One of the many options available to
promote a website on search engines is called "paid
inclusion". Although there are several different kinds of paid
inclusion (including pay-per-click and "trusted" or
"direct" feed programs) this article deals specifically with
the simplest form, in which an annual fee is paid for each page
included in a search engine index.
Many people are unsure how paid URL
inclusion works, and it is an interesting and sometimes controversial
concept. It is perhaps easiest to understand by recognizing that in
most cases there are two different ways in which search engines that
offer paid URL inclusion can find your pages.
Each search engine purports to be the most comprehensive source of
information, and so each has an automated program (commonly called a
"spider") that goes out and indexes all the pages that it
can find on the web. This means that your website will eventually get
indexed for free by each of the major engines that offer paid
inclusion (provided there is one or more outside links pointing to
your site that the spider can follow). "Eventually", of
course, is the key term.
When a search engine offers paid URL inclusion, it uses an additional
spider that goes out and indexes only specific pages that have been
paid for. In other words, whereas the "free" spider would
eventually find your site, follow your links, and index all of your
pages, the "paid" spider will only index the URLís for
which you have plunked down an annual fee (but it will do so
As you may suspect, these programs create much confusion. Since the
pages that are paid for are indistinguishable from regular pages
within search results, the FCC has recently raised some concerns,
although the outcome of their involvement remains to be seen. In
addition, the fees for paid inclusion are annual. Even after a company
has paid to have some pages included, logic would dictate that the
"organic" spider would eventually index the pages anyway,
making the renewal fees unnecessary. However, it has been reported
with some paid inclusion engines that once annual fees are not renewed
pages are removed for a period of time. From a business perspective,
this only makes sense- engines that offer paid inclusion canít very
well offer an "annual" fee only to have everyone discover
that they only need to pay it once. From an ethical perspective,
however, itís a questionable practice (and it remains unproven that
this is the policy of any particular engine).
First, and most importantly, paid inclusion programs give you the
opportunity to have your pages indexed and added to search results
very quickly (usually within a few days). This compares very favorably
with the month or more that it can take to wait for the
"organic" spider to find your pages on its own (and if you
have no incoming links, the "organic" spider will never find
The paid inclusion spider will revisit your pages frequently (some
even daily). This means that you can make tweaks to your pages
designed to improve your rankings and see the results in days (rather
than months). This type of turnaround can give you valuable insight
into the ranking algorithm of each individual engine.
The primary disadvantage of paid inclusion is the cost, although this
factor naturally depends on the means of the company. The following
details the first year fees for a ten-page website on the most popular
paid inclusion programs:
*this is the total first year fee,
although the program is billed in six month increments
Total first year fees for ten page
A second disadvantage, perhaps more accurately described as a
limitation, is that Google does not offer paid inclusion (and
maintains that it never will). Since Google currently provides the
primary results for three of the top four engines (Google, Yahoo, and
AOL), engines that offer paid inclusion may only account for a
fraction of your overall site traffic. There is no way to add your
pages to Googleís index any faster by paying a fee- which means that
you will be waiting for Google to index your new (or newly optimized)
pages regardless of which paid inclusion programs you use. Only after
Google lists your pages will they appear in Yahoo and AOL results.
There are many factors to consider when
examining paid URL inclusion. The following five are some of the most
Are my pages already in the index?
Just because you canít find your pages when you enter search terms
does not mean that your pages havenít been indexed. To see if your
pages have been indexed, go to the engine and search for each of your
exact page URLs. If each page shows up for the URL search but not for
a search of any keyphrases related to the page, paid inclusion will
not help your rankings (your pages are already in the index and have
been ranked according to their perceived value). It would be much more
beneficial to invest some time and/or money in optimizing your pages
for better rankings (you can still consider paid inclusion afterwards
if you donít want to wait for the spider to revisit).
Is it a good investment for me?
Naturally, budgetary constraints can be a primary consideration. If
you canít afford paid inclusion, then it obviously isnít an
option. However, simply because you can afford it does not mean it is
a good investment. For example, a business that sells a very
inexpensive product online that is counting on volumes of traffic may
not see a good return on their investment (again, 3 of the top 4
engines do not offer paid URL inclusion).
On the other hand, if your business has
a high average dollar sale and you put a high value on each quality
lead, you might consider immediate paid URL inclusion a no-brainer.
Do my pages change frequently?
If your web pages are subject to daily or weekly changes in content,
paid inclusion may offer some additional benefits. When your pages are
spidered frequently, all new content is indexed by the engine soon
after it is added to your pages. This means that your pages will begin
to appear in searches for terms related to the new content much more
Are my important pages dynamically
Some search engine spiders have a problem finding and indexing pages
that are dynamically generated (such pages often have a question mark
somewhere in the URL). By paying to include the important pages of
your dynamically generated website, you can be sure that they are in
the engineís index, even if the "organic" spider would
never find them on its own.
Do I need a guarantee that my pages
will remain in the index?
Although it happens infrequently, one or more of your pages found by
the "organic" spider may be inadvertently dropped from an
engine at some point, usually to reappear within a month or two. This
can happen for a variety of technical reasons. However, using paid URL
inclusion guarantees that each of your pages will remain in the index
for a year (and if your pages are dropped, the support staff at the
search engine will work to put them back in as soon as possible).
Paid inclusion can be a valuable tool in the right set of
circumstances. However, many companies are able to consistently
maintain excellent search engine rankings without paying for a single
URL. Only a careful evaluation of your business, goals, and website
can help you to determine if it is the right option for your site.
Scott Buresh is managing
partner of Medium Blue
Internet Marketing. His articles have appeared in numerous publications,
including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs, DarwinMag, SiteProNews,
PromotionData, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue is an Atlanta
search engine optimization company that works with clients all over the