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E-Marketing Performance Blog

Pay-Per-Click vs. Pay-For-Inclusion

Primary Search Engine Models

There is a lot of confusion lately about the different search engine models and how each model works. There are three primary search engine models and while each of these models is unique, most search engines utilize one or more of these models in generating results. These three models are: Free-Inclusion, Pay-for-Inclusion (PFI), and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) also known as Pay-for-Placement (PFP).

Free-Inclusion
The free-inclusion model is a dying breed. Most search engines started out with the free-inclusion model back when everybody believed that the internet should be free. Unfortunately, the cost of providing that information to consumers is not. The free-Inclusion model basically allowed you to submit your site and within a couple of weeks the site would be included in that search engine’s index of web pages. Many of the early searchh engines offering this model have either gone bankrupt or began supplementing their free-inclusion services by adding PPC and/or PFI services. In doing so, they also made their free-inclusion service a bit more unattractive by extending the time it takes to be included.

Pay-Per-Click
Many search engines are jumping on the PPC bandwagon made popular by Overture (formerly GoTo). In fact, many of the “sponsored sites” results that you see in the major search engines are results fed directly from Overture through partnership arrangements. The PPC model basically allows the highest bidder to receive the top ranking. If you want the top position then you merely have to outbid everybody else. You are ultimately not paying for the ranking itself, but rather you are paying your bid amount each time somebody clicks on your link. The more clicks you get the more you pay.

Pay-For-Inclusion
The third model is pay-for-inclusion. With this model you pay to have your site and/or webpage listed in the search directory or database. If you submit to a directory such as Yahoo, you pay a larger fee to be included in their results. If you are submitting to a search database such as Inktomi, you pay for each page you want included in the database, with a promise that the search engine spider will revisit that page on a set schedule. Here you don’t get an extra boost in ranking, however you do get the assurance that your page is included, will be revisited, and the opportunity to make constant adjustments to your pages and see the effects of those adjustments within a very short period of time.

As I mentioned earlier, many of the most popular search engines utilize one or more of these models in their search results. Google, which has prided itself in not charging site owners for inclusion, has recently rolled out their own pay-per-click program. These results are listed as paid advertisements on the right side of the results page. Google’s free-inclusion index still compiles their primary search results. Two of the early free-inclusion search engines have recently rolled out pay-for-inclusion program: AltaVista and Lycos. AltaVista still allows you to submit for free, and Lycos free submit must be done through their sister-engine, All The Web (Fast).

Pros and Cons

While the free-inclusion model is almost virtually dead, many have taken that as a sign that search engine optimization is no longer a viable way to advertise your site. This could not be further from the truth (more on this later). The semi-death of free-inclusion merely shows us that the search engines had to find ways to generate a profit before they wind up like Excite, InfoSeek, or NBCi, all now defunct.

What it also means is that you need to find the right strategy for you, and that strategy may include a combination of pay-per-click and pay-for-inclusion, the latter of which still requires professional site optimization. Lets look at some of the pros and cons:

Pay-Per-Click
One of the complaints I have heard about PPC is that it can get expensive. If you are in a highly competitive field with many websites fighting for that all important #1 position, you bet, it can get pretty darn expensive to compete. After all, if you are not in the top 3 results in Overture then your site wont’ be showing up with their PPC partners such as Yahoo, AOL, AltaVista, Lycos, or Netscape. And with Overture having such high-profile partners, those top 3 positions tend to cost much more than even a number 4 or 5 position.

Another problem with pay-per-click is you can quickly be outbid by a competitor. Say you just increased your bid to gain the #1 position. By doing so you bumped somebody else into a #4 position. The next day that #4 ranked site owner checks his bids and knowing that #4 doesn’t get them in Yahoo, they outbid you for the #1 spot. You’re now #2. On day three that happens again, and again, and by day four you are in the #4 position The cycle then begins again.

