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Overture Site Match - Yahoo Paid-inclusion - PPC
By Jill Whalen - March 18, 2004

Hi Jill --

I have been a low-key lurker of the Search Engine trade magazines/newsletters for several years.

I feel the announcement on March 4th by Yahoo! of their Overture Site Match to be quite a radical new pricing model for SEOptimizers. Clearly, we knew something was coming, and perhaps we could have even anticipated it, but nonetheless it is a wholly new pricing model affecting all of our clients who were up for annual renewal of their paid submissions. It changes budgets and plans radically.

And, yet, I am finding very little buzz and comments in the trades.

Is it just me? Do you have any comments and thoughts on the new model?

Thank you kindly for your response.

Jackie


Jill's Response

Hi Jackie,

Actually, there's been a lot of buzz about Yahoo's new Overture Site Match paid-inclusion/PPC program since it was first announced the week of the NYC SES conference.

At this point, it isn't exactly clear how much return on investment (ROI) one would get from this program, as it's brand-new and therefore untested.

We've been discussing this for weeks at the High Rankings Forum, which may be of interest to you if you have a few hours to spare.

Here's the link: http://www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=4264

What is Site Match?

The press release David Warmuz from Trellian posted at the forum says:

"Site Match is Overture's new paid inclusion product offered by PrioritySubmit, which provides a very simple yet effective method for online businesses to be considered for inclusion in the main body of search results pages on multiple portals. By subscribing to Site Match, your web pages are reviewed for quality and submitted to a database that provides search results to Yahoo!, AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Overture and many other portals. Your listings will be included in relevant search results, providing your business with a source of targeted customer leads."

Okay, so that's the official explanation. Do you get it now? No? Me neither! ;-)

Here's the real scoop, as I understand it.

Yahoo owns Inktomi, AltaVista and AllTheWeb. It used to be that if you wanted guaranteed inclusion with 48-hour updates of your pages, you'd pay for each one of those engines separately. They are now merging the databases, and any paid-inclusion fees will get your URL included to all of the above (including Yahoo), assuming it passes the editorial review.

The prices per year are as follows:

$49 for the first URL from any domain
$29 for URLs 2-10 and
$10 per URL if submitting 11 or more URLs

Seems like a decent deal on the surface, with all those engines included. But wait! You haven't heard the kicker yet!

On top of the per-URL fee, you get to also pay for every click to your site from any of Yahoo's properties. This PPC fee will be either 15 cents or 30 cents each, depending on the category your site falls into. I believe any business-to-business site falls into the $.30 price, and I'm sure there are many other types that also fall into this category.

If you read my reply to David at the forum, you'll see that my very first question was "What do we get for this -- top listings or just indexed?"

The answer was "just indexed."

So should you do it? Definitely not if your pages are already indexed by Yahoo and its other search properties. I say definitely not because your only benefit will be the frequent crawling and the click-reporting feature that Yahoo provides. Unless you have no current reporting or a really urgent need for frequent crawling, I can't see why you'd want to pay for something that you already have for free.

You will not get an increase in rankings by paying. Remember that.

At least that is the official word.

At the SES conference, there was an evening session where Danny was discussing this a bit. I believe he said that the Yahoo reps told him that there was a sort of extra "check box" that gets checked for any pages in the paid-inclusion program. This checkmark is supposed to signify that the page has passed the editorial review process. Taking that one step further, it sounds as if Yahoo's algorithm takes into consideration whether a site is checked or unchecked when determining where it should rank for any given search query.

Sound a little fishy to you? Me too, but that's the way I understand it.

To be fair, I'm told that this checkmark thingee has been around for quite some time and was included in Inktomi's old paid-inclusion program. So the whole *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* comments that you won't get an extra rankings boost by paying for inclusion may or may not be accurate.

All in all, I suggest that you use your own judgment when deciding what to do with Yahoo. They've done a fine job of crawling the Web over the past year, and chances are that your pages are already indexed. If you've been reading this newsletter for a while and have put my advice into practice, you're probably seeing great rankings at Yahoo these days. (In fact, one of my past clients emailed me recently to say that he could swear that Yahoo must have consulted with me when figuring out their new algorithm!) It does seem as if they do put a lot of weight on having great keyword-rich copywriting, which is the cornerstone of my SEO method.

So see how you're currently doing before signing away your URLs to a lifetime of paid clicks. The thought of paying for every single site visitor seriously makes my stomach churn. It's just not the way things should be. (I know...grow up, Jill, you're in advertising now...blech.) But even hard-core marketing/ad people who are used to paying per click are finding this new program hard to swallow.

I just read a ClickZ interview with Dana Todd of SiteLab and found a quote worth sharing:

"They've got this flat fee they're shoving down people's throats. It bothers me that they have the power to make that kind of decision, because frankly, they control a lot of search inventory."

Dana doesn't mind so much the PPC aspect, but doesn't seem to like the idea of not being able to control her price-per-click spend.

The other thing I wanted to mention about this is the whole mixing of ads with what people perceive as "natural" search results. When someone pays for every click on his or her URL, it seems to me that the listing now becomes more of an ad than just a listing. I realize this is debatable, and it is being debated ad nauseam in our forum thread, but it is certainly something to think about. I also realize that the same thing has been going on through the trusted-feed programs for a while too, but that doesn't make it right.

You know how in the newspaper or in a magazine when there's something that appears to be an article but it's really an ad, it has to be labeled as a paid ad? Well, shouldn't the same rules apply for search engine listings? The reason why it's debatable is that you could say that you really didn't pay for the position, so it's not really an ad. But I dunno...that seems a bit lame to me. In my mind PPC = ad. Maybe my mind is just mixed up from lack of sleep!

At any rate, it will be interesting to see where this whole paid-inclusion/PPC brave new world takes us. Is it a sign of things to come? Is this kind of change inevitable as search engine marketing grows up? It may very well be. If so, it's our job to go with the flow and figure out how to best deal with it.

Jill

Jill Whalen is the owner of HighRankings.com and moderator of the free weekly email newsletter, the High Rankings' Advisor. She is also known for her moderation of the critically acclaimed, Rank Write Roundtable. Jill specializes in search engine optimization, directory submissions, SEO consultations and workshops. She has obtained hundreds of number 1 and 2 spots for her vast array of clients throughout the years. Clients include multi-million dollar companies, major universities, real estate agencies, attorneys, surgeons, dentists, and small-medium sized businesses.

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