How to Replace Yahoo Paid Inclusion/Paid Placement

Yahoo announced recently that its Search Submit paid inclusion program will soon no longer be available. If you’ve been relying on Yahoo’s Paid Inclusion Search Submit program to generate traffic, branding, leads, or orders, come January 1, 2010, you’ll need to figure out how to replace that traffic source with some combination of organic and paid placement listings, or move those dollars into other media (perish the thought).

Many of us within the industry felt that the need for paid inclusion (PI) as deployed within Yahoo was declining, due to better SEO (define) practices by most marketers, as well as improved content management systems. Consensus was also that PI importance and revenue at Yahoo would decline further, regardless of whether or not the Yahoo-Microsoft deal received regulatory approval. Speaking of regulatory approval, it wouldn’t surprise me if the increased levels of scrutiny by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), plus other national and international regulatory agencies, hastened the demise of PI. While there was never supposed to be an advantage to advertisers as a result of running PI in Yahoo, for XML PI, clearly this wasn’t the case. Most industry insiders knew how to stay within the editorial guidelines and still have a measureable impact on a SERP (define). Plus, PI listings were never labeled as sponsored listings or as advertising within the SERP. Regulatory and legislative bodies in the U.S. (the FTC in particular) have recently indicated that poor disclosure of sponsored relationships is an area where they intend to continue issuing guidelines documents.

There may be a whole host of reasons why you have continued to rely on PI through the years: laziness, risk aversion (turning off PI to focus on organic visibility can be scary), or simply that it had a positive ROI (define). The good news is that the efforts you put into replacing that PI traffic may have a lasting positive impact on your campaigns across search engines. Here are some approaches that will help you make the transition beyond PI.

Improve Your SEO Search Engine Friendliness

Paid inclusion was sometimes a crutch for marketers who didn’t invest in infrastructure to make their site search engine friendly. As Yahoo’s share of search dropped, this approach became less effective. Make sure your site is search engine friendly based on general best practices and, if your SEO vendor has Yahoo-specific suggestions, you may want to consider those as long as they don’t jeopardize your Google organic traffic.

Expand Your Keyword List

Yahoo and all the search engines prefer standard match (exact match in Google and MSFT). Have you gone far enough out into the tail? I don’t recommend turning on advanced match on Yahoo until you’ve experimented with the long tail yourself.

Pick the Best Landing Pages

Are your landing pages for your long tail keyword list as relevant and targeted as your PI pages would have been? Paid inclusion was always about relevance, and increasingly paid placement search is too. You want the right balance of relevance and call-to-action on any page.

Generate More Content in a Great CMS

Great new content gives you a ton of flexibility. Not only is good, new, and relevant targeted content a great source of organic search traffic; it opens up a host of new bidding opportunities in the paid placement search arena.

Generate Content in Other Venues

Hey, I’m writing this column in ClickZ, not on one of my sites. Sometimes great content should reside where it can benefit from a publisher’s promotional efforts, as well as great organic positioning. Blogs and industry-specific vertical publishing opportunities are the key. Keep in mind that asking bloggers to write about you may require disclosure under the new FTC guidelines.

Consider Flat Fee Directories

Consider flat fee directories that get good organic placement and traffic.

And, many industries have directories that deliver more than just visibility or traffic. Some charge on a CPC (define) basis; others are flat fee. Evaluate each opportunity based on the benefits available, but one can make a compelling case for directories overall.

As Yahoo shut down its flat price PI program, Google launched a local flat price product that I covered in last week’s column. One might see the fixed-price element of Google’s new product as a form of PI because it only includes general business listing information.

Some of you may be sad to see Yahoo’s paid inclusion program disappear. Yahoo’s CFO may also be sad to see the revenue drop off the top line. But the reality is that unidentified paid listings intermingled into search results was never going to last.

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.