The Independent Search Engine and Directory Network (ISEDN), founded in June 2005, is an alliance of approximately 48 niche search engines and directories. The innovative feature of the ISEDN is that members have agreed to use a new “hybrid paid inclusion” advertising model that charges advertisers a flat fee in exchange for displaying their ads across the entire ISEDN for the keywords they purchase, rather than use the standard pay-per-click advertising model. Recently, I chatted with Mel Strocen, the founder of the ISEDN, to discuss the network.
Scott Buresh (SB): Before we get into the ISEDN, please tell us a bit about your background, and about the history of your company, Jayde Online.
Mel Strocen (MS): Jayde Online was named after the first website I launched in 1996, Jayde.com, a search engine and web directory which was initially little more than a hobby site. As traffic and interest in the site grew, it began to take up more and more of my time. In 1999, I quit my full-time job which was totally unrelated to the Net and partnered with a newsletter publisher in Kentucky to co-found the iEntry newsletter network.
Two years later I sold my interest in iEntry and began to build the Jayde Online Network of websites which now number 20 web properties.
Back then, I had some fairly fixed ideas as to what type of website would be successful. Some of those ideas were right on the mark and others bombed big-time. Ultimately, SiteProNews.com, ExactSeek.com and GoArticles.com became the cornerstone sites for the network.
SB: This new network is being billed as "an affordable search engine advertising alternative to Pay-Per-Click". How does this model differ from the PPC model?
MS: There are two major differences. The most obvious is cost. Pay-per-click can be expensive, even for site owners who set monthly spending limits and who buy very targeted keyword terms to reduce irrelevant traffic. The model being promoted by the Independent Search Engine & Directory Network (ISEDN) sells keyword terms for a one-time, flat fee. The intial cost is the only cost. For example, purchasing a single keyword term for 3 months in our model costs $12. It's doubtful anyone can buy a keyword term on any PPC engine that costs $4 per month. The reality is that the better keyword terms on PPC engines can cost $4 or more per click.
The second major difference is in the area of click-fraud. It may be an overstatement to say that click fraud is rampant on the major PPC engines, but it is significant, possibly comprising as much as 20% of all clicks.
In the ISEDN model there is simply no incentive for click fraud to occur. Hostile competitor sites could click on your ISEDN listing all day, every day, and it wouldn't cost you anymore than what you originally paid.
SB: How does this model differ from the discontinued pay-for-inclusion model previously offered by Inktomi and others?
MS: The biggest drawback to the old pay-for-inclusion programs offered by Inktomi and others was that paid site listings and free site listings were lumped together in giant databases with little to differentiate the two other than that paid listings were indexed more frequently. Site owners who bought listings in these programs received no preferential placement and consequently had no better chance of having their sites rank well than site owners who had free site listings.
In the ISEDN model, advertisers are guaranteed top 10 exposure for their website listings across the entire network of search engines and directories. This kind of premium placement is made possible by the fact that the number of times any keyword term can be purchased is limited and all paid inclusion listings are rotated in the SERPs (search engine result pages) throughout the network.
Surveys of searcher behavior have consistently shown that few searchers look at more than 30 search results for any given query. We based the ISEDN model on that behavior and limited the sale of any keyword term to 30. On ExactSeek.com we display 10 paid inclusion listings per SERP in Google-type ad boxes. The ad boxes rotate randomly on the page and between pages for every search of the keyword term. If a keyword term has been sold less than 10 times, the paid listing always appears on the first page of search results although not in the same position. If the keyword term has been sold more than 10 times then paid listings begin to rotate between the SERPs. The worst case scenario for an advertiser would be to own a sold out keyword term in which case the advertiser's ad would appear on the first page of results roughly once of every 3 searches on his keyword term.
The same principle applies to all ISEDN sites, although not all ISEDN member sites display paid inclusion listings in Google-type ad boxes or have the same number shown on a SERP.
SB: If each keyword is limited to 30 advertisers, couldn't the best keywords become "sold out" very quickly (leaving potential advertisers with less to choose from)?
MS: That depends on how you define "best keywords". Best for me might not be best for you even if we happen to be in the same industry. There are literally millions of keyword combinations available.
Also, because paid listings in our model are tied to a fixed time period of 3 or 12 months, many advertisers simply forget to renew their keywords and as a result hundreds of keyword terms become available on a continual basis. However, in the event that keyword availability ever does become a problem, we may have to look at changing some program parameters to accommodate demand.
SB: Are there any plans to syndicate results to non-member websites the way Google does with its ads?
MS: No specific plans at this time, but the idea has been discussed and is a logical extension of our current advertising model.
SB: Let’s turn now to the search engine users. How do they benefit from the ISEDN?
MS: I think the real benefit to searchers will be the realization that there are some great search and directory sites on the Web and that search is not just the majors like Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
In the longer term, I'm hoping that the ISEDN as an organization can act as a counter to the gradual monopolization of search on the Web by a few a big players with deep pockets.
SB: Approximately how many searches per month does the ISEDN currently process?
MS: We estimate that pay-for-inclusion listings are displayed approximately 120 million times per month across the network. Unfortunately, there simply hasn't been time to obtain exact information from the individual members in the few weeks since the ISEDN was founded and given its rapid growth (approximately 3 to 5 new members each week).
We expect members will begin to provide detailed search impression numbers in the near future at which time we'll be able to specify the network's overall search reach. Of course, that reach will grow as the ISEDN grows.
SB: What are your plans for this network in the future, and do you see it competing with the 'major' search engines?
MS: The network is really too new for me to speculate on how it might evolve. Although ExactSeek is the founding member of the ISEDN, it is only one member. I'm looking forward to sharing ideas and objectives with the other members. There are some very intelligent and talented people in the ISEDN who I believe will help determine exactly how the organization develops and evolves in the coming months.
Do I think the ISEDN can compete with the "major" engines? Absolutely. Certainly, that's true with respect to search engine marketing/advertising. And, although none of the individual members in the ISEDN may be able to compete with the majors in terms of search traffic, the ISEDN with 50, 75, or 100 members, can. Keep in mind that unlike Google or Yahoo, we don't need to funnel more and more traffic through a single entry point. All we need to do is sign up more members to aggregate more search traffic. In any case, we look forward to the challenge.
SB: Thank you for your time Mel, and best of luck with the ISEDN.
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Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue, which was recently named the number one search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.
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