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Paid Inclusion : "The Fix Is In"
an offer you cannot refuse...

 6:46 am on Oct 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

What would seemingly be yet-another story for the more mainstream about paid inclusion - but check out the story at the end about the guy who declined on Inktomi's offer and found himself all but removed from the listings...

Business Week Online - Web Searches: The Fix Is In [businessweek.com]

After he demanded to know what happened, Spooner learned from Inktomi that his site contained editorial flaws that hurt his ranking. And he would have to become a paid-inclusion customer to learn what these flaws were. All this, while his pages remained well ranked on Google. "I lost a quarter of my traffic," says Spooner.



 4:24 pm on Oct 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

While reading this, the idea of "white pages" versus "yellow pages" kept coming to mind. Perhaps Google as white pages, as simple listing of the sites it knows about, and others as yellow pages where the guy with the biggest ad budget gets the most exposure, although most sites are listed in the fine print.


 8:54 pm on Oct 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey that's a good idea... Google already separetes the ads by colours and our minds instantly know its not the main listings, would it kill the other engines to change the background color on the paid listings (not that they have any legal motivation right now).


 4:45 am on Oct 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

Interesting article, thanks for pointing it out.

When you do a search on the name of the "victim's" website Ink doesn't list it until position #16. However, his site is heavy on the JS and Image Maps, and pretty short on content. I can see why his website dropped in the serps, although Ink should be capable enough to show his site in the top when you're actually searching for it. Ask Jeeves and Google place it in first place, AV has it in spot#2.

The obvious question: Is Inktomi incapable of doing a simple search or did they penalize the guy?

The trouble is, if paid inclusions are hidden, readers could grow to dismiss Internet search as nothing but a pile of ads.

It's getting there, isn't it.

By adhering to it's mission of providing relevant results Google is in the forefront again- hurray for Google! Some other folks are letting their pursuit of greater profits color their vision. Tsk, tsk.


 2:41 pm on Oct 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Its fun at SES to listen to all the reps say there is no ranking advantage to paid inclusion.

Gets a little old hearing the engines that offer these services telling us how its all in the interest of providing better search results.

....and Ink offered $0.10/click - some definite advantages to going straight to Ink. How long till they dump/swallow the remaining resellers and start optimizing feeds for their own engines?

Another reason to stick with Google.


 3:05 pm on Oct 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

But what are the chances that Google would give a search rank bonus to sites returning the best click rates on AdSense? It'd make sense to feed Google-users the sites and pages that make Google the most money. I don't know the techy things or if an addition to the search algorithm of this sort would be detectable. But is it probable, or inevitable?

And in my paranoic scheme I could see the verbiage coming to something like, "Sites that efficiently deliver content and services to the user naturally rise to the top. There's no difference if users click on an ad-link or a page-link just as long as they get what they want as easily as possible."

The Cricketer

 3:10 pm on Oct 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

The trouble is, if paid inclusions are hidden, readers could grow to dismiss Internet search as nothing but a pile of ads.

or it could read...

The trouble is, if paid inclusions are visible, readers could grow to dismiss Internet search as nothing but a pile of ads.

...either way, with the increased rush towards paid inclusion, and mixed results, it could put more and more strain on the time of the searcher. Even Google's sponsored listings at the top of SERPs can make the user believe that they are 'normal' unpaid listings.

And yep the rankings of the little company will suffer I'm sure...


 3:22 pm on Oct 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

It'd make sense to feed Google-users the sites and pages that make Google the most money.

For the short-term it would make money, for the long-term it would be a disaster to Google. IMHO Google tries to provide the best results and then tries to make money. This is one reason why they have such a favorable view in the public eye (don't forget IPO).

Other companies (cough) Inktomi, have less relevant results because they first try to make money and then worry about results.


 5:16 pm on Oct 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think INK is honest and doesn't fix the results. At least that is my experience.

About 2 years ago, I bought a bunch of PositionTech INK listings as I was expanding my site and I wanted to test the new pages I was putting up. The contract was for 1 year. I got top rankings on competitive terms, #1 or #2 in many cases, due to redesign of my page internals.

When my PositionTech INK contract was up for renewal I was curious if I could stop the Paid Inclusion and maintain my rankings. I read up about others experience here at WebmasterWorld, and concluded that dropping out of Paid Inclusion was safe.

