If you have good content on your website, enough links to other sites, and link backs to your own, you’ll get listed in most large search engines. People starting a business or a new website may not have these references, and this has caused an ongoing debate in the world of search engines about the topic of paid inclusion. This is the practice of paying a search engine to list your page, and often may include guarantees that the index of sites changes on a fairly regular basis.
Back in the early 2000s, a number of large search engines used the paid inclusion strategy. These include some of the major ones like Yahoo and Ask (formerly Ask Jeeves). Google did not use this practice, and in some ways the popularity of Google may be attributed to not charging customers for listings.
It isn’t that companies like Yahoo and Ask wouldn’t list other sites for free, it’s just these listings might take a long time to emerge, and customers who had paid for listings might have a higher rank and show up in the first few pages of search results. Moreover, it wasn’t always clear on sites like Yahoo whether a person searching through results would have to visit sites made up primarily of advertisers instead of information sources. Some people found unpaid inclusion a “purer” search method.
By 2004, many of the larger search engines including Ask and Microsoft had abandoned paid inclusion because public response to it was not favorable. This is not the case with Yahoo, which still retains this practice. In 2007, they rolled out their new paid inclusion plan. For a fee of $49 US Dollars (USD) per URL, it offers listing, but does not offer guarantees that your page will achieve high ranking, or will be listed if the content is offensive, dangerous or violates copyright.
Paid inclusion isn’t exactly an evil; in fact in can still be good marketing practice if you are launching a new site and want to drive traffic to that site. Traffic to a site increases chances of links, which means that a high volume of visitors may increase likelihood of being listed quicker by other search engines. Since people still use Yahoo on a regular basis, you might have more traffic sooner, than if you waited for your site profile to grow.
A practice similar to paid inclusion is creating advertisements for mostly business or retail sites. When you search Google, you’ll find search results, and then to the right side of search results, you’ll usually see a list of related ads. These are very clearly ads, which give searchers a chance to decide if they want to visit related commercial enterprises. Commercial oriented sites can also show up in search results too, especially if they are sites that get a lot of traffic, but Google indexes commercial and other sites based on popularity instead of on payment for listing.
Some view paid inclusion as always a questionable practice, and call into question any practices of search engine optimization that are paid for or are in any means deceptive. The practice of imbedding ads in text is another cause for concern for those who view the Internet as primarily a free information source and not a business enterprise. The reality though is that Internet and business go hand in hand, and paid inclusion may be advisable if you are trying to quickly get people to visit your site. There are other methods for increasing site traffic, but paying for listings tends to be the least time-consuming.