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The truth about 'paid-for' search (Part II)

The saga continues...
Written by Stefanie Olsen, Contributor

The saga continues...

Under pressure to stay afloat, web portals and search providers have caught on to Overture's formula in one way or another, by giving marketers multiple ways to buy into their pages and databases or by simply aligning with Overture. Online portal MSN, for example, provides a combination of paid listings from Overture, LookSmart and Inktomi on any given results page. AltaVista, a former high-flier in search and web services, joined the fray last year by turning search results into a revenue opportunity. In June 2001, the company started introducing programs for marketers to pay for faster web address submission. This year, it inked a deal with Overture to display pay-for-performance links next to its regular search results. Goodman, who runs Toronto-based Page Zero Media, said that many of his clients are more comfortable with pay-for-placement programs like those of Overture and Google, because the results are more clearly defined. Such search providers allow companies to bid for placement in listings related to certain keywords and pay only when visitors click on their links. With paid-inclusion programs, AltaVista and others allow companies such as Amazon.com to feed more than 1,000 web addresses into their database on a regular basis for a set price, with a cost-per-click fee included. Many times this cost-per-click fee is not disclosed upfront, but in notices buried on the site. "The whole thing is designed to be a bit squishy," said Goodman. "Saying they'll spider your pages every 48 hours is not going to make people fall over themselves to be updated. "The average corporation is confused enough (about search engine marketing) and if it's left as a gray area, assuming that they'll get higher indexing, then they're more likely to pay for it." Still, ask any paid-inclusion search provider, and they will tell you that the ranking is unaffected. "As is the case with other search engine inclusion programs, participation in AltaVista's inclusion programs simply guarantees frequent spidering and inclusion in the index--not position," said Hartzell. Stefanie Olsen writes for News.com
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