Paid Submission & Other Changes At NBCi

NBCi has rolled out a paid submission service that allows faster review of sites for inclusion into its main directory. In addition, the service, formerly known as Snap, has also made some changes to how sites are listed in its results.

In line with express submission pricing from Yahoo and LookSmart, NBCi is charging $199 for those who want an answer within five business days about being included in its directory. However, the price is only $99 as an introductory offer until Feb. 15.

Sites can still be listed for free at NBCi, due to its two-tier listing structure. When someone searches at NBCi, most queries are answered by the main NBCi Directory, a listing of sites that have all been reviewed and approved by editors. This is also called the "Top Sites" directory. However, any NBCi user can submit a site to a secondary "LiveDirectory" set of listings. These unreviewed sites serve as a backup for when there are no matching sites from the main directory.

For example, do a search for "used telescopes," and you'll see that most of the results page is filled with "Top Sites" listings that come out of the Top Sites directory. However, toward the bottom of the page are two "Member-Submitted Sites" that come from the LiveDirectory.

Sites can be added to the LiveDirectory free of charge and typically show up within an hour or less after submission. Moreover, if NBCi's tracking systems determine that they seem to be satisfying queries, sites in the LiveDirectory can then get "promoted" to the Top Sites directory. For site owners, such promotion can mean an increase in traffic, since its usually the main directory listings that people see. The new program allows sites to pay a free to speed up this promotion process.

"Sites normally need to be in the LiveDirectory for about three to four months, so we can see how well they rise to the top, said NBCi's Robert Christiansen, managing producer of the directory. "With the guaranteed review program, if it's worth promoting, we'll do it within days."

Christiansen stressed that the program doesn't guarantee that a site will be actually listed, only that it will be reviewed. But, as with programs from Yahoo and LookSmart, most sites of decent quality should expect to be accepted. However, do be aware that unlike LookSmart and Yahoo, there's no appeals process. If your site is rejected for promotion, you will not receive any tips for making improvements and allowed one more free chance to try again. Instead, you'll need to review the promotion guidelines and make any changes you think might be effective. Then, you either need to try a message to NBCi's user support department asking for a rereview (which could take some time) or chose to pay the promotion fee again for faster action.

What's likely to be rejected? Sites with little unique or original content, for one. "If you are some person who just has a web page full of affiliate links, you're not going to be in the Top Sites directory," said Christiansen.

Sites accepted for promotion will also benefit from "expedited updates," which means a five day or less response to change requests. When viewing the "Site Details" of a promoted site (as explained below), you'll see an Update option available. Selecting it will allow you to send comments and change requests to the Top Sites editors. However, be sure you are logged into NBCi under the same account as used when submitting the site originally. Otherwise, your change request will not be sent to the expedited queue for processing.

Another benefit includes listing a site in multiple categories. This means that Top Sites editors will review your site and see if there's more than one place that's appropriate for it. For example, if you submitted a business site to a particular product category, the Top Site editors might also give you a regional listing, if appropriate.

Unfortunately, there's no way to suggest other categories during the promotion process. This may be added in the future. Until then, NBCi advises that you should apply for promotion, see if you are accepted, then see what, if any, new categories your site is added to. If you then feel you should be included in another category, go back and use the Update option to send a message to the editors explaining which other category you should be in and why.

Finally, "expert keyword enhancement" is another feature of the program. This means that when reviewing your site, the NBCi editors will associated it with 10 or more keywords that appear relevant to the site. Part of this is determined by reviewing the keywords you supply during the LiveDirectory submission process. The editors will also review what keywords the site already seems to be ranking well for, plus add any others they deem appropriate.

The keyword enhancement does not guarantee that a site will rank well for its associated keywords, but it does give the site an added boost for those terms. Unfortunately, there's no way to see what terms your site is associated with, after it has been promoted. One suggestion from NBCi is that after the promotion process, you might go back and use the update form to alert the editors to any keywords you consider essential to the site. Make this a short list of your very top terms. You might suggest a review in this way:

--------

Hello--

I just wanted to make sure that our site, which was recently promoted, is associated with these keywords:

keyword 1, keyword 2, ....

They are all among the top ways people might be seeking our content.

--------

Also, keep in mind that NBCi uses clickthrough measurements to help determine which sites should rise to the top, in response to different searches. This means that over time, if enough people are finding your site and clicking on it in response to searches, it may move up in the rankings. However, don't be inclined to go in and just click on your own site over and over. NBCi does watch for bogus clickthroughs.

To promote a site, you first have to submit it to the LiveDirectory, and the links below provide more advice about this. I should also have a completely revised NBCi page posted by January 8, if not sooner, that will take you through the process and provide further tips that take into account the new promotion option. Once a site is added to the LiveDirectory, you'll receive an email from NBCi with promotion instructions. You'll also see any sites you've previously submitted through the LiveDirectory system listed on the LiveDirectory home page, when you log in. Any that can be promoted will have a little "Promote" icon next to them.

