Yahoo!, Overture Debut New Paid Inclusion Program

Yahoo and Overture Tuesday unveiled the paid inclusion search marketing program that will take the place of those run by its Inktomi, AltaVista and AlltheWeb properties.

The debut comes in the wake of Yahoo’s launch of its own algorithmic search engine last week and continues the company’s consolidation of its search operations. Many of the changes have been widely expected given the Yahoo’s recent acquisitions, which left it with several search engines, each with its own paid inclusion program.

Paid inclusion lets Web site owners submit information about their pages to search engines. They’re guaranteed inclusion in the search engine’s index, but aren’t given any assurances regarding how their pages will be ranked.

The new program, known as the Content Acquisition Program (CAP), will be run by Yahoo’s Overture unit. It will give bigger paid inclusion marketers, along with non-profit content providers, a closer working relationship with the search engine, the company said. For smaller marketers — those with fewer than 1,000 URLs — it will be largely similar to those previously offered. However customers now must pay on a cost-per-click basis, in addition to paying a flat fee.

“Revenue is certainly a component of this,” explained Chris Bolte, vice president of strategic alliances at Overture, “but it’s not the driver.” Creating a comprehensive, relevant index with less search engine spam is the main goal, Bolte said.

Distribution will include Yahoo’s own network, partner MSN, and other affiliate sites. The company says it will reach 75 percent of Web searchers.

The new program for larger marketers is called Site Match Xchange. Marketers, or their agencies, create an XML feed that includes information about the various pages on their sites. They then pay on a per-click basis, with the price varying depending on the content category.

What they get is guaranteed inclusion, listings refreshed every 48 hours, and hand-holding from Overture. The company feels one of the main value propositions of the new service is its “open kimono” stance. This means Overture will provide clients with feedback on their XML feeds, to help them better their rank for relevant keywords.

“Together, we can actually better produce better results,” said Bolte.

Although the company didn’t say how much manpower would be dedicated to administering the new program, staff from both Overture and Yahoo will be employed.

For smaller marketers, the self-service portion of the program is called Site Match. For the first URL, marketers pay $49 annually, and will now pay per click for the first time. Yahoo says marketers in most content categories will pay $0.15 per click, but some select categories are priced at $0.30 per click. While paying more might rankle smaller search engine marketers, company executives argue it’s cheaper than buying Inktomi, AlltheWeb and AltaVista separately. They also say per-click pricing aligns marketers’ interests with those of consumers, because it will encourage them to seek only qualified, therefore relevant, clicks.

Overture and Yahoo are working to transition their current user base over to the new paid inclusion program. They’ve also been cultivating relationships with non-profit content providers, including National Public Radio, the Library of Congress, and Project Gutenberg. These entities will get the same treatment as Site Match Xchange clients, but they won’t be required to pay. The emphasis on non-profits is aimed at increasing the variety of content available in Yahoo’s index, the company said. It also may help Yahoo fend off concerns that paying clients get better treatment, or better rankings, than those who don’t pay.

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