In Yahoo Harms Trust in Search Engine, Dan Gillmor references a article that I cannot read (because I don't want their lame "free" registration) and claims that allowing companies to pay to make sure they're included in Yahoo! Search "makes it impossible for users to know whether companies are paying to be included in the results."

Dan, it's called "paid inclusion" and it's been around for quite a while. But you don't live and breathe search like John Battelle does, so I'll cut you some slack here.

Anyway, as a user, do I really care if the company paid or not?

If it was "paid rank" I might, but it's not.

Let's go back in a time a bit. Back to a time when the Yahoo! Directory was the way to find stuff on-line. It became so popular that everyone submitted their sites. The result, of course, was that there were too many submissions to handle in a timely fashion. It seems that around then someone got the idea that you could offer a priority queue for folks willing to pony up some extra cash.

Did that make users trust the Yahoo! directory any less? Beats me. But I suspect it had a very small impact.

Think about it this way. When you fly on an airline, you have the opportunity to pay more (Business Class, First Class) to eliminate some of the waiting and hassle. But you know what? When the plane gets to the other airport, and you're in the terminal, nobody knows if you arrived in First Class or not. I best most people don't care either.

Welcome to capitalism.

[Remember, these are my personal views and not those of my employer.]

Posted by jzawodn at March 01, 2004 11:47 PM

Reader Comments
# Josh Woodward said:

I'm suprised that anyone cares. The Y! directory is a dinosaur. The "paid inclusion" is part of the reason for that. My company isn't listed on it, because I'm sure as hell not going to fork over money to a single search engine to get my name listed.

If you had to pay to be listed on Google, there would be a mass freak-out.

on March 2, 2004 06:08 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Josh, you're on crack.

Paid inclusion isn't about *having* to pay it's about paying to insure that you're included. If you can't see the difference, I'm surprised.

on March 2, 2004 08:18 AM
# Nurullah Akkaya said:

i am not sure if i read this here or someother blog but someone gave an excelent example. if someone is poying to to include them in your database that means they are serious about what they are doing that means you wont get a 404 error after 2 weeks.
and as long as that paying for inclusion doesnt change their place on the result page..

on March 2, 2004 09:18 AM
# jr said:

I've got to admit that I was damn skeptical of the whole "Paid Inclusion" thing too, until I read up about it. ( is a really good site for research about stuff like this. These are folks that live or die by search rankings on major engines and have made it their job to understand how the search engines work.)

Paid Inclusion has zero effect on your ranking. It has minimal effect on the relevancy categorization (there is some concern regarding *how* PI is done, but I think that's still being hashed out).

Paid Inclusion will not mean that unpaid stuff drops out of the results. It does not mean that research facilities, universities, private blogs, and all the other places that normally get crawled will suddenly stop being crawled.

What Paid Inclusion does mean is that a site can pay to tell Yahoo! where and what to crawl. This may mean pages that wouldn't normally be crawled or are otherwise difficult for the crawler to get to. (e.g. if you're dumb and have a flash gateway page or javascript menus or something.)

That's it.
That's all.

If you want favoritism in the search results, that's what Overture is for. (Which is what AdWords copied anyway.) Besides, there are far easier ways for a company to commit suicide.

on March 2, 2004 09:32 AM
# Kev Spencer said:

And a certain Mr Tim Bray waxes lyrical on the subject here.

on March 2, 2004 02:19 PM
# Joseph Essas said:

I coudln't agree more. Especially, when you see comments from Larry Page in NY Times today: "Any time you accept money to influence results, even if it is just for inclusion, it's probably a bad thing".

I think it's funny, that Larry doesn't understand what PI is all about. But knowing Google, they will come around, and will copy that model, just as they copied Adwords from Overture, after saying for years, that they will not be accepting money from advertisers to show up higher in search results.

Wonders of capitalism...

on March 2, 2004 02:58 PM
# Mark Ayzenshtat said:

"[Google]...will copy that model, just as they copied Adwords from Overture, after saying for years, that they will not be accepting money from advertisers to show up higher in search results."

Just to clarify, AdWords does not affect placement in search results in any way. When you bid up an AdWord, you are only affecting your ad's position in the column of green or pink boxes (sponsored links) on the right-hand side of the results page.

Also, re: copying, let's not forget that the Yahoo search UI is basically a carbon-copy of the Google search UI. But, then, you weren't trying to be objective.

on March 2, 2004 06:57 PM
# Koz said:

While it's true that paid *inclusion* isn't such a disaster, it still affects the trust, I and other consumers, place in the yahoo search results.

While the suits may say "your results aren't affected", we have no way of auditing that. Being the internet cynics we are, we assume the worst and see yahoo's results ending up like's. Yahoo & Google's results for 'linux' are all pretty useful, now try that on overture... a full page of worthless ads.

As users, this is what we're afraid of with paid inclusion, perhaps we're blowing things way out of proportion but surely yahoo needs to ask, is the *perceived* loss of objectivity worth the money? What's the harm in marking the results? ...

on March 2, 2004 07:46 PM
# g said:

J, you're the one on crack, here.

If you must be to be included, then you "have" to pay to be included. If there's a difference, you've failed to articulate it.

Capitalism? Yes. But capitalism and paid incusion both SUCK, and neither are sustainable.

on March 2, 2004 08:24 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Who said payment is required?

on March 2, 2004 08:35 PM
# Xeed said:

I think the problem here is that this is such a big deal. It isn't.

