I say to Sullivan. Not the Saturday Evening Post
© 2001 Donotgo.com

The "regular text" is the text of the Danny Sullivan article Free Search Engine Submission Is Still Alive!
Both Yahoo and LookSmart have recently increased their submission prices, while AltaVista not to long ago followed Inktomi's lead in offering a paid inclusion program. FAST is expected to bring out its own program shortly. Meanwhile, paid listings have gained ground at every major search engine. Is it any wonder that people are feeling that free search engine submission is dead?

[Me] From my perspective it’s about fair inclusion and placement, and about being “freed” from the obligation to manipulate and bribe the system.

It's not. Despite the multitude of paid participation programs being offered, it is indeed possible for web sites to get listed for free. However, it's also necessary for web site owners to recognize that by spending money, the listing process will be easier for them.

[Me] What everyone needs to recognize is that the internet will not realize it’s potential if money is going to be allowed to corrupt the mapping industry. Users and content providers need and deserve some regulated guaranteed minimums.

Let's hear some concerns, then examine the situations raised more closely. One reader, after seeing the LookSmart and Yahoo increases, wrote:

[Me] You mean and “then” contrive and excuse for this nonsense that protects your financial interest in chaos being the standard.

"It seems we've gone past paying a premium for 'fast' service and entered the realm of unrealistic search engine listing costs. For myself, and I'm sure many small commercial sites, LookSmart and Yahoo (at $300) will have to live without my listings - one wonders about the long term ramifications on what these search engines will deliver to their searching clients."

[Me] You don’t have to wonder very hard just compare categories at yahoo and the [less than complete] ODP. Yahoo is fast becoming a 1% directory and only public ignorance of the facts protects it from deserved repercussions.

Unfortunately, Yahoo and LookSmart aren't going to be hurting without your listings. That's because there are still plenty of other businesses who rightly recognize that even with the cost increases, getting listed in both directories represents excellent value. These are essentially one-time fees for unlimited and very targeted traffic, if you've done your submission properly.

[Me] By properly you actually mean if you have secured the top page listing your site does not deserve by content alone.

I have seen some comments on forums suggesting its time for a mass boycott of search engines that charge for submissions. However, I think many of these people forget what it was like before such programs were available. Prior to when Yahoo rolled out its Express submission option in February 1999, there were huge outcries about how long it took to get listed with the service.

[Me] How much do I have to pay you for the link to these forums? What you seem to have forgotten is that yahoo corruption began long before it “officially” became an extortionist directory.

Indeed, some webmasters were literally begging Yahoo to institute a submission fee for better service. Since it has done so, times have definitely improved. For example, when speaking, I used see plenty of hands shoot up from the audience, when I asked how many people had been waiting for months to get into Yahoo. Now, few hands go up.

[Me] What a surprise your audience of professional spammers is happy.

It is absolutely correct to be worried that submission fees could have an impact on the quality of listings. To me, the biggest worry here has been when LookSmart has done deep categorization of a particular company's web site, causing that company to sometimes have so many matching listings for a term that other sites are crowded out.

[Me] Yes, it really sucks when the big crack hotels put the little crack houses out of business. Lament, lament!

The other thought is that by charging a submission fee, these directories might miss some important sites that can't pay to submit. However, this is where the "how many florists do I need" argument comes in. If a directory already lists 100 online florists, are users hurt because they don't have 101? In all honesty, probably not. But if you are that 101st florist, a submission fee makes it possible to get yourself added.

[Me] How honest of you to admit that some important sites “might” be missed. Next you might concede that without any way to see what is being excluded there “might” not be enough accountability.

Despite all these points, there are definitely sites that should get into the directories for free. Both Yahoo and LookSmart make this possible through their non-commercial categories. If you have good, solid non-commercial content, then you can submit to either place for free and have the opportunity to get listed.

[Me] You forgot to add: and if you are really lucky it might only take a year or two. [5 years and counting for one of my sites.]

Non-commercial content? Let's say you sell something, such as American flags, which are in high demand right now. Your web site is commercial in nature, so submitting the home page is likely to be seen as commercial content. However, let's say you've spent the time and energy to build a section of your web site about the American flag -- how it originated, how it has looked over time, maybe even a section on flags around the world. This flag resource section is non-commercial in nature. In it, you are giving away information freely, and so you are eligible to be consider for listing in the non-commercial areas of both Yahoo and LookSmart.