Here now a year after stopping paid inclusion, I still have the same rankings for my competitive keywords. Occasionally things move up or down a postion or two as you would expect with any search engine. But in no way have I been penalized by dropping out of INK's paid inclusion system.

When INK upgraded their system about a year ago, it was a big improvement, and I have been quite pleased with it.

The BWOnline story mentions Rob Spooner's site dropping in the rankings late last year. Speculation: its possible that his site dropped in rankings due to the INK changeover to their new database and search algo last fall.

The BWOnline story also mentioned the Lamps plus guy couldn't understand why he wasn't at the top of MSN. We'll under the current MSN system, you have to buy your way to the top through Looksmart. That's the way MSN is today - a hybrid of a directory and a search engine. That doesn't mean the search engine restults are tainted. Its just a different setup than Google.


 11:58 pm on Oct 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Once an engine has money from a one time paid inclusion fee, there is not much motivation to bump those pages up in the rankings, however, when they get paid by the click and only by the click it might be a little different.


 3:28 am on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

PPC based PFI ia an oxymoron. You aren't paying for inclusion, you are paying for visitors.


 3:39 am on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

You aren't paying for inclusion, you are paying for visitors.

Well yes and no.

It's like those clip joints, the massage parlors and encounter studios of the seventies:
The asking price is $75. The guy thinks, "Whoa, that's a lot of money." So he asks the sassy French girl collecting the money, "So, what do I get for my $75?"

The French woman knits her brows and squints at him, obviously displeased as if she thought he should have been smarter than that. She says, "If YOU, are in a private room weeth a pretty young girl and don't know what to do... THAT is your problem."

Of course, the $75 is slapped on the counter faster than you can say "Raised Expectations."

Unfortunately when our hero reaches the room he discovers it's not so private and the pretty young girl isn't as... willing, as he had hoped. But she tells him that they have a special room in the back, and for a hundred dollars more... And it starts all over again.

Same thing with PFI: You aren't guaranteed to receive what you expected to get. You were never guaranted. PFI is a little more explicit. You're just going to get spidered more often, that's all.


 5:01 am on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

With a feed, the French woman doesn't charge the guy at the front desk. He gets a free pass to the back room and gets to pick out a selection of potential suitors.

He only pays if one of his selections gives him what he wants. While there are no guarantees, the business wants to maximize revenue and keep the customers coming back.

The folks that pay as they go like this often tend to get better treatment than those who buy a one time VIP card and have no additional revenue potential.


 1:05 pm on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think INK is honest and doesn't fix the results.

I think that there are many members here who utilize the Inktomi XML feed, myself included, that will strongly disagree with you.

Fix, maybe not. Give a lot more weight to the CPC XML feed customers? Absolutely.

If you want proof, there is plenty.


 1:08 pm on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

The folks that pay as they go like this often tend to get better treatment than those who buy a one time VIP card and have no additional revenue potential

Well - you guys seem to know a lot about marketing in the "french girl business" - thanks for sharing... :-D


 1:16 pm on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

"Yesterdays spam is todays Trusted Feed." (-WebG [webmasterworld.com])


 1:21 pm on Oct 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

>I think that there are many members here who utilize the Inktomi XML feed, myself included, that will strongly disagree with you...

I was one of the ones interviewed. Enough said? However, I have to say the AJ/Teoma feed beats INK hands-down for "no advantage" ;)

Pleased to say, the author also lurks here - but then, who doesn't!


 4:26 am on Oct 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

I did a search for green sleeping bag and all the links are about or mention green sleeping bags. Maybe I'm dumb.


 7:09 am on Oct 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

For me, the only real surprise was this comment:
Indeed, out of 20 advertisers and online marketing pros interviewed by BusinessWeek, 10 had experienced firsthand a boost in search-engine rankings when they signed up for paid inclusion.

Well, er der! Why the heck would you do Paid Inclusion if your rankings didn't go up? My big question is: What is wrong with the other 10 Advertisers? They must develop some pretty awful feeds!

Also, the word "rankings" is misleading. Rankings for what? Do they mean words tehy already ranked for they now ranked better for? Or is a better word "traffic", as in they got more traffic.

The classic example of the latter is a job site. Jobs only last, in some cases, hours. So, if those that last more than a day are indexed, surely traffic will increase, even if most jobs only get one or two clicks, that is one or two more clicks than they would otherwise have got.

