The Yahoo! pay-for-inclusion program, SiteMatchä, has caused quite a stir among webmasters and small businesses. Announced on March 1, 2004, just as the Search Engine Strategies conference (SES) was getting underway in New York, SiteMatch offers website owners a chance – for a fee – to make sure Yahoo is aware of their URLs and considers them for inclusion in its search index.
To participate in SiteMatch, website owners pay a flat yearly fee, plus a flat per-click charge that ranges from 15 cents to 30 cents per click, depending on the nature of the website. The flat yearly fee is $49 per URL for one URL, $29 per URL for URLs 2-10, and $10 per year for URLs 11 and above. The sites that are included will be fed into not only the Yahoo! search results, but also the search results of All The Web, AltaVista and other sites to which Yahoo! provides search results.
Not surprisingly given the cost, the initial reaction from small businesses was dismay. A woman in the audience at an SES session discussing the change drew both sympathetic laughter and a loud round of applause when she stood up during the Q & A segment and told panelists,
"I don't like it, I just don't like it."
At issue are two major concerns. First, small businesses fear the costs of the SiteMatch program will make it prohibitive. Second, they fear that if they don't sign up for SiteMatch their websites will be dropped from or demoted in search results.
Yahoo! says that second fear is unfounded.
"SiteMatch is part of the Yahoo Content Acquisition Program," explained Chris Bolte, Overture Vice President, Strategic Alliances. (Overture, which Yahoo! owns, is responsible for running the SiteMatch program.)
"Our first and foremost goal is to crawl and have the entire web in our base index for free," he said. "So, for all the sites that are out there and have quality content – we want them in that index for free. No one will be excluded [for not joining SiteMatch]."
SiteMatch is an added service for advertisers, Bolte explained. "People can choose to be included in it. If you opt to do so, and if you are a commercial site, there is a cost to pay. And if you choose not to, that's ok, too, we would still like you in the base index. And if by chance we didn't crawl your site, there's a free add URL area on our site where you can put in your listing."
What Does Site Match Offer?
If Yahoo! is offering website owners a way to get their URLs included for free, what, then, do they get if they choose SiteMatch?
Well, for starters, the free add URL area warns that it may take several weeks before a URL that is submitted will be crawled. And there's no guarantee when it will be crawled again. With SiteMatch, however, URLs are reviewed within 48 hours and re-crawled every 48 hours. So, changes will show up quickly in search results. In addition, SiteMatch participants may access reports showing which keywords generated clicks – information that can then be used to maximize returns from other forms of online advertising.
Worth The Cost?
Are those benefits worth the cost? Because SiteMatch fees are URL-based, and each web "page" is a different URL, a small business that wants to ensure multiple pages from their site are reviewed for inclusion in the Yahoo! search index would have to pay multiple yearly fees. Those yearly fees, plus the per-click costs could burn a hole in a small business' advertising budget.
If a small business has 50 products in an online store and wants to be sure each of the pages gets reviewed for inclusion in the search index, they'd have to shell out $710 in yearly fees. Then, on top of that, they'd have to pay 15 cents to 30 cents (depending on the business) each time someone finds their listing in the search engine and clicks through to their site.
At the lowest per-click fee (15 cents), if each one of those 50 product URLs were found and clicked on 100 times each month (for a total of 5,000 clickthroughs a month) the business would pay an additional $750 per month for per-click fees. So over the course of a year, the total costs they might expect to incur for their 50 product URLs would be would be $9700. And that's if the category of business they fall under qualifies for the 15 cents per click rate. If they sell household goods or other products that get dinged for 30 cents a click, the end of the year total bill for SiteMatch advertising could be a little over $18,710.
Yahoo! believes the CPC cost will help build more relevant content for the searcher and better leads for advertisers since content providers are only likely to register relevant pages in SiteMatch.
But most small businesses have a different perspective. They look at practicalities such as what it's going to cost to bring in new business through the SiteMatch program, will they make enough money on each sale to make it worthwhile, and can they get similar results without spending as much for advertising.
One business owner who didn't want to be mentioned by name put it this way: "Why should I pay a fixed yearly fee plus 30 cents per click when I already get traffic for only a nickel a click from other sources?"
Inclusion? Probably. Position Placement? No.
Paying for inclusion through the SiteMatch program doesn't guarantee top placement, either. It just insures that the listed URLs will be included in the Yahoo! search index if the URLs meet Yahoo!'s relevancy guidelines. What position the results will show up in the search engine won't be influenced by fee payment, either, Yahoo! says. SiteMatch listings will be intermingled with organic (nonpaid) search results, and the ranking of SiteMatch results will be determined by the same algorithms that determine placement for the free listings. So, a business owner could pay for inclusion and still wind up being number 2,345 in the search engine results.
Who Should Use SiteMatch
If your web site and/or product pages do well in the organic search results, there's little reason to pay for inclusion, in my opinion. But if specific URLs you want to be visible can't be found in the Yahoo! search index, then it could be worth your while to test SiteMatch on a small scale and watch results carefully for a month to be sure profits outstrip operating costs.