Yahoo, GoTo Top Ways For Paid Traffic

In March 2001, moderator Detlev Johnson of the I-Search mailing list asked his readers about their experiences with search engine paid participation programs, such as paid placement, paid inclusion and paid submission (see the Buying Your Way In and the Pay For Placement pages for more information about these topics). In all, 94 people responded, and the results are below.

Yahoo & GoTo Top Choices

The oldest paid participation programs turned out to be the most popular. GoTo has been offering paid placement listings since the beginning of 1998, and Yahoo began offering its paid submission service since the beginning of 1999. Both were practically tied for being used more than any other type of program.

These services are also probably popular because of the reach they provide. Yahoo is commonly acknowledged as the web's most popular search service, while GoTo distributes its links to a wide variety of major search engines.

Despite still being relatively young, also significantly used are LookSmart's paid submission programs and Inktomi's paid inclusion system. LookSmart's programs are just over a year old, while Inktomi's program is less than six months old. Nevertheless, the programs are no doubt popular because of the potential reach that they offer site owners.

LookSmart offers two different paid submission programs, but a combined usage rate is shown because people tended to choose only one of them. In other words, most people either used LookSmart's fast "Express Submit" program or its slower (and cheaper) "Basic Submit" program. Combining the two scores gives a better sense of LookSmart's overall usage. A breakdown for LookSmart's individual programs is also shown.

Similarly, a combined score is shown for Google, which has two different paid placement programs. The breakdown shows usage of Google's individual offerings.

There were 80 people in the survey who said they used some type of paid participation program, and they could select all relevant programs they used. The table below shows which programs received the most votes from this group of 80 people.

Which of the following services have you engaged?



Yahoo Paid Submission ("Business Express")


GoTo (Paid Placement)


LookSmart Paid Submission
2-Day Submission ("Express Submit")
8-Week Submission ("Basic Submit")

Inktomi Paid Inclusion (Search Connect)


NBCi Submission ("Promote a Site")


Sprinks ( paid placement)


Google Paid Placement
Google AdWords (self-serve program)
Google Sponsored Links ("text banners")


Yahoo Sponsored Sites (Paid Placement)


FindWhat (Paid Placement)


Kanoodle (Paid Placement)


Go Paid Submission (note: no longer active)


There were also 14 people who indicated that they used no paid participation programs at all. This means that according to the survey, 85 percent of site owners make use of some type of paid program.

In addition to the services shown above, some respondents also named other services that aren't shown. These services had 4 percent or less participation.

GoTo Offers Best Experience

Participants were also asked to select one single service that they had the best experience with. GoTo remained the top choice. Yahoo also stayed in the number two slot, but the percentage selecting it was much lower than its participation rate. It's difficult to view this necessarily as broad dissatisfaction with the service (and those ranked below it). Instead, the satisfaction rate with Yahoo and these other services might have been higher had the survey allowed respondents to rate each of them individually. There were 85 positive responses, in all.

List the service which you have had the best experience with.

Program Percent







Google AdWords




Google Sponsored Links

(all tied)

Respondents were also asked the open ended question of "What paid service would you like to see start next?" None was a popular response. Clearly, many felt they'd had enough of these services. Others took the question as an opportunity to vent anger or frustration about particular programs. Nevertheless, there were also suggestions for new services or improvements to existing ones. A sampling of responses, organized by general topic.

No More! - Paid Placement -
Paid Submission
- Paid Inclusion - Wish List Ideas

No More!

[Paid programs are” a bad trend and makes search engine results very unreliable.

I'd like to see an end to pay for placement and pay for inclusion services in search engines and directories. Level the playing field again!

Most of my clients (small/medium businesses) prefer low and no-cost promotions to save on expenses. As a result, most of the sponsorships and paid placements are not considered.

I am from the old school and really hate to pay for listings but understand that the free days are coming to a close. It is okay for clients who have big budgets but so many of our clients are smaller public entities or organizations that rely on contributions from other places -- that kind of thing -- makes it difficult to get them to pay cost items.

I'm not a very big fan of paid services. Some like Inktomi's paid inclusion makes sense but others don't make much sense. It's just a way to earn more money for the engines... Engines should make submission free. Many sites have great content but they are not listed in search engines nowadays, because they don't have sufficient budget...This means that searchers can't find some high quality content sites which are non-commercial.

I think that there is enough at present and that paid services should not become the 'norm'. As a SME we have worked hard over the past 4 years to offer a high quality, relevant service for the UK real estate market without the benefit of a massive advertising budget. Because of this we have to be very selective where we spend our money on pay for placement or sponsored links and rely heavily on SEO to ensure a relatively high profile on the search engines. Undoubtably, there are many other companies like us who believe that quality content and relevance is what our customers want but who don't have the funds to promote it through advertising or pay for placement. If the paid methods were to become the 'norm' then we believe that there would be a lot of great sites that would go un-noticed and unappreciated which would be sad.

Paid Placement

Would like to see AltaVista implement the GoTo paid placement in their top results.

I would like to see the search engines accept half-cents as valid bids. For example: 0.005 (half cent), 0.01, 0.015, 0.02, 0.025, etc.

I think it's getting out of the affordable range for most of my clients now. Many have to take these paid submissions in stages. The PPC auction system means they get caught in bidding wars and can't get a consistent ROI from month to month.

I'd like to see more ppc models. I've found that cpm models such as those on Google and AskJeeves did not provide a valuable ROI.

