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Search engines-To pay or not no pay?

By David Bell
Posted Monday, October 18, 2004

While the Web is still a great place for free advertising and promotion, there are some times that you simply have to put out... money, that is.I hear a lot of whining about how the Internet is meant to be FREE. Why should we have to pay to be listed on a search engine? The answer is simple. Money.Not your money. The search engine's money. As in payroll, rent, servers, insurance, computers and so on.

Do the math. Assume it takes even as little as 3 minutes to process a site submission. That means an average employee can review at most 20 sites each hour. Or only 160 sites each day.

Let's pretend that Yahoo! only gets 200,000 submissions per day. That would require 1,250 employees just to keep up with the reviews, not counting supervisors, managers, support staff and all of the other needs that 1,250 employees would have.

That only takes care of the new submissions. What about all of the maintenance required to a database as large as theirs? URL changes. Dead links. Name changes.

So what it really comes down to is this: the people that say the Net should be "Free" really mean that it should be free to them, as in somebody else should pay for it.

Unless you want to wait a long time to start getting traffic from search engines, you are going to have to pay a few fees. Consider the following four directories and the solid value they offer in return for very reasonable fees.

Not being listed in LookSmart is like being the Invisible Man. Oops. I guess that should be the Invisible Person.
The reality is that LookSmart reaches a larger Internet audience than any other entity. Because they supply search results to such portals as CNN, MSN, Excite and AltaVista as well as through their own search site, LookSmart is able to expose your site to over 77% of the Internet population, or in round numbers, 58 million people. That's an impossible market penetration to ignore. If your site is non-commercial, you can submit your site for a listing at no charge. However, there is no guarantee as to when, or even if your site will get reviewed. If your site is commercial in nature, or if you want to get listed quickly in order to start your traffic flow, you have two options.

Option 1 allows you to submit for a review that is guaranteed to occur within 8 weeks. The fee is $99 US.
Option 2 costs $199 US and you are guaranteed to have your review within 48 hours. This is the fastest path you will find to long-term, free traffic as the fee is one time only.

These options do not guarantee that you will be listed in the LookSmart directory, but rather a guarantee that your site will be considered with the stated time frame. started the whole business of paid listings. Their model was unique when it launched. Site owners don't pay for listings - they pay for each visitor GoTo sends them as a result of the site's listing. When you set up an account on GoTo, you select as many keywords as you want that are relevant to your site and you enter the amount you will pay for each visitor. The more you pay, the higher you are listed in the results. Some keywords only cost two or three cents to be listed on the first page of results. Some are well over a dollar per visitor. The cost is determined by all of the people bidding for traffic through that keyword. In the past my advice has been to only bid enough to be on the first page of a search result. That way you were assured of getting a good flow of traffic without paying to be number one in that category. Times have changed and I now suggest that you bid to be in the top five results for your primary keywords. GoTo has begun supplying results for other search engines, but usually they are only supplying the first five results and the search engine then uses its own database to supply the remainder of the results. This makes it a better investment than ever before to have an active account at GoTo.

Yahoo! is just what you've always heard - the largest single concentration of web searchers on any search engine or directory. You'll have a very hard time building your e-empire without traffic from Yahoo!. The reality is that only a small percentage of free submissions even get looked at by a staff reviewer at Yahoo! - the volume is simply too massive to effectively deal with. You can keep taking your chances for success by submitting and waiting, submitting and waiting, submitting and... Or, you can pay the modest $199 US and be guaranteed that your site will be reviewed within 7 business days. If traffic is your goal, this is an offer that is too good to refuse. Again, paying the fee does not guarantee that you will actually be listed in Yahoo! but your chances are better than submitting and hoping.

Bay 9/Rocketlinks
Similar in structure to GoTo, Rocketlinks has been growing steadily over the past few months and is now generating good traffic flows for many search categories. It has grown so much that many site owners are reporting it as their lowest cost source of Pay For Performance traffic. Many very good keywords can be had for one or two cents per visitor. Rocketlinks has several new ways for you to participate:Home Page and Contest Page Featured Listings, Banner Bidding, Cost-Per-Click Banner Advertising, Email/Newsletter Auctions, Contest Sponsorship and Email Advertising. I hope this helps in your future marketing decisions.

About the Author
David Bell is Manager, Online Marketing, at ( , a leading Search Engine Optimization services firm and Advertising Agency.


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