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Enter the World of Paid Submissions

From Yahoo! and LookSmart to Inktomi, the directories and search engines are entering the paid submissions phase of the indexing game.

In light of this development, we have to ask ourselves several questions.
  • Can we expect other search engines to follow suit?
  • Is paying to submit your site worth the cost?
  • How does this affect us - the search engine optimizers? After all, if all we have to do is "pay," then is optimizing necessary?
Here's an obvious question...

"Will other engines adopt the 'paid submission' or 'pay inclusion' model?"

Certainly! Within the framework of the search engines, Inktomi tested the waters, and quickly followed the leader. Now that a workable model has been created, you should expect the other engines will certainly jump aboard. The question is "when," not "if."

Since paying to submit is clearly a reality, the question becomes,

"Is it worth the cost?"

Shortly, we'll examine each of the engines and directories that are currently charging for submissions, and we'll outline the benefits involved on a case by case basis.

So, in light of paid submissions, is it still important to optimize a site?

Yes! ... actually, more than ever. Getting a site into a search engine or directory is only a tiny portion of the battle. The fact that we can now PAY to guarantee indexing is a blessing to those of us who are tired of having our so called free submissions ignored. Now that getting IN is guaranteed (in exchange for a fee) we can geton with the REAL battle, which is... getting our site to the top of the rankings!

Now, let's look at the individual engines and directories to see how they're handling pay submissions.


  • Pre-spidered to see if the page is "Inktomi material"
  • Accepted into the index within 48 hours
  • Respidered every 48 hours, which means you can make optimization changes and see the results of those changes within a day or two
  • Indexes dynamic URLs and cloaked pages
  • Submitted pages get into the main Inktomi index that is used by all of Inktomi's partners, including HotBot, iWon, AOL, MSN, and
  • A likely gain in ranking over the free submissions.
Jim Stob with Position Technologies, Inktomi's partner who is handling the pay submission program, adds, "I think one of the most interesting things about the program is how many are submitting URLs which are excluded by either a robots.txt or META noindex. These people would be pulling their hair out if they had used the free submission."

Cost (non-refundable):

Number of pages/Price per URL
  • 1st Page $30.00
  • Pages 2-20 $15.00
  • Pages 21-1000 $12.00
You can still submit through their free Add URL form, but your rankings may suffer temporarily. Inktomi has stated that they'll be discontinuing their free Add URL service in the future.

By the way, to submit through their pay service, go to...

Is it Worth it?

In my opinion, (resoundingly) yes. Inktomi is a major player, and there's no disputing that fact. Being able to get your site into the index within 48 hours and having it respidered every 48 hours is a major plus for any Web site.

Plus, with Inktomi's impressive number of partners, being listed in that index increases your visibility across numerous engines -- something that can add substantially to your link popularity.

According to Web Snapshot, a number of Inktomi powered engines are in the top 20 for popularity, including #1 MSN, #4 AOL, and #12 HotBot. Additional Notes:

When Inktomi respiders your site every 48 hours, does it pick up new links and spider those?

Jim Stob answers, "No, it will only spider the page submitted."

As mentioned above, HotBot is one of the engines using the Inktomi database. However, another pay-per-click method for building a stronger presence in HotBot is through GoTo. GoTo's top results now appear above the regular search results in HotBot under "Featured Listings."

Yahoo! Directory

At the present time, all commercial sites must be submitted through Yahoo! Business Express service. So, if you have an online business and want a presence in Yahoo! Directory, you don't have a choice -- you have to pay.

Cost: $199 (non-refundable)

For information, and to begin the process of "suggesting" a site, go to:

For frequently asked questions, visit:

Is it Worth it?

According to Web Snapshot, Yahoo! is the #2 most popular search engine/directory, following on the heels of #1 MSN. Assuming that you are in business to make money, yes, paying $199 for probable inclusion in this all important directory is definitely worth it. [Please note that Yahoo will not guarantee that your site will be indexed in their database once you pay the fee, they only guarantee that they will look at it. -Pete]


If you want to be listed in LookSmart, you have to pay.

Cost (non-refundable): Their Express Submit service is $199, and it guarantees a site review within 48 hours. The Basic Submit has risen to $99, offering a site review in approximately 8 weeks.

To submit, visit:

Is it Worth it?

