> http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/04/technology/04GOTO.html Excellent link, thank you. I recently informed our management that they should not expect to achieve much more in the way of search engine placement without paying for placement, for exactly this reason. This article gives the argument good credibility. I see three items worthy of discussion. If you're in a hurry, skip ahead two paragraphs to the question of real importance -- whether you should be paying for search engine placement... First - is it "right?" Well, it certainly flies in the face of the spirit of the web and I really dislike it when the paid placements are not labeled as such. But it's legal and it's happening, so on to: Point 2: Will it fly? Six months ago, I had hopes that the pay-me model would crumble but it hasn't. It's now inexorable as even Yahoo and Google have climbed aboard the gimme-wagon. As the pressure to "monetize" the web increases and these strategies continue to work, we can expect more of this from search engines. Third, and really the most important question, is the title of this thread: "should we just give up and buy the darn keywords/rankings?" And the answer is: Probably. If your site depends on people finding you via search engines, you have to evaluate your ability to perform there. If you have a unique offering with limited competition, (say, you sell left-handed corkscrew polishers) you can probably do well using traditional search engine strategies: Create good pages, submit to the engines manually each month. You may not need to play the fee-based placement game. And if you are hot, the leader in your category, you may not need to pay, as you are high in the rankings anyway. At least until your competitors start to pay. But if you have a diverse product line (say, you have an on-line camping store), you have little hope of seeing your pages listed well in all the categories you need. You had better start budgeting search engine dollars. And if you have a focused line but lots of competitors (say, you sell ink jet cartridges), search engine placement fees had better be part of your business model. And you said you were feeling despair? Consider this: The engines are subtly and cautiously trying to limit free submissions. Some (e.g. Excite) are hugely slowing their response to submission requests. Some cut them off altogether. Some are taking fees to crawl your site or accept your submission, or to do so in timely fashion. Some (e.g. Altavista) cut submissions off for a while and turned them back on, with mechanisms to resist automated submissions. The search engines are very interested in paid placements and paid ads. They are walking a delicate line on free submissions and spidered additions. They need to have these things but they also don't want to make free placement easy for clients they think they can get to pay. So yes, I think we all need to think about the return on investment for paid listings. Welcome to the new new economy.