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There seems to be 3 main view points when it comes to PFI:
1. AGAINST PFI - It's deceptive, gives unfair advantage to those that pay, and hurts overall relevancy.
2. NEITHER FOR NOR AGAINST - It does not impact the results one way or the other
3. FOR PFI - It helps make search results better by allowing otherwise non-indexable content to be indexed
I myself vote for option 1 - AGAINST PFI.
In my opinion, anyone who fully understands how PFI works (and is honest with themselves) has to admit that there are serious, fundamental flaws with the PFI model. I have worked very closely with many of the top search engines in the past to develop these programs, and have come to the conclusion that PFI is a fatally flawed model that is destined for extinction.
Here's my take on it: The end goal of a search engine is to build a thorough database of as many pages as they can, and to continually add more fresh content to keep it up to date. The goal of PFI is to make as much money as possible from people paying to have their sites "included" in that index.
I believe there is a serious, fundamental conflict of interest with these two end goals. Both cannot flourish at once. The more one goal is met, the more difficult the other goal becomes to acheive.
If a search engine was truly trying to build the best possible index, it would promptly and frequently crawl all urls for free, in order to keep their index fresh and complete. If they did that, however, there would be absolutely no incentive for anyone to pay to have their URL's included. PFI creates an incentive for the search engine to NOT spider the entire web... and to NOT continually add more and more fresh good content.
A long time ago, Inktomi was faced with an intersting dillemma (i was part of this discussion)... How do they spider the web for new content, but still make people feel the need to pay to be included. They dealt with this by spinning it such that you were paying to ensure "fast and frequent" spidering. In other words, the only way they can make it seem worhtwhile to pay, is to admit that their search engine is poor quality since it cannot go out and index the web quickly and often by itself.
(If they're smart, Yahoo will now recognize that Google is doing just that... they're indexing more and more of the web, and they're keeping it fresher and fresher over time. MSN is about to come out with their own spider and index soon... with Bill Gates vowing revenge on Google, do you think Microsoft has the resources to build a search engine that can spider and index the web and keep it fresh and up to date? (Hint: $50 Billion in cash).
Another main conflict of interest that Inktomi discovered a long time ago: What to do when someone with a 500 page website, full of good fresh content, submits just a few pages of the site? Well... if they were TRYING to build the best possible index, they would go ahead and crawl the rest of that site for free, to be sure they included that good content in their index for people to find. Of course... if they did that... they realized that this person would never again pay for another page of their site to be included!
So what did they decided to do? They decide to NOT index the rest of that good content... and rather decide to ignore it in the hopes that they can make a few extra bucks by forcing the webmaster to pay to have those pages included as well. This is a great example of choosing short term money over the best interest of their search engine users.
One more example of what makes PFI such a terrible model: What to do when someone who ALREADY has 500 pages of content in the Inktomi dbase, but submits one of their pages. Yer gonna love this one... they decide that since you've proven your willingness to pay for inclusion, we'll just go ahead and pull the other 499 pages from our index... in the hopes that you'll pay for all those too. This is the most dramatic example of how willing Inktomi is to sacrifice good quality content in order to make a fast buck. I know for a fact this was their policy up until awhile ago... and i have no reason to believe this policy has changed.
This is not to mention the issue of "Trusted Feeds" that allow PFI firms the ability to create cloaked doorway pages and manipulate the search results such that their feeds rank higher. Even proponents of these types of feeds in this forum admit that these "Trusted Feeds" can acheive higher ranks if the company preparing them optimizes them correctly. How is that fair?
Final point: if the average user knew that the results in the main body of MSN were influenced by money, they would be surprised. I always ask friends and family and they always seem surprised to hear that. Ralph Nader even filed a complaint claiming PFI was "deceptive advertising". PFI operates in the shadows. The engines know that its a concept that few people understand enough to be appalled by. However, the more savvy people get as time goes on, the more offended they are at the concept.
It may sound like i am bashing Inktomi/Yahoo. I am not. In fact, I very much applaud Yahoo for the recent changes and congratulate them on a great new index. It's merely my desire to see a healthy variety of high quality search engines, competing with each other for the best product, that makes me so against the concept of PFI. Yahoo simply CANNOT compete with Google in the long run with a PFI-based search engine that lacks the type of fresh, thorough content that Google strives for month after month (even if they are a bit goofed up right now :)
So there's my explanation of why i vote #1 - Against PFI.
What's your vote?
[edited by: TrafficL at 6:34 am (utc) on Feb. 20, 2004]
PFI has been around for years and is causing a bit of a stink currently because of the CPC element of the Yahoo model.
Effectively, this rules many people out of using their new form of page PFI as the costs can be prohibitive.
