Last week I reported on the homogenization of the Internet search experience with paid-for links from GoTo.com appearing above the fold on many major search engines. This article definitely struck a nerve. I received ample feedback from consumers, marketers, technicians, and search engine personnel.
Some people wanted to know about other pay-for-position search engines. Here is a quick reference list for your convenience.
What’s in it for the buyers of paid links on search engines? It’s a sweet-and-sour subject, so clear your palate before reading these ClickZ readers’ comments. It looks like a tie between pros and cons. Should we ask for a recount?
Here are the pros:
- “I wish that the press would stop this ‘tainted results’ attitude toward the pay-per-click engines. I WANT ‘tainted results,’ because I want interested vendors first.”
- “I’m just hoping some search engine will keep the spirit and make a place for small business.”
- “I love the idea of pay for link agreements between the advertiser and the search engine. These hybrid engines could generate up to 30% of our traffic.”
- “Just as television commercials are needed to provide revenue to television programming, and thus provide a ‘free’ service to the viewing public, perhaps these paid links [are] an inescapable nuisance.”
- “I have very mixed feelings about this. The growth of pay-for-position has really helped us. On the other hand, the long-term implications of all this are frightening.”
- “If I use a ‘free’ engine, it is very hard to tell what I will get first. Usually it’s a ‘Joe Bagadonuts’ site posted by some affiliate junkie sitting around his house in his BVD’s, playing search engine roulette 16 hours a day with his banner farm.”
Here are the cons:
- “Commercialism on the web is nothing new, but I find this the most egregious kind of semi-dishonesty. In my usability work, I find that very often users do not realize that these are paid ads.”
- “The word ‘partner’ is just not sufficient disclosure for my taste.”
- “I find paid-for-listings to be of small value to end users.”
- “Not only do I not like having paid advertising above the fold as a consumer, but I also don’t much like it as a web planner for a non-profit. Too often we are fed the same information over and over by those who simply have the cash to buy advertising.”
- “So many search engines are turning to this means of increasing revenue, don’t they realize that what they are doing is turning away true potential clients? I want relevant results based on site content, not based on the higher bid.”
The final word will be played out in future articles after we have a chance to look at some case studies. I’ve begun the process of collecting data and would like to encourage you to send me whatever results you’ve had, good or bad, to share with our ClickZ readers.
Send any data you’ve compiled regarding your use of pay-for-position links. Did the traffic convert and take action at your site? Do you feel good about your pay-for-position campaign? Did you experience a good or bad return on investment?
Is search engine optimization (SEO) on the way out? I seriously doubt it. Everyone needs good content, titles, descriptions, search-engine-friendly HTML code tags, professional key phrase selection, and editorial review. People also need assistance with technical tasks such as linking into engines and directories, monitoring reach and value, and managing and adjusting traffic data. SEO knowledge and experience mitigates spending large amounts of time and effort on tasks that are more efficiently performed by expert technicians.
Some corrections: Last week, I reported that AltaVista was placing GoTo.com’s top five results at the top of its results pages. This is not the case, as the site’s PR manager, Kristi Kaspar, wrote to say, “While AltaVista does have a partnership with GoTo.com to place its listings in AltaVista search results, AltaVista will only be posting the top three GoTo results, and they will be located at the bottom of the search results page.”
Mamma.com Search Results Editor Maxine Grossman wrote to say: “Mamma, by definition, is providing a wide variety of results to her users. It is true that the Mamma Recommends section is paid advertising. However, all campaigns go through rigorous quality control before going live in order to ensure that the results will be of a relevancy that Mamma can proudly and safely endorse.” Though Mamma does distribute some GoTo.com results, the first results from GoTo.com never appear above the fifth position on Mamma’s results page, with a maximum of two results from GoTo.com on the first page of results.
Will GoTo.com be the only answer to being found on the Internet? GoTo.com has a good business model. However, I doubt it will dominate over the major Internet search engines. GoTo.com brings a unique service to marketers and searchers alike. It’s a big pond, though, and I’m betting there’s room for everyone.
Next week I hope to have some case studies to share with you.