Yahoo Gets Paid Listings

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If the appearance of paid placement listings on search engines has been a revolution over the past few months, then the war is over, because they've now come to that most conservative of search engines, Yahoo. A new "Sponsored Sites" program launched last Thursday allows web sites to be positioned at the top of Yahoo's commercial category listings.

"I hope this is yet another way that the directory can serve as a powerful vehicle for merchants to reach their intended audience, just as that has been a side effect until now," said Srinija Srinivasan, Yahoo's editor in chief, about the new program.

Srinivasan also saw value for Yahoo's users, likening the way paid listings are called out to the way advertisers in Yellow Pages may call attention to themselves by running larger ads or using bold text.

"That information is extremely salient, the size of the ad, bolding, both of these things add elements to that page," Srinivasan said. "From the users' standpoint, this information literally didn't exist before [at Yahoo”."

Before October of last year, virtually no major search engine offered paid placement listings. Now, with the new Yahoo program, Excite remains the only major service not to have them. The growth underscores the popularity of paid listings as a new revenue stream for search engines.

Nearly all of the major services have opted to use GoTo's paid links, which means any site that can prove some type of basic relevancy for a particular term is able to buy its way to the top of the results, for that term. In contrast, Yahoo's system is more restrictive. Only sites already approved by Yahoo editors and listed with its directory can purchase paid listings.

Yahoo's paid listings do not appear on the search results page that appears in response to a keyword search, as is the case with most other services. Instead, they only show up within a well-defined "Sponsored" box at the top of Yahoo's category pages. Paid listings also only appear within commercial category, which are easily identified because of the new yellow reverse bar used to highlight the category name, rather than the normal blue one. For example, compare these two categories:

Shopping & Services: Beanie Babies

Recreation: Beanie Babies

The first is a commercial category about Beanie Babies, so it features yellow bars and has a spot for any sponsored listings. The second is a non-commercial category about the stuffed animals, so it has blue bars and no sponsored listings area.

Paid listings are sold by the month, with the fee ranging from $25 to $300, depending on the popularity of the category. Some categories may be priced higher than $300, and these must be purchased through Yahoo's ad department, rather than the online self-serve program.

Approval of your paid listing should come within five days. Up to five paid links can appear in the Sponsored box. If there are more than this, Yahoo then rotates all advertisers equally.

Sponsored links will also have the word "Sponsored" appear next to them in the regular editorial listings, which I think is somewhat unfortunate. It may give the impression that sites are only being listed in these editorial areas because they have paid, when this is not the case.

Interestingly, Yahoo felt adding "Sponsored" to listings in the editorial areas would actually be a benefit to both users and site owners.

"I hope that being a Sponsored Site says something about your site and being a business that wants to be around that differentiates you in a good way," said Srinivasan.

Upon reflection, she said Yahoo might reconsider this part of the program, if users indeed took the sponsored flags the wrong way.

"If that's the perception, then I'd certainly want to rethink that, Srinivasan said.

Yahoo Sponsored Sites Home Page

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Yahoo Sponsored Sites Help

More information and assistance about the program can be found here.

A longer, more detailed version of this article is available to
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