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Links Sold Separately

The kinetic energy of paid search is undeniable with daily mainstream press reminders of its continued momentum. Joining this movement are Paid Inclusion sites that are getting big headlines, like with Yahoo!’s recent acquisition of Inktomi, or Wall Street prognosticators saying the other giant in this space, LookSmart, is ripe for acquisition.

Though Paid Inclusion has existed in the search menagerie for some time, conversations with advertisers and agencies led me to believe there are a couple of monstrous questions floating around about this form of search marketing, like how does Paid Inclusion fit into the search puzzle? And should an effective search-marketing plan contain Paid Inclusion?

You may be surprised to find the days of flat-fee, per-page inclusion pricing structures are going the way of the Dodo. The influential successes of Pay-for-Placement sites are bleeding onto inclusion, allowing an easy to adopt cost-per-click structure. With that, perpetual releases of new Paid Inclusion technologies are promising fresh and accurate listing information.

Sorting it Out

Stare into a map depicting search listing relationships long enough and the image that emerges will be similar to something Jackson Pollock may have created while under the influence of some really bad acid. I am speaking of the infamous search engine relationship chart, which illustrates top portals’ source of syndicated listing content. Lines drawn from the big three types of search marketing-- Paid Placement, Paid Inclusion, and Editorial Listing Providers -- intersect endlessly in an attempt to explain to marketers exactly where their listings might appear.

While this jumble might seem a bit unnecessary, the idea is simple. Identify listing content so marketers can capitalize on the respective advantages and disadvantages each site offers.

Pay-for-Placement providers like Sprinks, Google, and FindWhat allow frequent messaging changes so the most timely and relevant links are made possible. The downside? Bidding costs can empty your budgetary pocketbook faster than Anna Nicole Smith on a shopping spree at Saks. Lovely.

Editorial Listing and Meta Search providers bill this portion of results as more trusted by searchers because it is not advertising. But, the “pray-for-positioning” method, referred to as traditional Search Engine Optimization, can take months or never to be listed. It is considered unthinkable if your listing does not appear in the first couple of pages in a search, according to a panel-based study from iProspect. In May, 2002 more than 1,400 users were asked how many results they review before selecting a listing. Over 70% responded they wouldn’t go past page two.

At last, we have Paid Inclusion with top providers like LookSmart and Inktomi dominating this space. Inclusion can be described as an unhappy marriage of traditional Editorial Listings and Pay-for-Placement. Your listings go up relatively inexpensively on a comparatively short timeline. An advertiser pays to have site addresses included in results that make sense for the search experience as opposed to buying a list of keywords.

Click costs generally run in the neighborhood of 20-50% less than some Pay-for-Placement areas and there are no bidding wars. Post-click activity is reasonably comparable to other paid search elements, thereby providing the icing, although marketers have less control over how the listings read than in Pay-for-Placement.

Smart Search

program. Two, it would behoove search providers to keep revenue greed in check in favor of user experience.

About the author: iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. He is currently Director Market Development of IPG’s Wahlstrom Interactive where he provides guidance in directional online marketing to Wahlstrom’s prestigious list of clients and sister agency brands.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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