Add to the mix bidding programs that closely monitor your bids for you and make automated adjustments whenever you get bumped. That keeps you up top, except somebody else has the same program doing the same thing. So instead of the getting bumped out of the top 3 in a few days, you’re bumped in a few hours. As the cycle continues you can quickly find you are paying way more than you can afford for each click.

On the positive side, you can look for less competitive terms which to bid. These terms don’t get as many hits as the highly competitive terms, however you pay far less (sometimes up to $3 or $4 less) for each click. PPC also lets you run temporary campaigns if, say, you are running a special and want to get the word out quick. You can quickly get top listings and when your special is over, just as quickly pull back. Asid from that, I have found PPC to be most useful for searches that target specific products rather than general phrases.

Pay-For-Inclusion
In the interest of full disclosure I’ll admit that I’m biased for the PFI model. Search engines that employ this model can still provide unbiased and relevant search results, rather than results that are nothing more than paid advertisements. PFI puts the big buys on more equal footing with the new start-up home businesses. With this model you basically pay to have the search engine visit your pages on a regular basis. You are given no extra benefit in ranking or hits so you still must rely on good quality optimization for your site.

So why do I like this model? Because web surfers and search engine users want genuine search results, not paid advertisements. While Overture is making a killing off their PPC model, they get most of their revenue through their partnerships. That’s right, the Overture search engine is NOT a popular place for people to perform searches. But since Overture’s results appear in more popular search engines who often times do not label paid listings as such and/or mix the paid listings with the standard results, Overture is a money-making venture.

Other evidence of this is that when Overture’s PPC partners do label their sponsored listings appropriately, the sponsored section gets far less clicks their general search results. Also, take a look at some of the now defunct search engines such as Excite, InfoSeek and NBCi. These former search engines kept their search services working but now merely spit out nothing more than Overture’s paid results. As a result of that change in service they have lost a significant portion of their users.

On the other hand the one search engine that has found a way to keep unbiased and relevant results, has continued to show considerable growth. The search engine? Google; now one of 3 most widely used search engines.

The great thing about pay-for-inclusion model is that you can constantly make changes to your included pages and see how those changes effect rankings within just a few days. So, quality results? Yes! Relevant results? Yes! Confidence that your pages are indexed? Absolutely! Ability to see the effect of changes right away? Splendidly!
Wrap Up

So how does all this effect you? It all depends. Many people pursue both traditional search engine optimization techniques along with PPC programs. Both can work and both can be beneficial. Most professional search engine optimization companies such as Pole Position Web and !st Rank Promotion will include pay-for-inclusion as part of their overall strategy optimization strategy. Many also include pay-per-click management as well.

If you must choose between one strategy or another because of budget reasons, I strongly recommend going for the professional site optimization. While PPC strategies only cover a few listings on a few search engines, optimization and PFI strategies can hit all the major search engines, and ultimately can be more cost effective.

Without an effective optimization strategy you would be relying solely on PPC. That may be good for a while but sooner or later you may find that the per-click cost is not cost effective for your profit margin. That leaves you with nothing. Start with professional optimization, have a professional service manage your free-inclusion and pay-for-inclusion strategies. Once that is well underway, go for a closely monitored pay-per-click strategy to fill in any remaining gaps.

So how does all this effect you? It all depends. Many people pursue both traditional search engine optimization techniques along with PPC programs. Both can work and both can be beneficial. Most professional search engine optimization companies such as Pole Position Web and !st Rank Promotion will include pay-for-inclusion as part of their overall strategy optimization strategy. Many also include pay-per-click management as well.

If you must choose between one strategy or another because of budget reasons, I strongly recommend going for the professional site optimization. While PPC strategies only cover a few listings on a few search engines, optimization and PFI strategies can hit all the major search engines, and ultimately can be more cost effective.

Without an effective optimization strategy you would be relying solely on PPC. That may be good for a while but sooner or later you may find that the per-click cost is not cost effective for your profit margin. That leaves you with nothing. Start with professional optimization, have a professional service manage your free-inclusion and pay-for-inclusion strategies. Once that is well underway, go for a closely monitored pay-per-click strategy to fill in any remaining gaps.

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

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