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Paying for Inclusion in Directories and Search Engines

By Jill Whalen
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2004

It seems that everywhere we turn these days, we are constantly hearing the phrases pay-per-inclusion (PPI) and pay-per-click (PPC). There are now a number of ways that the search engines and directories are collecting funds from people trying to get their Web sites listed.

The most important thing to note when discussing this topic is that money spent on PPI programs goes solely towards getting your site into the search databases, and that's it. You can pay them all you want, but PPI is not going to give you a higher ranking. Remember this before you fork over your hard-earned money.

Paying for Directory Listings

If you have a business or any type of commercial site, you have to pay Yahoo! just to consider your site for inclusion. Once reviewed by their editors, they'll add your site only if they believe it's worthy, but keep the fee regardless. (Yahoo!'s review fee is currently $299 per year.) According to their Terms of Service (TOS), they hold all the cards and you are at their mercy. That said, Yahoo! is fairly good about adding most submitted PPI sites as long as you're not trying to deceive them somehow. (Deception includes, but is not limited to, submitting duplicate sites, doorway domains and other sites that add no value to their directory.)

Once an editor decides that your site is up to their standards and adds it to the database, you get no special treatment in the rankings department. This is why it's necessary to prepare a carefully crafted and extremely succinct keyword-rich description before you submit. If you're not happy with the description you end up with (they often change it), you should send in an email appeal detailing why their description is inaccurate. Depending on the scope of changes requested and the reasons behind them, they may or may not make your changes. After your one appeal, what you see is what you get. (It's possible that with Yahoo!'s new annual-fee program you will be given a chance to edit your listing at renewal time. This wasn't laid out very clearly in their current TOS the last time I checked.)

As far as your rankings go, it appears that the more popular a site is on the Internet in general, the better chance it has for a high ranking in Yahoo! also. So once again, it's important to make your site the best it can be! (Please also read my article "Submitting to Directories" for more information on this.)

With the LookSmart directory, the situation is even more convoluted. In fact, their latest change to a combination of PPI and PPC is so outrageous that I don't recommend submitting to them at all anymore. With their new business model, it doesn't appear that many sites will see a worthwhile return on investment from them at this time. Plus, LookSmart has a habit of changing their terms of service any time they feel like it, and therefore can (and do) take your money and add your site, then remove it at a later date. If all that isn't bad enough, their clickthrough reporting does not appear to be accurate (at the time of this writing) when compared to actual server log statistics, and therefore it's possible that you'd pay for clicks you never actually received from them. All of these things add up to a company that I personally want nothing to do with. Don't take my word for it, however; please take a look at their product offerings and decide if it makes sense for your business. Just be sure to read their TOS very carefully, and remember the old adage, "buyer beware"!

The Open Directory (ODP aka DMOZ) does not offer a PPI program, and both business and non-business sites can be submitted for free. I know of no plans for a PPI program at this time.

Paying for Search Engine Listings

Along with directory PPI, nearly every spidering search engine has a PPI program in place (Lycos/FAST, AskJeeves/Teoma, AltaVista and all of the Inktomi-based engines). These programs ensure that specific pages within your site will be added to a search engine's database within a specified period of time (usually between 48 hours and seven days), and will also be respidered on a regular basis. Prices vary by engine and program from about $12 to $78 per URL for one year of inclusion.

Search engine PPI differs from directory PPI since the search engines gather the information from your actual Web page, as opposed to simply using the title and description that you submit to them. As with the directories, however, paying their fee will not affect your rankings in the results pages; it will ensure only that your page is somewhere in their database. It could be in the top ten, or it could be number one zillion and 12. It's up to you to optimize your site using all of the goodies I discuss in my search engine optimization articles and search engine marketing newsletter (High Rankings Advisor).

The good thing about these PPI programs is that your optimization efforts can be rewarded very quickly if you know what you're doing. It's a pleasure to be able to see the fruits of your labor in a mere 48 hours! These PPI programs also give you the opportunity of tweaking your page in hopes of improving your rankings.

Pay-Per-Click Ad Programs

Along with PPI programs, we also have PPC programs such as Overture, FindWhat and Sprinks. These programs are actually advertising campaigns, as opposed to traditional search engine optimization. You bid on certain keywords, and if you're among the top bidders, your ad will appear in the sponsored/featured section of many search engines and directories. Since many searchers believe these ads are actually relevant to their search, they can bring a lot of traffic. Even those who understand that they are ads may still click on them if they are highly relevant to their search query.

Google has its own unique PPC program called "AdWords Select." These ads appear along the right-hand side of the results pages. Bidding for keywords at Google is quite a bit different from programs such as Overture, although many of the basic principles remain the same. For more information on running a successful Google AdWords Select campaign, I recommend purchasing Andrew Goodman's special report entitled, "21 Techniques to Maximize Your Profits on Google AdWords Select."

The downside to PPC programs is that you'll need to spend a lot of time managing your bids to ensure that you're getting the best possible click price. It's also worth mentioning that once you stop paying for PPC keywords, your site will no longer be shown in the sponsored/featured listings, and you'll lose all your PPC traffic. Because of this, if you do choose to go the PPC route, you may also want to optimize your pages to appear in the "regular" results. This way if the expense of managing your PPC campaign is too high, you'll have your regular listings to fall back on.

About the Author
Contact Jill Whalen by e-mail at

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.


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