Rate for links may buy more than you think

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The major search engines and directories, in search of elusive profits and monetization of users, are making more and more deals that affect the search results the user sees.

After several years of losses, most search engines and directories are now charging for the right to be listed, linked and, by extension, found. With some estimating that there are more than 2 billion pages on the Web, it comes down to simple supply and demand.

For example, commercial sites can now pay search bot Inktomi Corp. for the right to have multiple pages indexed, and to have those pages indexed more frequently. Over time, the sites that pay will also rank higher in the search results than those sites that don’t pay.

On the directory side, where humans make the site reviews and determine link placement, Yahoo! Inc., LookSmart Ltd. and NBC Internet Inc.’s Snap are now charging a $199 review fee, which assures the submitter that its site will be reviewed. Note the wording I just used. Reviewed, not listed. In other words, you pay your $199 and hope. You will not receive a refund if the directory editors decide your site isn’t link-worthy.

Listed and linked

I expect to see more, not less, of this as time goes on. I know some Net old-timers are against it. While I am a Net old-timer for sure, I’m a contrarian. I am 100% for paid listings. And whether you agree or not, one fact is certain: If you want your site listed and linked at the major search engines and directories, you will, sooner or later, have to pay for that privilege.

The search engines and directories that are now charging you a fee for your link are also making syndication deals that extend the reach of your link far beyond that one directory or search engine.

LookSmart, for example, now offers its directory search results to hundreds of other sites, including MSN, Excite, AltaVista, iWon and CNN, plus more than 200 Internet service providers. This means that people searching on those sites will have the chance to find your site. Not a bad deal for 200 bucks.

Raw results

And Inktomi provides raw search results to many high-traffic portals, including America Online, MSN, LookSmart, HotBot and For $20 a page, you can have your site indexed and available to searchers of each of those and many other sites.

So what’s the NetSense in all this?

If you total it all up, for under $1,000 your site has the potential to be found by about 95% of the world’s Internet users, through some of the most advanced search technology available. Sure, it hurts having to pay for what was once free. But think about it. It’s a wonder it was ever free to begin with. Why should Yahoo! present your site to the whole world for nothing?

And remember that aside from search engines and directories, every day millions of people find Web sites without ever going near a major portal or search engine. They find them through plain old links on smaller vertical Web guides, link lists and industry directories.

So get busy and build a network of links. That’s still free.

Eric Ward creates vertical URL announcement, submission and linking plans for major Web site launches. Contact him at
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