Last week, Yahoo has dropped the ability for sites to submit for free to the commercial portion of its directory.
Sites wishing to be listed within the "Shopping and Services" or "Business to Business" areas of the web guide must now use Yahoo's US $199 "Business Express" service ($600 for adult sites). A free submission option remains for those submitting to other areas of the Yahoo.com site or to regional commercial areas at Yahoo's non-US English-language editions.
Yahoo becomes the second major directory to limit its free submission option. LookSmart made a much more expansive move earlier this year, requiring all commercial sites to pay a submission fee. In contrast, Yahoo's remaining free submission option remains much more liberal, still available in vast portions of the guide.
Yahoo said it was making the change so that it could affordably build out its commercial listings to be as comprehensive as possible.
"If we're going to be serious about organizing commercial information around the globe in English, I think having a program in place that guarantees we're going to look at every submission and respond is the right approach," said Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo's editor in chief. "Business Express is a way for us to scale."
Yahoo first launched its Business Express program back in February 1999 and has been relatively cautious about expanding it. Since then, other search engines have rolled out a variety of paid listing, paid submission and paid inclusion programs, with relatively little public outcry.
The aura of greater acceptance is one reason Yahoo says it feels comfortable making its change, though the greater reason is its own familiarity in having run a paid submission operation for nearly two years, Srinivasan said.
"Most importantly, we're at a comfort level in having plenty of experience with the program, in understanding what works and what doesn't work, and the more we've been able to pay attention of our commercial directory makes it clear that this is the way to go about to building it out," Srinivasan said.
How should you react to the Yahoo change, if you are a site owner? First and foremost, you should always use the Business Express service, even if the free submit option is offered. Doing so will greatly increase the chances that your site will get listed. Many sites using the free system are not actually rejected. They simply aren't added because editors don't have time to review all the submissions they receive. The Business Express service guarantees that someone will review your site, and the vast majority of those using the system do get listed.
Any business, no matter how small, faces some basic start up costs. The reality is that on the web, along with domain registration and site hosting fees, Yahoo's and LookSmart's submission fees are now essential costs of launching a business. Even if money is tight, you really need to scrape together the $400 (OK, $398) to be listed in these two important services.
Having said this, it is important to understand that Yahoo has maintained substantial ability for people to submit for free. That's going to be a benefit to those at non-profit organizations, universities, to hobbyists and to others who really don't have a budget for publicity. Nor, as with LookSmart, must you be a registered non-profit organization. Instead, Yahoo's new approach is to charge based where a site is listed within it directory, rather than on whether a site is commercial in nature.
In other words, only when you submit to categories under these two areas of Yahoo will the paid submission option be mandatory:
Yahoo Shopping & Services Category
Yahoo Business to Business Category
For example, a landscaping firm aimed at consumers might submit here:
And a landscaping firm aimed at businesses might submit here:
In both places, only the Business Express option is available for those trying to submit to the categories.
Now let's say you have a research paper about light pollution and want it listed here:
Fine, you'll see both a free and a Business Express option.
Home hobbyist who runs a humor site about Pokimon? Here's a suitable category, where you'll have a free submit option offered:
Even a commercial business could still submit for free. Say you sell Pokimon merchandise, but your web site also goes beyond this and offers lots of information about the animated series, such as forums, mailing lists, history and a guide to characters. Here's an appropriate category, where you'd get the ability to submit for free, even though you are a business:
As you can see, free submit is very much alive at Yahoo. I'd hope that with the change, we'll also see it get more responsive in the non-commercial categories, which Yahoo suggests may happen.
"Understandably, we're going to concentrate our support in the places where we don't have a [paid submission” program," Srinivasan said.
Nevertheless, I can't stress enough that you should use Business Express whenever possible. If not just for saving you time, it may also ensure that you get in the best possible category.
Consider this situation. Let's say you sell Pokimon merchandise and find that the category I mentioned above is one of the top ones that Yahoo lists. Ideally, you'd like your site to be listed there. You submit using the free option -- and wait. Time wasted. Now let's say you get lucky. A Yahoo editor reviews your site, sees it's commercial. You then get a message saying that you really belong in the in this subcategory of Shopping and Services:
You also get told that you'll need to use Business Express to submit there. Thus, you lose time, plus you still have to pay a fee.
I think we'll see this type of scenario emerge. Now consider this alternative. Instead of using the free option, you went ahead and submitted to the non-commercial category but did choose the Business Express route. Now, the Yahoo editor reviews your site within seven days, which almost certainly saves you time. The editor might still decide to shift your site to a Shopping and Services category. However, if your site is indeed appropriate for the non-commercial category you originally selected, I think they'll be less inclined to move you so. You certainly won't seem like somebody just looking to avoid paying the submission fee. It's also possible (slim, but possible) that Yahoo might choose to list you in both categories (especially if you picked a Shopping & Services one as your alternative).
Overall, if you've never been listed in Yahoo, always use Business Express. If you are already listed and are trying to obtain another important listing, consider using Business Express. If you have a great area of your site that you think is non-commercial in nature and should be listed, then go the free route, assuming your site already has a main listing.
Also, if you've been waiting to get listed with Yahoo and previously submitted within the main categories I mentioned, don't try using the email support option for help. Instead, you must now resubmit and pay the Business Express fee.
By the way, hoping for a paid option to get site information changed? Lots of people ask me if Yahoo will ever allow this, but there's no good news here. Yahoo has no immediate plans, though it won't rule out the idea entirely.
"There's no change on the changes, Srinivasan said. "I'll never say never, and we'll still keep twirling that around."
One last comment. Yahoo is not yet making it mandatory for sites submitting to its country-specific English-language sites outside of the US to use Business Express for commercial listings. However, you might assume this is the case, if you don't submit carefully. If you cater only to a particular country, just be sure to submit specifically to the regional listings. Here's an example.
Say I go to Yahoo UK and to submit my aerospace company. I find this category suitable:
When I try to submit, I'm told I must pay the Business Express fee. That's because this category is for global companies. However, if you look at the top, you'll see links with little UK and Irish flags that take you to UK and Irish specific listings. For example, the "UK Listings Only" link and flag takes you here:
From this category, you'll find that you can indeed submit for free, if you desire. But don't -- save yourself time and go the Business Express route. FYI, Yahoo seems likely to make Business Express mandatory even for its non-US sites in the future, but it has purposely kept it only in the US, for the time being.
You'll also find the same scenario is true for regional US listings. For example, you could submit your shoe site to this category for free, and it would be perfectly acceptable:
However, Business Express would probably save you time and ensure you got in quickly.
How Yahoo Works
Recently updated and expanded, it will take you by the hand through the issues of proper category selection, submitting to multiple categories, using the email support option for free listings and other issues.
In case you forgot your password, this will help you access the page above and the LookSmart one, below.
How LookSmart Works
More details on submitting to LookSmart and its paid submission program
Yahoo Business Express Help
More information from Yahoo about its express service.
Business Express: Frequently Asked Questions
New page at Yahoo specifically about the Business Express change.
Pay For Placement?
Articles with more background about paid submission programs at Yahoo and LookSmart can be found here.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!