LookSmart provides directory results to big players like AltaVista, Excite, MSN, iWon, and more. According to LookSmart, they, and their partners combined, reach over 83% of the Internet users compared to 65% with Yahoo, 64% with AOL, and 43% with Lycos. Source:

According to Web Snapshot, AltaVista is the #5 most popular search engine, and Excite is the #9. Not bad.

As a general rule, yes, it's worth it. Taking into account the reach of its partners, LookSmart is a major player.

Plans of Other Engines?

Now that pay submission programs are here and likely to stay, what are the plans of some of the other engines? ...will they jump onto the bandwagon?


Kristi Kaspar with AltaVista responded with the following details on AltaVista's submission services.

"Currently we provide a few different ways to submit into our index:

"A. You can use the add URL function, which is located on the left hand navigation bar below the fold. Users have the ability to add sites to the AltaVista index at absolutely no cost to them.

"B. Another option is to use the LookSmart express submit. This is a way to add a large amount of sites into the LookSmart directory, quickly and easily. These sites then automatically get updated not only into the AltaVista directory but to other sites that use the LookSmart directory as well. These are directory links, and are treated with the same relevancy formulas as the rest of the pages that are submitted to our index.

"C. The next option is to participate in the GoTo model. We are an affiliate partner of GoTo and list one or two of the top listings at the top of the AltaVista results page. These sites are added through GoTo, and those that are most relevant with the query term that the user has queried are the ones that are returned at the top of the page.

"These are the only models we currently have."


Currently, Excite doesn't have a pay submission service, and I couldn't get them to respond as to what their plans for the future are. However, if you're looking to get into Excite's directory, you'll have to submit to LookSmart ...and choose between the $199 and $99 submission options. You can also purchase keywords through FindWhat, which provides its top results at the bottom of every page of Excite's results.


What are Google's plans for a pay submission service? Cindy McCaffrey, Vice President of Corporate Communications with Google, answers:

"Google has no plans for paid submissions. We believe that providing a search service that delivers objective and unbiased results is most useful to users."

Google is one of the few major engines that doesn't use either LookSmart or GoTo results. However, they do offer AdWords, where you can purchase keywords similarly to the way GoTo operates. Results appear on the right side of the search results page.


Lycos didn't respond to the question about their plans for implementing a pay submission service. However, GoTo now provides its top three listings to Lycos in a special section called "Featured Listings" at the top of the Lycos search results. Interestingly, the Featured Listings are actually spelled out, versus a link that takes you to another page that contains those listings/URLs. Also, at least two additional GoTo listings will appear within the first 10 results in the "Web Sites" section on Lycos.

So, though you don't have to pay to submit to Lycos, if you have a problem getting in the engine, you can purchase keywords through GoTo. You can also submit to the ODP.

Northern Light

Susan Stearns, Director of Marketing with Northern Light, responds to what their plans are for implementing a pay submission program.

"To my knowledge, we have no plans for such a program. While we often do priority crawling of certain Web sites, they are ones that are selected by our editors or are a part of a contractual arrangement with the site -- usually as a part of a site search agreement."

In Conclusion

For companies who are serious about creating an online presence and able to maximize the potential of search engine optimization, the pay for inclusion model is ideal -- provided that the submission fees are considered "affordable" for you or your company. In most cases, the cost can be looked at as very cheap, yet effective, advertising.

Now, more than ever, it is important to evaluate which engines and directories are most effective as traffic sources and focus on optimizing for those portals first. It's also important to understand that, without optimization, you may be wasting your entry fees.

About the author:
This article was written by Robin Nobles, Director of Training at the Academy of Web Specialists. Over the past few years, she has trained over 1000 people in her online and onsite courses in search engine positioning strategies and has written three books that can be ordered through Amazon. Visit the Academy's training Web site to learn more about their online courses:

Update:  iWon and have also switched to paid placement listings since Robin wrote this article.

"Best advice to appear at Purchase links with GoTo, FindWhat, or Sprinks, since those are all represented on the first page of results. Also be aware that with any of these services, you will be unable to limit your appearance to just That means, unfortunately, you'll end up paying to target both the US and Canadian markets. If Canada is really important to you, consider instead getting listed on some of the other Canadian search engines..."

Source:'s latest SE Update #102

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