEO microscope for the next few months, what with Yahoo!’s 6 web properties adapting to it with gusto.

Note: It is important that our readers understand that the paid submission process at Ask Jeeves is still active and recommended by the staff at StepForth. According to Jim Lanzone, the sites that are submitted via Site Submit will be indexed within one week and then repeatedly 2 times per week. Considering that sites which do not pay submit may not be found or may only be indexed sporadically, this appears to be a very worthwhile service.