Paid inclusion (PI) has always been a hot potato. It’s not quite SEO (define) and not quite search advertising. No one wants to touch it.
For those new to search engine marketing (SEM), PI (what Yahoo, the only search property still offering it, calls the Overture Site Match Xchange, or OSMX, program) is an automated feed of Web pages directly into a search engine’s search results database. The feed ensures your submitted content is included in the engine’s index. But there’s no guarantee it will appear in a top position when someone searches for keywords present in that content. You pay only when someone clicks on your listing.
Some traditional SEO companies are uncomfortable with PI. In the last few years, the industry has largely accepted Google’s ethics as its own, and Google believes PI is unethical. SEO companies also still question why they should pay for something they’re already getting for free. Because PI purports to remove the need to address site challenges, some in SEO believe it infringes on their value proposition.
Pay-per-click (PPC) vendors don’t like PI, either. They’re uncomfortable not having control over how much traffic they drive and on which keywords. They don’t like having to justify the much higher CPCs (define) of PPC in comparison to PI.
But so many case studies of PI show phenomenal return on investment (ROI) that it must be tested for every SEM campaign before it can be discounted. PI can be substantially less expensive than PPC search advertising.
Our experience shows that PI drives stronger ROI and produces more top-10 rankings and traffic after a Web site has been optimized for natural search. Natural search optimization actually improves PI outcomes. Together, PI and SEO are a drastically underreported killer combination.
But there’s so much misinformation around PI, it’s worth explaining in more detail. Recently, we sampled two groups of clients: one that utilizes PI but doesn’t fully utilize SEO, and on that fully utilizes both PI and SEO. Consider these results:
- Well-optimized sites tend to perform better in PI than do poorly optimized sites.
- Clients utilizing PI but not fully leveraging SEO recommendations saw rankings rise 20 percent over time and traffic increase 3 percent.
- Clients utilizing PI and leveraging SEO recommendations saw a 65 percent rankings increase over time and a 235 percent traffic increase.
SEO with PI gives better results than PI alone.
Some leaders of our PI group have begun noting PI’s effect when a site has been optimized for natural search first. Here are some of their reasons for doing both:
- OSMX highly values link popularity. The popularity of a page on the Web site is “transferred” to the feed, which means a page’s popularity can help the fed item rank higher. An optimized site will have more links with shorter URLs, which can increase link popularity.
- Newly optimized sites can find PI advantageous if Yahoo’s spider has not yet found them.
- Optimized home pages can rank more and broader keywords with PI than without it.
If you currently utilize PI without performing natural SEO, look into optimizing for natural search to really pump up results. Similarly, if your PI-only campaign underperforms, address your site’s natural search challenges to improve your ROI. And if your natural SEO really hits home runs, see if pairing it with PI can be greater than the sum of the parts. Based on our experience, you’ll increase ROI significantly.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.