Buying Your Way In - Part 2

Last week, we talked about a trend away from free search engine submissions. We pointed out that all of the major search engines had either pay-for-placement or pay-for-inclusion models in place. In some cases, you can literally buy your way into the top ten search results, a practice the FTC is not to happy about. In other cases, you can merely ensure that your advertisement is listed next to or above the primary search results.

As we noted in the previous article, a search engine submission budget can run in excess of a web site development budget. Here's a run down of the various payment plans for small to mid sized web sites, including our comments and recommendations for each service:

Plan: AltaVista Express Inclusion
Search Engines: AltaVista
What You Get: Ensures that your site is listed within 2 days.
Cost: $39
Our Thoughts: AltaVista is its own worst enemy when it comes to buying links. Their free submission is very fast (faster than most other search engines) and simple. However, if you are having difficulty getting your site listed with AltaVista, the Express Inclusion program is well worth the money.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Plan: Ask Jeeves Site Submit
Search Engines: Ask Jeeves and Teoma
What You Get: Inclusion into the database within 7 days for a period of 1 year.
Cost: $30
Our Thoughts: The market reach of these services is such that the Ask Jeeves Site Submit plan is not a necessity. That said, the $30 yearly fee is relatively short money. If you have the budget, do it. Otherwise, don't lose any sleep over it.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Plan: Google AdWords Select
Search Engines: Google, AOL Search and EarthLink
What You Get: An ad appears on the search results page.
Cost: You bid against other people on specific phrases and pay each time a person clicks your link.
Our Thoughts: Since Google rates sites predominantly on their popularity, new sites can have a hard time coming up in the Google search results. Consequently, AdWords is a great way for new sites to get on the first page of results. Additionally, AdWords allows you to target specific phrases. So, if it is absolutely essential that you come up in searches for certain words, AdWords is a great play. However, because you are bidding on words, expect stiff competition and high prices for popular phrases. Also, since AdWords is a fairly new service, expect competition for phrases (and prices) to increase over time.
Recommendation: Do it.

Plan: Looksmart Small Business Listings
Search Engines: Looksmart, MSN Search, Netscape Search and InfoSpace
What You Get: Inclusion in the LookSmart database.
Cost: $49 setup fee; $45 refundable deposit; $.15 per click
Our Thoughts: Looksmart gets you coming and going: you pay to get in and you pay for each click. Many will probably prefer the flat rate price because it eliminates the complicated and time consuming bidding process. If you believe the Looksmart marketing literature, however, they reach 77% of the market each month. Though I think this is a stretch, Looksmart, nevertheless, has quite a reach. Listing with Looksmart will get you onto some of the same sites as Overture does. However, there is no way to control your position in the results. As a result, you may want to choose one or the other and monitor your success with each account.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Plan: Lycos InSite Select
Search Engines: Lycos and AllTheWeb
What You Get: Inclusion in the index within 2 days.
Cost: $18/year
Our Thoughts: Again, the search engine is its own worst enemy since you can submit your site to Fast Search, which powers Lycos and AllTheWeb, for free. Since, collectively, these networks do not gain you a wide share of the market and submitting your for site for free is relatively quick and painless, there seems to be little reason to use the Lycos InSite Select service.
Recommendation: Skip it.

Plan: Overture Premium Listings
Search Engines: Overture, Yahoo, AltaVista, Ask, Lycos Network (including HotBot), MSN Search, Netscape Search and InfoSpace
What You Get: An ad appears on the search results page.
Cost: You bid against other people on specific phrases and pay each time a person clicks your link.
Our Thoughts: This is the search service that started the pay-for-placement model. It's long history in this market (relatively speaking) account for the number of sites which syndicate these ads. As a result, buying your way to the top with Overture will gain you the maximum exposure. However, since Overture has been around for awhile, it is already a very popular and pricey service. If, however, you can find a phrase that works for your business, one that is commonly searched for, and which is still pricy, then go for it. There is simply no other way to gain the exposure that Overture ads provide.
Recommendation: Do it.

Plan: Yahoo Express
Search Engines: Yahoo
What You Get: Your site is considered for inclusion within 7 days.
Cost: $299/year
Our Thoughts: Though tantamount to highway robbery, Yahoo Express is the only way for businesses to get listed in the business sections of the site. As Yahoo is one of the two most popular search services on the Internet, it is essential that your web site be listed with Yahoo. There are two exceptions, however. First, Yahoo places Overture's Premium Listings at the top of the page. If you are one of the top three bidders on the phrase being searched, your listing will appear regardless of whether or not you are in the Yahoo database. Second, Yahoo lists Google search results on the page. So, your site may come up in the "web page matches" section. However, if you are going to rely on this, you will want to ensure that you come on the first page. If your site doesn't appear on the first page, or if you have the budget, Yahoo Express is a necessity.
Recommendation: Do it.

Well, that's the highlights. We already have plans to post a follow article which provides a list of pages which still allow you to submit to the major search engines for free. These articles were merely meant to condense some of the marketing hype surrounding search engine submissions into an easily digestible form while providing some guidance to small to medium size businesses. We hope you put it to good use!

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