[edited by: Woz at 12:56 pm (utc) on Oct. 10, 2003]
[edit reason] spelling [/edit]


 5:37 pm on Oct 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

If Inktomi was smart they would price inclusion on a CPA basis. Paid inclusion is just another form of online advertising. The trend in online advertising is moving towards CPA based pricing (branding campaign withstanding). If I as an Advertiser am paying $0.25 per click each time one of my included URL's is clicked on and after a 100,000 clicks (i.e. $25,000) only generated $50,000 in sales from those clicks, then my CPA rate is 50%. If the 50% CPA is within my ROAS goals then I should continue to leverage paid inclusion, however, if it is not then I should consider allocating my budget elsewhere.

Here is what I would like to see happen.

Every Advertiser opens up a Commission Junction affiliate program and establishes a target CPA rate. Inktomi joins every Advertiser affiliate program at an agreed upon CPA rate. Inktomi then takes all of the Advertisers URLs which include CJ tracking and submits them to the search engines. Whenever an included URL via a natural search is clicked on it can then be tracked to conversion via CJ. If and when sales/leads takes place Inktomi is then paid a commission. Inktomi optimizes included URLs based on conversion which implies a high level of relevency. Net results is search engine get high relevent URLs, Inktomi gets $, and Advertisers get advertising on a CPA basis.

Am I off base here or does this make some sense? I am not sure and I would like to know what other people think.


 2:53 am on Oct 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

With inktomi, I'm paying to get indexed/reindexed faster. I'll be glad to see looksmart listings gone from msn, they are often quite irrelevant or out of date, imho.


 3:26 am on Oct 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>With inktomi, I'm paying to get indexed/reindexed faster.

That depends on which program you are talking about. If you are using Ink's Search Submit product, then yes you are paying for indexing. If you are using Index Connect, then you are not paying for indexing. They can refresh your listings every 10 minutes, but you don't pay a dime unless someone clicks on the listings.

In order for Ink to make money, they must send you a visitor. In order for them to send you a visitor, the listing must show up where the potential visitor will find it.

So the real question is should search engines be required to disclose all listings that they receive direct compensation for?

jeremy goodrich

 5:05 am on Oct 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

>So the real question is should search engines be required to disclose all listings that they receive direct compensation for?

Seems like this was the gist of the whole (in the USA) FTC thing & search engine advertising so long ago...in some ways, I think a few members of my family only continue to use Google because they *know* which links are ads & which aren't.

Anybody in their right mind, when designing a CPC system where they got paid per click, would put the pages at the top (or near) that they were getting paid for on the click. Else, why offer the program, as it would just create extra overhead & potentially never yeild a dime?


 6:02 pm on Oct 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well...We just joined the list of Inktomi's lost websites.
We did a paid submission with Position Tech several months ago and immediately were in the top 5 for scores of 2-3 keyword related searches on MSN. Solidly always in the top 10 for the single word search for our specific business. I could tweak a couple of my keywords for timely topics related to my topic and see the results up or down within a day or two, as the site would get re-spidered.

About a week ago our site just about completely disappeared from MSN. I think we're somewhere in high 100s for the single word search and in the 60-80s for just about all multiple keyword searches. We haven't touched the site in weeks and we've never implemented any spam techniques like several other related sites we've seen come and go.

How we can go from solidly in the top ten for dozens of multiple keyword searches, to "un-findable" (if that's a word), is beyond me.

Luckily MSN has always generated a minimal amount of our overall traffic, so it's not completely disasterous, but it makes a guy scratch his head.

We currently and always have had solid standings on Google, other than the odd spam site coming and going and minor shuffling.

I emailed PT 4-5 days ago, but haven't heard back from them. Has anyone had any luck on contacting anyone that can shed some light on what's going on and how to remedy things?



 12:58 pm on Oct 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Interesting idea, and if you have a look at AOL shopping UK, you will see that this is what they do. (Pangora)On top of that, they work out which clicks earn them the most money, and that rises to the top. The problem is, that the companies with the biggest pockets, and the most related products rise to the top, and this in reality restricts choice.
for example, lets say you search for widgets.
on google, you get a list of companies who suppely widgets. (ideally)
On AOL shopping, you get all the widgets that the best paying client sells. red, green pink. The fact that they sell fashion ones and you want traditional ones is beside the point. In this case, fashion and traditional are not phrases optimised for, so if you search for traditional red widgets, you get no results....
Now if they took the info off the page, insead of a database...


