[thelist] should we just give up and buy the darn keywords/rankings?

Moe Rubenzahl moe at maxim-ic.com
Mon Jun 4 18:04:36 CDT 2001

>   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 

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.

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