PFI is and will continue to be a highly effective way of getting normally difficult to index content indexed quickly and updated regularly. Provided it is subject to an algo which regards the merits of good free pages and PFI data with equality then it can be a very good way of maintaining fresh results for users. Of course, because of the frequency of updates, users of PFI have an advantage over those not using it as far as optimising their pages is concerned. With Yahoo! Search this appears to go further, with feedback from the search engine to their paying customers. Lack of which was something that was a major complaint previously. But, if PFI clients don't use these services or fail to adjust their pages, they will probably remain in the dumps.
When MSN dropped LookSmart, the majority of people seemed to comment that their results were a lot better. Not that they were swamped with PFI.
Provided editorial review is strict (and over the past few weeks - it has become very strict - note the people moaning about their PFI pages being demoted to the bottom of the pile) and algo integrity is maintained (yet to be seen) - then PFI should be good for both surfers, users of PFI and search engines.
Slip on any of those areas, particularly on failing to satisfy surfers - which can only be done by regular and frequent free crawls for the vast majority of sites - both commercial and informative - and it will fail.
Don't take from this that I am blindly willing to fall into line with the new Yahoo! Search. I, for one, am looking very seriously to see where it can and where it may not work. The likelihood of me using PFI for smaller clients now is almost none - whereas previously it was part of my standard process. Feeds will continue as previously (depending on the CPC rate). So, if anything, I am likely to spend many tens of thousands less on PFI than I did previously. It just doesn't make current economic sense for any international sites I deal with - and, of course, it has no effect on results in the UK where they will probably bring in a similar model at a rate almost double that in the US - if Overture UK prices are anything to go on.
But is PFI evil? No, IMO! Only the way it is used by search engines who allow it can determine that.
I do see a new business model whereby SEM companies optimise for relevant traffic and charge clients for these - taking the risk of a client being charged for useless clicks out of the equation!
"To be clear, Lanzone said that the company will still allow site operators to pay to submit their sites to its index, but that that payment would not guarantee inclusion in the database."
How do people rationalize that?
"Yahoo's vice president of Web search, Tim Cadogan, said the company's commercial relationships with paid inclusion customers will not influence its search results. Rather, it will keep an "iron wall" between those relationships and the billions of Web documents it indexes regularly, governed by its relevancy ranking and quality controls in place"
To a large degree, TrafficL, your sound message on Trusted Feed is getting lost when you simplify your argument into a PFI only consideration. Clearly these are seperate issues.
Reason given...save your money for something better. You are more likely to get penalized. Once a paid customer forget about free crawling from the engine in question forever. Not to mention that your listing will (in most cases) prove worthless. I am yet to see any visitor clicking from a paid listing i took via Position Tech.
That’s for a site which normally rank well and appears on 2nd or 3rd SERPs with other search engine.
$25-$35 per URL, yeah….right, what waist of money. I would have been better off spending that money with Adwords (full stop).
I can't trust search engines not to add favour to inclusion.
I wanted to comment that I had the same experience as you only it was through using PFI. You said this:
I had my website ranking 1,2,3,5,& 8 with my major search terms and then I signed up with Overture PPC.
Two days later (2/27/2004) all my free listings with Overtures partners (Yahoo, MSN, etc.) disappeared. I couldn't even find my web site typing in my URL, much less my search terms.
I sent an email to the sales rep (Friday 2/27/2004 late night)at Overture and told him I knew what they had done, and they I wanted my well earned "status" back or I would contact the FCC, FTC, or whoever it took to get results.
The sales rep had told me he came on duty at 1:30 pm Mon-Fri.
All my "free site listings" showed back up the following Monday afternoon (3/1/04) at every one of Overture's partner search engines.
I received emails trying to sooth me (sucking up)and was given credit for the $149 sign up fee I paid. (He gave me a $50 discount in the beginning.)
I cannot be the only small business they have done this to. Start testing them.
Can you say who you contacted? I want my free listings that were in yahoo back again. They are lost for 2 domains that I submitted 2 pages on. Both previously had 500 pages each in yahoo. I am not sure who to even contact since I never get responses from PFI.
If anyone can comment on this situation (where you submitted to PFI since the overture/yahoo situation and then lost your listings that were free in yahoo (and maybe msn too) that would be very helpful. I would also appreciate a contact number or email. I also noticed when inktomi had those 4000 errors these 2 domains were back in yahoo!
After listing with Adwords, even typing in http:/www.mydomainname.com I received the original message my hosting company posted "saying to upload my site via and FTP program".
That cannot be a coincedence at all. That web page info hasn't been displayed in months. Not since I uploaded my site and submitted with all search engines through a third party company.
SE's talk about relevance. That is a joke. Just type in any search term to locate a website related and you get about 90% of irrelavent sites, mostly directories that have nothing to do with where adn what you are looking for.
I predict Bill Gates will change the landscape and make a search engine useful to real people.
I hear alot of my friends and customers say they don't use the web much anymore because you can't find what you are looking for.
Why can't you put in a specific search term for a specfic area without getting thousands or hundreds of thousands of "matches"?