After months of beta testing, FAST has finally opened its paid inclusion program to the general public. However, FAST is not selling inclusion into its web index directly. Instead, FAST is allowing its search partners to resell the service to web site owners and site promoters.
"We're not going to sell this direct," said Stephen Baker, FAST's director of business development and marketing. "We view it as a service for the portals and our partners to sell and make additional revenue."
Terra Lycos is the first of these partners to offer FAST inclusion through a non-beta program, via the "Lycos InSite" programs that opened to the general public last week on the Lycos.com web site. The programs lets site owners purchase either inclusion into the FAST web page index or a bundled inclusion and site search product.
"Lycos InSite Select" is the pure inclusion product, guaranteeing that a page will be added to the FAST web page index within 2 days, then updated every 2 days within any changes, for a year. That FAST index provides the main editorial results on the Lycos search results page, and the index is also used by all other FAST partners, as well as FAST itself, on the AllTheWeb site. The price is $12 per URL per year, in addition to an $18 annual membership fee to open an account.
As is the same with paid inclusion programs offered by other major crawlers, entering a URL through the program does not guarantee that it will rank well for any particular term nor give it a ranking boost.
"Lycos InSite does not affect the ranking of a site within the results," said Tom Wilde, general manager of search services for Lycos. "We do not alter the relevancy of the search engine based on paying versus non-paying inclusion customers. The lower cost of the paid inclusion service relative to paid placement services reflects this."
If you do want a guaranteed listing for a particular term at Lycos, the way to do that is through Overture. Lycos carries the top three listings from Overture for any particular keyword in the "Sponsored Search Listings" area of its results. In contrast, paid inclusion means you'll be in the database used to find matches for the "Web Results" section of the page. You aren't guaranteed to show up for any particular term, but by having greater representation in the database, you may find that you gain greater traffic.
What about the URLs that were previously included for free by FAST, or when the annual fee runs out, if you don't renew. Do they get dropped?
"When a user cancels their subscription, pages that existed in the FAST index previously will be added back into the index, with no service level guarantees. All other pages are added to the free submission service with no guarantee of inclusion," FAST's Baker said.
In other words, if the page was in FAST before, you stay in, though you'll be revisited on a more "regular" basis. If you weren't in FAST before, you get dropped -- though you could get picked up in the future for free.
There are some restrictions on what you can submit through the program. Content that is illegal or infringes on copyright or other rights of third parties is specifically ruled out. Mirror sites or pages that just redirect to other pages are also banned. It's also against the rules to "spam" via the program, and FAST provides some general guidelines about what it considers spam on the FAST Spam Policy page, listed below.
FAST further said that doorways pages and cloaked pages are not allowed through the self-serve programs.
The "Lycos InSite Pro" program bundles inclusion into the FAST web page index and provides you with the ability to make your own site searchable. By installing simple templates, you can have a search box on your site that lets visitors search against the URLs you've paid to have included with FAST. This is in addition to getting those URLs listed with the FAST web-wide index. Pricing is done on a monthly basis, $189 per month for up to 250 pages, then $279 for up to 500 pages.
The hosted search offering leaves me less than thrilled, because despite paying a monthly fee, Lycos still imposes its branding on your web site. The search box and search results pages in hosted search will carry the Lycos logo. I think the branding should only happen in a free hosted search option, such as those offered by people such as Atomz, MondoSearch and Google. Generally, when you pay for hosted search, the branding goes away. That should be true with Lycos, as well.
In addition, the current templates force you to show visitors an option to search the entire web using Lycos, when you might prefer not to offer this. Lycos says that it sees the option as a feature webmasters may want. However, if it turns out that this isn't so, changes will come.
"Clearly, if theres strong objection about that, wed hear about it and respond to it," said Wilde. He also said that Lycos will "aggressively roll out" enhanced customization features for hosted search service this spring.
Both Lycos InSite services are self-serve programs is designed for those with up to 500 pages that they'd like to have indexed. Over that amount, pricing is done on a custom quote basis. XML is the preferred way to take in bulk feed of pages. Pricing is done on a flat fee per URL basis, though lower than with the self-serve program, and usually has a cost-per-click component, as well.
What about free Add URL? Lycos still offers it, but submitting there is no different that submitting via the AllTheWeb Add URL page. The advantage to using the AllTheWeb Add URL page is that you don't need to open a Lycos Network membership. That's free, but you may not want to have one, just to submit.
Regardless of which method you use, there's no guarantee that your page will show up, just because you submit. FAST says URLs, if they are going to appear, will do so within 6 weeks. It is allowed to submit multiple URLs in a "deep submit," but that doesn't really help ensure they'll get included. Instead, the best method to get your pages indexed is to build links from quality sites to your site. That will help FAST's link crawler naturally find you.
By the way, if you do use the Lycos Add URL page, you'll see that it ask you to classify your pages in one of three categories. This information is used internally by Lycos for market research purposes, not to help understand the content of your page or for ranking purposes.
How about Europe? Lycos Europe, a separate company 30 percent owned by Lycos.com owner Terra Lycos, is beta testing paid inclusion for its Lycos Germany web site. The program cost