I don't want to see more paid. Rates keep going up, up up, over 3 years goto has gone up so much for my same keywords, someday soon I won't be able to afford.

I would like to see more sponsored text links available on search engines and less banner ads.

I'd like to see Excite utilize GoTo, similarly to AOL or Netscape

Only sponsored links where it is clear they have been paid for - buying positions is unfair on those companies with limited (online )marketing budgets.

What I'd like to see is some customer service from the engines who have adopted pay for placement services. Getting resolutions to incorrect listings seems to be almost impossible - even when the engine is the one who made the mistake!

Paid Submission

I'm happy as long as GoTo keeps adding affiliates. I AM however, disappointed in the lack of detail paid by Yahoo's Business Express submissions. It REALLY ticked me off when their rep stated that they are HAND HOLDING with the addition of their sponsored listing program. It's a shame that they're still the most popular directory. They have no customer service skills whatsoever. LookSmart is blowing them out of the water with their quality of service.

I personally don't care for paid listings but I know there is a need for a major paid listing directory, similar to the Yellow Pages. It looks like Yahoo is filling this need. Just as phone book competitors try to break the Yellow Pages stranglehold, so paid listing directories will try to break Yahoo's share, but I don't think they'll succeed.

I'd like to pay to have categories cleaned up that I want to be in. Many are filled with junk!

I haven't used paid submission, nor do I intend to. I believe that it is an undesirable commercialization of the webs structure and strengths. The web isn't just about business and paid submission reduces its value in education and research. It also greatly diminishes the relevance of the search facilities that use paid submissions. Much of the web is non-profit, or non-promotional. This side of the web has no place if search becomes dominated by paid submission services.

Paid Inclusion

I think the Inktomi pay for spidering model is very interesting. By paying for spidering, massive amounts of spam are being eliminated. But the content of each page is still the determining factor to the listing. I would be willing to pay for this type of spidering on all the big indexes.

I would like to see all the big top 10 SE's do what Inktomi did. I think that $20 is reasonable. That way I can worry about ranking the sites and not wasting time checking to see if they get dumped out of an overbloated database. I also think that spammers are less likely to pay $20. Even my non profit clients have been able to afford this. For $200 I can get a client in all the major 10 engines (if they all did paid submission). That is the same price as a LookSmart or Yahoo express submit. In my opinion the $200/yr for 10 major engines a year would be more valuable to my clients.

I think a service like Inktomi's paid inclusion service should spider the whole site, perhaps every week.

Guaranteed spidering, like the Inktomi service. I'm sick of lazy search engines.

Pay $50 per year to be spidered weekly. The ranking is based upon content. Everybody can afford it and it at least assures that your site isn't being skipped. That means that ranking by content rules what people see and that the SE's are making money in the face of crashing advertising levels. Let's see, 10 million paid pages at $4 each per month, hmmmmmmm.....

Pay for inclusion in Excite. That would be a thorn out of my side. And it might even make their index more fresh.

Paid submission at affordable rates such as at Inktomi is the best model because it still relies on true search relevancy of the page.

Wish List Ideas

Maybe a service where you can call a search engine and speak to someone about technical difficulties with the site, index issues, etc. Maybe then they would actually pick up the phone.

I would like to see more keyword planning tools for webmasters.

More banner buys with rates based on clickthroughs.

I would like to see a yearly subscription rate for submission "per web site' (not per page), one affordable price renewable every year. For those who have multiple web sites and need listings with multiple search engines and directories this can run into serious money even with affordable pricing. We need something reasonable in place, especially for small commercial businesses. Continue free listings for all non-profits and also for non-commercial sites.

I would like to see keyword popularity for each individual search engine i.e. similar to GoTo's suggestion service. It would also be nice to find the keywords that have been used to find a particular website i.e. by entering your competitors url you could find out what keywords users have entered on a particular SE in order to find that site. Discounts/bonus points for frequent purchasers. Might encourage more buying and both parties are happy.

1)Fines for Spam 2) Incentive program - for every irrelevant search result due to cloaking, mirroring, & SPAM I find and report, I get a priority spot for my site

Pay per click services such as goto are very organized and well updated, but search engines have many ways of making money. I would like there to be a search engine that only lists the most frequented and best sites (elite group) available in all the many categories. Too much junk out there is getting on the web and distracting visitors. Yahoo and Google are the closest to achieving that result, but have a ways to go.

How about a google position status service! Since they hate to have us WebPostion Gold users running reports on google why don't they offer a for-pay way for us to either use WPG or else they deliver the daily/weekly/monthly report on our keywords? I would like to be able to determine which times and days my sponsored links appear. For example: 8.30 am to 6.30 pm GMT Monday to Friday for UK based business sites. Any impressions shown outside these hours would likely be a waste of time and money.

I would like to see the existing ones improve their customer support. Yahoo is probably the worst but they are all inexcusably bad at customer service.

Not sure I want a paid service as much as I would like for a way for websites to be classified. Allow a business to do it through a meta-tag. something like the system used in library to classified book. words like award should be able to be broken down into various categories such as person receiving, creating, glass, trophies, etc.


More about the I-Search list, include a sign-up form.

I-Search Archives

You'll find the original survey questions here.

Buying Your Way In
A guide to how major search engines integrate paid programs into their results.

Pay For Placement?
Collection of past articles on the topic of paid placement, paid inclusion and paid submission programs at various major search engines.