Yahoo Cancels Popular 'Paid Inclusion' Search Program

Marketers Will Lose Some Control Over Listings, but Here's How to Cope

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Yahoo has announced that it will be canceling Yahoo Search Submit Pro (Y!SSP), its fixed-rate cost-per-click program, as of Dec. 31.

Also known as "paid inclusion," this service enables marketers to submit their URLs and page information directly to the Yahoo natural search web index, rather than having Yahoo crawl them via its primary web-indexing technology (known as SLURP). By submitting pages via Y!SSP, marketers have better control over the content that Yahoo searches and displays for their web site listings.

Y!SSP is a valuable tool in any marketer's SEO toolbox. While many consider the program controversial, in truth it serves as an effective way for marketers to provide highly structured, timely data to Yahoo to improve the content of their web listings.

More control Marketers using Y!SSP are not guaranteed higher rankings on the engines -- Yahoo's search algorithm still lists results based on the quality and relevance of the pages for a given keyword. The core benefit of the program is higher traffic and click-through rates (CTRs) that come from a marketer having more control over the information included in the natural search listing for their brand.

As of Jan. 1, Yahoo will rely solely on SLURP to power their search results until the deal with Bing goes into effect. SLURP is the central web-indexing technology that Yahoo uses to catalog the web and the backbone of its search engine. Like Google's search algorithm, Yahoo's SLURP is a proprietary web-indexing robot that attempts to catalog data on the web and display the most relevant information for each keyword query the searcher enters.

What does this mean for marketers? For those marketers that don't use Y!SSP, not much changes. Yet the many marketers that do use this service, especially retailers and other e-commerce providers, may need to fine tune or even rethink their Yahoo search strategy. Here's why:
  • The way marketers using Y!SSP optimize for natural search on Yahoo is fundamentally changing. Formerly, marketers using Y!SSP could rely solely on the information sent in their data feeds to be well-optimized on Yahoo. The benefit of this was that they could quickly update their web listings appearing on Yahoo' s search results pages with the latest page details and promotional messaging -- without having to get their IT departments or web folks involved since it was all done on a feed level. Now, these marketers must look more closely at how they are optimized for Yahoo and ensure that they are incorporating the same data that was previously in their Y!SSP feeds in order to maintain their ranks and timely messaging.

  • Marketers will lose out on the benefits of the Y!SSP program. These include:

    Faster refresh rates as compared to the standard SLURP web crawler. The Y!SSP feed process provided a 48-hour guarantee of specific pages a marketer could make searchable within Yahoo's natural search catalog, ensuring that product and inventory-specific data was up and appearing on search engine results pages (SERPs) quickly. This proved to be a critical SEO tactic for e-commerce providers and sites with continually updated inventory and content.

    Greater control over natural search optimization. This manifests itself in a number of ways. First, marketers using Y!SSP are able to submit more data via a feed than would typically be indexed via Yahoo's SLURP. The data submitted is presumably very relevant to the keyword(s) for which the marketer wishes to rank.; The combination of highly relevant, structured data -- and a large quantity of it -- often helps marketers using Y!SSP rank more highly for certain keywords than they would by relying on SLURP SEO alone.

    Second, marketers using Search Submit Pro can alter the content appearing alongside their natural search listings. They control both the title and description associated with the listing, as well as the "Quick Links" appearing under the text link. Both of these content customization features allow marketers to provide more targeted messaging and access to deeper, more relevant content sections on their site. This has historically proven to increase click-through rates (CTRs) on the natural search listings, driving more traffic to marketers who are utilizing these special features of Y!SSP.

By canceling its Search Submit Pro program, Yahoo has removed one of its core differentiators. While all of the engines (Yahoo included) accept XML site map feeds, another proactive means of communicating data with all major engine's Web index/catalogs, Yahoo's Y!SSP feeds give marketers even more control over the way their brands are represented within Yahoo natural search results.

Given this, it's surprising to see an abrupt end to a program of tremendous value to marketers without an explanation for any viable alternative. The program is a very strong complement to a marketer's media mix, maintaining historically low CPC rates (as compared paid search CPCs) and healthy ROI.

With the program going away, many questions arise. A marketer's first priority should be to get as much out of the program in the short term as possible, while at the same time working on ways to reallocate this budget for brands and their full-year 2010 plans. Additionally, marketers should assess their natural search strength in Yahoo's SLURP to see if additional optimization may be necessary to maintain their ranks, at least before the Yahoo results pages switch over to Bing.

John Ragals is chief operating officer of digital marketing agency 360i.

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