free html hit counter Paid Inclusion - John Battelle's Search Blog

Paid Inclusion

By - May 19, 2004

You’ve heard me raise this issue before, during the initial brouhaha over Yahoo’s announcement of paid search, which I tagged as something of a major PR bungle, coming as it did when the world was focused on search thanks to the SES show. Yesterday Danny Sullivan came out with a fine overview of the issue in his SEW newsletter. Watch this space. It is going to get more interesting, that much can be surmised.

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5 thoughts on “Paid Inclusion

  1. Paid inclusion is no worse than phone companies charging (through fees that are part of the monthly phone bill) for names to be included in the white pages.

    It is *without question* that PI does often improve relevancy; to say otherwise flies in the face of what we all know about the limitations of algorithms, the same algorithms that leave only 50% of searchers satisfied with the search results the major portals display for them.

    If PI is bad without even guaranteeing position, then PPC is very very bad, because it does, and because we all know a significant percentage of searchers don’t even know what’s organic and what’s paid.

  2. quino says:

    Pure paid inclusion is BAD, BAD, BAD — hence Yahoo’s compromise solution. Most search engine users are looking for INFORMATION, not products, and often they are best answered by no-commercial, hobby sites; sites that can’t pay to be included in the search engine index. So, if you apply a PI model, it can work well for commercial searches and commercial products, but not for info sites and searches, which are what really defines the Internet. And even for commercial searches, it can be argued that a higher spending on search engine promotion will affect directly final price, and so it’s contrary to the users’ best interest.

  3. Calling it “paid search” is certainly dumb from a PR point of view. Did Yahoo actually do that? (I really don’t remember.)

  4. Doh. I meant paid “inclusion”.

  5. Some notes from a paid inclusion apologist (me)…

    *In its current iteration, paid inclusion (PI) simply is not for everyone. PI providers have a responsibility to identify clients that are most likely to provide high-quality, targeted and relevant results to a search query. They also must optimize PI listings responsibly – i.e. product listings should be optimized for purchasing-related queries.

    *Search engines, on their own, have real limitations, especially in accessing comprehensive and updated product availability and service information from deep or database-driven retail sites.

    *Properly conducted PI does not influence rankings; only the algorithms by which results are normally ranked for relevancy will influence position.

    *As recently mentioned by Kevin Lee on ClickZ, one of the side benefits of PI is that it can be used to counter spam, since legitimate advertisers will focus only on optimizing listings on results that convert – i.e. *relevant* results – while spammers will be outflanked by these legit advertisers. Witness the spam rate on Google results (no PI) vs. Yahoo results.

    Every search engine uses some form of inclusion techniques, pulling data from a variety of sources, including its portal content pages, its database of natural search results, and sponsored results or direct feeds from super retailers like Amazon or eBay. The question is not