[Me] You forgot to add the part about how you can replace the content with your home page after you are listed. All this legal tie-anything-on-a-hook, bait and switch BS is turning the internet into a big puddle of chum.

Another reader cries out: "50 percent increase without any warning!! This is very expensive for the small businesses I develop sites for. I pushed the $199 service before, since 40 percent of searching traffic comes from Yahoo. However, many of my clients will not be able to afford it at this new high price."

[Me] This is particularly destructive to encouraging new players to join in the cyber “fun”. This is about as wrong a way to run a railroad as could be contrived.

Again, a reality check is important. Directory submission is an essential cost of doing business on the web. If your clients can't afford it -- and if they have no non-commercial content to promote -- then they simply aren't going to appear in the main listings that these places generate. That's probably going to hurt them much more than the directories.

[Me] Real reality check: Paid directory submission is a completely unnecessary, counterproductive, CONTRIVED cost of doing business on the web.

How about a reality check for the directories? Yes, you are easily worth a $300 submission fee, for many businesses. However, some may find it hard to come up with this money all at once. Perhaps the time has come to consider payment plans -- say a $150 initial payment, for example, followed each quarter by a $50 fee, until the entire sum is paid for.

[Me] Or maybe they could offer a thirty year mortgage.

Sure, that will be harder for the directories to implement. However, such an option might go a long way toward making small business sites feel less pressure. I asked Yahoo about this idea when talking with the company about its recent price increase. There are no immediate plans to do this, but Yahoo said it was something they'd consider, if there was enough demand. So, if you like the idea, let Yahoo (and LookSmart) know.

[Me] I bet a NoPay automatic inclusion plan would be even more popular than EasyPay-- Maybe you could suggest that, and explain that web indexing is really a little too important to be exclusively left to all you money whores.

Another reader writes:

"I have two small sites that I maintain. I don't make a lot from these sites. I submit to search engines using all the information about manual submits, correct meta codes, page titles and key words to get my sites found. Now, how do the little people with little businesses get their sites found too on the Internet without paying $200 here, $200 there, and $40 here and $40 there. Gosh, isn't there a way for all us little people, or is the web only for those who can afford anymore. I did get my first site listed back in October 2000, but my newer site, which I started getting listed in May 2001, is having a heck of a time. No Yahoo, Northern Light, AltaVista, crawlers, etc."

[Me] Unfortunately it’s looking like the web public or even just Danny’s readers will never be allowed to know about, or choose “Whatis” a better way.

OK, let's assume you have no non-commercial content you can submit to the directories. Despite this, the crawler-based search engines, such as Google, should still be picking you up. Some of them do have paid inclusion fees, but these are not mandatory and ALL of the crawlers index pages for free.

[Me] And if you're really lucky your site will be attached to some usefully popular or relevant search term that has not been already spammed into an ocean of irrelevancy.

One thing is not to rely on Add URL pages. These are have been so abused by spammers that the crawlers don't depend on them much for new finds. Instead, they are much more reliant on link crawling. This means that if you build relevant links from good web sites, you are more likely to be found by the crawlers and included in their listings.

[Me] In other words pay yahoo or buy some ads. This is just how I envisioned the 2001 internet.

To help everyone further with obtaining free listings, I've just added a five-part instruction guide on search engine submission to the existing submission tips area of Search Engine Watch. A link is below. It will take you by the hand and explain exactly how free submission options remain for anyone with non-commercial content, for all the major search engines.

[Me] Lots of useful “tricks” no doubt.

The guide also explains where fee-based submission options exist and why budgeting money for these will be to your great advantage, even if you are a little business. In the "real world," no one says that small businesses should be exempt from business costs. The same is true in the online world. One of the costs all businesses will have to bear is search engine submission fees, if you want to get your commercial content listed in key places quickly.

[Me] That’s right! If we screw it up just right, we can eliminate all the productive advantages of cyberspace and create even more opportunity for parasitical middle men to feed on and steal from innovation and progress.