What about all those sites already promoted or that were added before the LiveDirectory system was launched in November 1999? Unfortunately, there's no expedited way to get these sites changed, ensure they have multiple category listings or certain keywords associated with them. Instead, you'll have to use the regular user support channels to request changes. However, this may change in the future.

"We are probably going to be releasing a general update for the existing sites," said Christiansen. "We are thinking about some type of update fee."

Should you promote your sites? Almost certainly. It should give them a much better chance of coming up before users. No doubt it will take longer for you to feel the fee has paid for itself in traffic, in comparison to Yahoo and LookSmart, because sites listed in those directories reach a much broader audience. Nevertheless, NBCi remains an important directory, and so this is also an essential fee you should be budgeting for, at least for the home page of your web site.

If you have inside pages also listed, getting them promoted may be less a priority. If you find they are already showing up on the first page of results for the terms you are concerned with, then getting them promoted out of the LiveDirectory isn't a big deal. Promotion probably won't increase traffic that much, and they stand a decent chance of getting promoted automatically. However, if you have important inside pages that don't rank well, promotion is a good option to consider. Just remember -- there's no appeal process, so be sure these are good quality pages.

Also at NBCi, you'll find new "More Like This" and "Site Details" links appearing at the bottom of each site listed. In addition, the existing "Listed in NBCi Category" and "Find more sites about" links remain for each listing. Here's a rundown on how you might take advantage of these options.

Let's say you searched for "Mir," the ageing Russian space station. The second listing that comes up is "Mir Space Station," a page from NASA. After the page's description, you'll see a link that says "Listed in NBCi Category: Mir." Selecting this category link brings up other sites that NBCi has classified about Mir, helpful if you want a human-edited list of sites about the station. By default, you'll only be shown editor reviewed sites, but by choosing the "Member-Submitted Sites" link at the top of the category, you can see other sites on the topic that have been added by NBCi users and which may be of interest.

Under the NASA "Mir Space Station" listing is also a line that says "Find more sites about: space station | international space station | space colonies." Each topic is a link, and selecting one reruns your search using those words. Behind the scenes, what's happening is that NBCi can track that some sites selected by people who search for Mir are also chosen by people who search for other topics, such as "space station." From this, NBCi can suggest that these other searches might be of interest to those who search for Mir. So, the "Find more sites" option provides a useful way to take your search in a new but related direction from your original search topic.

By selecting the "More Like This" link, you'll see other sites similar to the NASA site about Mir. Unlike using the "Listing in NBCi Category" link, More Like This will bring back sites beyond those just listed in the Mir category. You'll also see any related searches and related categories that may be of interest.

The "Site Details" link is probably of most interest to webmasters and site promoters. It shows you how a particular site ranks for major search terms. For example, the NASA Mir site is ranked number 2 for "mir" and number 5 for "space station." To see how your own site does, just search for it, then choose the Site Details link. You can also see if a site resides in the main directory. If so, it will say, "Listed in: NBCi Directory" under the "Site Information" section of the Site Details page. Otherwise, you'll be told it is listed in the "Live Directory" and you'll see site submission and update details.

Finally, NBCi continues to experiment with paid links from GoTo. Sometimes, the top three listings for a particular term at GoTo will appear at the top of NBCi's search results page. Other times, the top eight links will run along the right-hand side of the results page, in a "Search Marketplace" box. Occasionally, the top ten paid links can be reached only by selecting the "Search Marketplace" link in the navigation box on the search results page. NBCi says the experimenting will continue through this month.

NBCi
http://www.nbci.com/

LiveDirectory Home Page
http://livedirectory.nbci.com/

Learn more about submitting to the LiveDirectory here. Once you've done that, you'll then be able to promote your submitted sites to the Top Sites directory.

NBCi Promote a Site Help Center
http://www.nbci.com/LMOID/resource/0,566,-4189,00.html

More specific help from NBCi about its promotion program, including guidelines about what is and isn't eligible for promotion.

NBCi E-mail Us Page
http://www.nbci.com/main/help/support/0,120,-0,00.html

Use this page to get in contact about changes to sites in the Top Sites directory that were added before the promotion program began.

NBCi (Snap) Unveils LiveDirectory
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 6, 1999
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/9912-snap.html

Past article about the LiveDirectory system. Lots of tips that are still useful about submitting, though you might want to wait until I've posted the updated NBCi page (below).

Password Finder
http://searchenginewatch.com/about/finder.html

How NBCi (Snap) Works
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/snap.html

Will be fully updated by January 8th (or sooner) and explains submission to NBCi, including tips on the new promotion system.

NBCi Faces Struggle to Become Major Portal
Bloomberg, Dec. 29, 2000

Unlike AltaVista, which pulled back from the portal game late last year, NBCi is taking aim at the likes of AOL, Yahoo and MSN. But NBCi has US $380 million in free advertising on US network NBC to use in its fight. Be aware this article may not be available for free for very long.