 4:32 pm on Oct 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

"Seems like this was the gist of the whole (in the USA) FTC thing & search engine advertising so long ago...in some ways, I think a few members of my family only continue to use Google because they *know* which links are ads & which aren't. "

I'd like to comment on this and similar views. I believe there is a distinct way to circumvent Google's relevancy using affiliate marketing. While researching a phone on Google today I searched this phrase: "<snip>" If you do the same you'll find that 8 of the first 10 listings are to Amazon affiliates. This is true in many, many product categories. Amazon knows that they don't have to do anything to spam the SE's, all they have to do is continue building their affiliate program and make it as attractive as possible for their affiliates. The affiliates in turn do all of the SE placement. It may not be Paid Inclusion but it's definitely a form of advertising.

[edited by: WebGuerrilla at 4:41 pm (utc) on Oct. 13, 2003]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]


 2:16 pm on Oct 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, I had a couple sites drop out of inktomi, and they kept telling me they couldn't tell me why, so it kinda makes me mad they would say some would have to pay for inclusion to find out what was wrong when they wouldn't give me a clue, and after many, many emails, I finally got someone who sent me the paragraph about them not liking affiliate websites. Every site I have listed in Inktomi is an affiliate website, as I suspect many of the users sites here at webmasterworld, I mean, if you're not going to make money from it, why pay for inclusion? I understand merchant sites, etc should be listed, but why not list affiliate sites and continue to rake in the money? Me, I'm letting all of my stuff in Inktomi die.


 6:51 pm on Oct 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

it seems to me that ink does not fix stuff, but overture seems to, which thus also appears on MSN. I have overture listing for a particular phrase, and also used to show up at overture/msn for this phrase at number 7. recently, my PFI listing has disappeared from msn/overture, but is still showing up at the same spot at PTI's direct results from inktomi....

things that make you go hmmm...

anybody care to comment on what has happened to me...offer suggestions?


 7:06 pm on Oct 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

I understand merchant sites, etc should be listed, but why not list affiliate sites...?

Inktomi does list affiliate sites. Here is what Inktomi says [inktomi.com] about affiliate sites:

The only way is to create a great site rich in original (not copied) content, which in and of itself offers a great value to the user. This usually resembles a "labor of love" and is difficult to do on a large scale. Some affiliates cut corners or make cookie-cutter sites; we do not want such sites in the index.


 7:30 pm on Oct 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Excuse me if I go on about this, but this a topic which has been on my s*-list for ages!
I for one can definitely vouch for the penalty from Ink for declining the for-pay listing. In fact I'VE been vocally complaining about the same thing for MONTHS! The EXACT same thing happened to us. We were in the #1 position of Ink for years, shoot, we've been around longer than Ink. Then when they switched and asked us to pay we declined, figuring we were already highly listed we should stay SOMEWHERE in the index (they wouldn't actually REMOVE listings because they didn't pay would they?). We TOTALLY vanished from the listings within 2 months, even though our site is in the top 10-20 on every other search engine. We finally decided in May 2003 it might be worth the bucks just to get back in and registered through NetSol one of their resellers (because we weren't rich enough to spend $5000 month or whatever and actually get to talk to one of THEIR own customer service reps.)
We got re-indexed alright, but we can STILL to this day, only be found by typing in our actual URL or .com domain name! And I'm talking "non-keyword-domain-name.com", not even "non-keyword-domain-name" I don't even think this fits the definition of indexing, since if someone already KNOWS our URL what would be the use of searching for it!
I just now searched for the entire first sentence, in quotes, from their own listed description (obtained when I search on the domain name) and could not find our page in the top 100. I can sometimes get it to come up on the first page of results if I search on an entire paragraph from the page quoted. It's like it has a PR-100. 4 hits (3 my own, and 1 from someone grossly misspelling an obscure word that happens to be on the page) in one week from Ink, for an otherwise 12,000 visitor a week site (from the other search engines) is not even worth the submission fee!
We have never, in the domain's history, practiced SE spam tactics (there was no need to when we started) and never done anything to get us penalized anywhere else.
Ink of course won't even TALK to us, since we don't spend $5000+/ month. NetSol, who we bought the submission through doesn't even pretend to have a clue about penalties and only checks to see that you have indeed been accepted according to their database, before insisted in writing that there are no penalties whatsoever, and of course "guarantee only indexing, not position... yada, yada"
I have already written NetSol and told them we will never renew. and will probably be tranferring our 50+ domains to another registrar.

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