All paid inclusion is for is this: If you have a company and you aren't currently searchable in yahoo, you fork over some money and get included, pretty quick I would imagine.

Problems could arise if, as stated before, a little more money could be forked over to make sure that your site was listed as number one.

Google's adwords aren't much different. Although I don't think the affect the order of the search results. Making the adwords look different from the search results is what shouts 'no foul play.'

Yahoo's controversy arises because it's not paid advertising, and as with google, it would appear the search engine's responsability to have a comprehensive listing.

on March 2, 2004 08:40 PM
# jb said:

> Paid inclusion isn't about *having* to pay it's
> about paying to insure that you're included. If
> you can't see the difference, I'm surprised.

You may want to phrase this a little better, because I for one have no idea what you're trying to say the difference is here.
Or does Yahoo! no longer index very many new sites unless they're paid to? If that were true then I could parse your statement...
Oh, and it's "ensure"...sorry. :)

on March 2, 2004 11:24 PM
# Fazal Majid said:

In the age of Enron, the perception of conflict of interest matters. Google has set the bar in terms of trustworthiness (whether this perception is accurate or not), and Yahoo, already lagging behind, is unwise to risk potentially tarnishing its brand image.

on March 3, 2004 10:35 AM
# Kevin Scaldeferri said:

Just to clarify, AdWords does not affect placement in search results in any way. When you bid up an AdWord, you are only affecting your ad's position in the column of green or pink boxes (sponsored links) on the right-hand side of the results page.

Except for when you're affecting your ad's position in the blue box above the algo. results, you mean?

on March 3, 2004 01:04 PM
# Yoki said:

So why would I pay for this when I can just get a PPC campaign set up and control exactly where I am? Everyone at Yahoo is saying that PFI sites won't get a boost in the rankings - so what's the point? At least with PPC you know where you are...

on March 3, 2004 02:24 PM
# Gen Kanai said:

I don't get the "warm fuzzies" knowing that "paid inclusion" is not identified in my searches on Yahoo.

A sterling reputation is critical for search. It is why MSN failed and they have to rebuild from scratch. Yahoo! may make short-term revenue from this program, but the longer-term damage to reputation is not worth the revenue. Welcome to Wall Street.

on March 3, 2004 05:46 PM
# Barry Schwartz said:

PFI + CPC, that might be a little extreme. I know PFI is not required. But if your doing PFI, you will have to do CPC too.

I am quoting someone else here but I liked the quote. So if you do a search on "major search engines" in altavista and you click on Yahoo. It will cost them 15 cents each time someone click on that link.

Listen, I am not taking sides. I feel its a major step on Yahoo!'s part. It will be interesting to see how MSN handles it when they come out with their engine in 3 years. Google will not do PFI, they are happy with AdWords.

Lets see...

By the way, look at this 4th paragraph down. ;)

on March 3, 2004 09:10 PM
# Ali Diab said:

No crawler in the world is perfect. Gaps exist in every crawler's coverage map.

To me, paid inclusion is an effective mechanism to overcome the gap that exists in crawler coverage.

I know of many high quality sites that aren't crawled for whatever reason that would like to be crawled, particularly smaller sites with few link relationships.

Paid inclusion is a great way for those sites to be guaranteed at least a look by the crawler. No one in his right mind would assume that you pay to get boosted. That's just plain stupid.

on March 4, 2004 01:04 PM
# jr said:

Well, for what it's worth, Yahoo! does offer free url submission for the crawler, to help find those pages that just aren't getting found. The difference with that and paid inclusion is that with the free submission tool, you're left at the mercy of what the crawler thinks is relevant stuff, just like other search engines.

Still, if you're not getting crawled at all, it's a good way to solve that problem.

on March 4, 2004 03:57 PM
# Ali Diab said:


Thanks for the clarification. I should have been more clear. The Free URL submission program you reference above is also a great way to get your site in front of the Y! crawler. Site Match is good if you want more frequent crawls of your site, as well as a guarantee that the site will be in the index.

Regardless of which program you decide to use, the consequence is the same: a more comprehensive and fresher set of search results than free crawl alone can provide. But just to be clear, free crawl still makes up the VAST majority of all Y! Search index URLs.


on March 4, 2004 07:41 PM
# aaron wall said:

The one part that I view as a negative is that sites which pay for inclusion get a review. This review rating may be used to aid the relevancy of the documents. Yahoo! stated that they also randomly review other documents in their database, but it still makes it seem questionable in that aspect.

In all reality though, this reviewed rating will surely only provide a small boost which can be easily offset by getting a few more quality inbound links.

The concept tastes bad though because it is a new business model which some people do not fully understand.

The facts that most people need to remember are that the paid inclusion was there before the cost per click model was added too it, and that Yahoo has earned the traffic it has. Yahoo can decide to use whatever algorithm it wants. If they are overly heavily commercially biased people will not want to use them. Many of my pages rank well without any paid inclusion.

on March 6, 2004 10:44 PM
# Mo said:

I think the Yahoo! paid inclusion services is unbeleivably expensive. I just haven't come across anyone who's paid Yahoo for an inclusion!

on September 12, 2004 12:47 AM
# Jeff Martin said:

Its been almost a year since this topic was started and there are still debates going on about paid inclusion. I dont think there is enough substantial reports from those using Y!s paid inclusion, that it has had a significant affect on their visibility.

With their hybrid pricing model Im wondering if Y! may have overcomplicated things for your non-experienced users.

on February 14, 2005 08:47 AM
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