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Pay Search Engines For Placement?
By Jill Whalen - February 09, 2001 (From the Rank Write Roundtable Newsletter)

~~~High Search Engine Rankings~~~

From: Mary Ellen Shipley


I just joined your "Rank Write Roundtable," and I am trying to get our website to rank higher. I was told that the only way to do that is to pay the search engines themselves? Have you heard of this?

Mary Ellen

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Mary Ellen,

What a great, timely question! It seems that everywhere we turn these days, we are constantly hearing the phrase, "pay-for-placement." In fact, at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies conference in November, a guy sitting in front of Heather and me turned around and said, "If I hear the words 'pay-for-placement' one more time, I'm going to throw up!" (We backed up a little at that point...hehehe.)

There are a number of ways that the search engines and directories are collecting funds from people trying to get their Web sites to rank higher. However, the most important thing to note when discussing this topic is that any money you pay to any major engine or directory (besides GoTo and a few others) goes solely towards getting your site into their database. That's it. You can pay them all you want, but it's not going to give you a higher ranking. Remember this before you give your hard earned money to any engine or directory. Right now if you have a business site, you HAVE to pay both Yahoo! and LookSmart for the privilege of having them even consider your site for inclusion. With LookSmart, ANY site has to pay. It doesn't even matter if it's a business Web site or not. Once considered, they will add your site if they believe it's worthy, and they won't if they don't. Either way, they keep the money (usually $199). They hold all the cards and you are pretty much at their mercy. With that said, both Yahoo! and LookSmart are pretty good about adding most sites they receive this way. However, if they do decide that your site is up to their standards and add it to their database, you get absolutely no special treatment and no special high rankings. That part is up to you. In the case of directories, as we've discussed here before, it's up to you to be sure you submit an appropriate keyword-rich description that doesn't get edited too much. That's basically the only way you can hope to get a decent ranking in the directories. Once added, if you're not happy with the description they give you, you may appeal and ask for a different one. After that, what you see is what you get. There's no way that I know of to manipulate how high your site will rank in a place like Yahoo! or LookSmart once the description is in place.

The other major pay-for-inclusion place right now is Inktomi's database. This is a bit different than Yahoo! and LookSmart, as Inktomi spiders the information on your actual Web site, as opposed to simply using the title and description that you submit to them. When you pay for the privilege of being in Inktomi's database, you are supposedly paying to ensure that Inktomi will spider your site every 48 hours. Again, paying their fee will *not* affect your RANKINGS in their databases. It will only ensure your page is listed. It could be top 10, it could be number 1 zillion and 12. It's still up to you to optimize your site using all of the goodies we tell you about each week.

HotBot, IWon,, MSN, NBCi, AOL and GoTo are some of the biggies that use Inktomi for some of their results. So yes, it's very important to have your site listed in their database. I personally have not used their paid system, and have continued to get sites listed by submitting them (for free) to It often takes a bunch of submissions, in that the site will be listed one week, then gone the next, but eventually, over time, the sites usually stick. Supposedly, Inktomi will be phasing out their free submission some time in the future. While it's still around, I'm still going to use it! You might be interested in knowing that there's been talk of Inktomi having a free listing penalty, which you can read more about at Search Engine Watch:

My sites have continued to do okay in most Inktomi databases without paying their spidering fee, so I'm personally holding off on trying it. (I have a fundamental problem with paying the engines to do something they should be doing anyway, but I also have to keep my client's best interests at heart. I'm sure I'll end up having to bite the bullets on this one some day soon. Right now, I'm waiting to see how things play out.) I've also heard stories on other discussion lists claiming that once someone has paid for one page of a site to be spidered by Inktomi, suddenly the rest of their pages are missing from the database. (The theory is that they want you to pay for the spidering of the other pages.) I have no idea if this is true or not, but I sure don't want to test it out! I would personally feel much better about Inktomi's paid program if you simply paid for the main page and then they automatically spidered through your entire site. If they did that, I would be more apt to consider using it.

Disney's Go search engine recently instituted a similar pay-for-spidering program, which I had also held off on trying. Good thing, too. As most of you probably have already heard, Go is GOing out of business any day now. Apparently they're offering refunds to anyone who tried their pay-for-spidering plan. So if you tried it, you might want to check with them on how to get your refund.

Besides the above pay-for-inclusion programs, we, of course, have the actual pay-for-rankings programs such as GoTo and Sprinks. In the past, I've never recommended GoTo for clients because I felt that "real people" weren't actually searching at their Web site. I believed that the only people using it were other webmasters trying to find the best words to use for their sites, etc. However, things at GoTo have changed considerably over the past few months, and they *may* be worth another look. GoTo has recently partnered with nearly all of the major search engines to provide some top of fold "sponsor" links. What this means is that if you have a top one, two or three listing with GoTo, you can be in a top spot on many of their partner engines. In most cases, these links are spelled out as sponsor or partner links (as they should be). What it also means is that it can be pretty expensive these days to get one of those top three spots. Again, I have a problem with paying for rankings, so I have never used GoTo. Some day I may if any client really wants it, but it still makes me squeamish for whatever reason. I also have an intuitive feeling that most people will eventually realize those top links are simply ads and will begin to ignore them just like we ignore banner ads. I personally will only click on actual results, but I know that I'm not your average Web surfer. There are a lot of "newbies" out there who don't know the difference between *real* links and *paid* links. Eventually, when there's no such thing as newbies, there will be another shake-up of these sponsor links, in my opinion.

All this talk about the dreaded "pay-for-placement" just shows that we live in exciting times! It's so wonderful to be a part of the Internet as it's growing and sorting itself out. I look forward to being able to one day tell my grandchildren how I was involved in the (commercial) Internet back in it's infancy. I'm sure it will be fun trying to explain search engine optimization to them, as it probably won't even exist at that point. It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next few years. Whatever happens, we are the lucky few who can say we were there from the beginning. Which makes each and every one of us special!


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