Getting a Website listed on Yahoo!s directory is a dream come true for
most marketers. We want Yahoo! because surveys and statistics galore show
that Yahoo! is the portal of choice for millions of users. For example,
StatMarket.com, which tracks tens of millions of users a day, shows that
about 55 percent of users arrive via Yahoo! at the sites it tracks. The
next nearest competitor is AltaVista, at just 11 percent.
But everyone knows that Yahoo! is the biggest. It isnt the most responsive,
however. Although Yahoo! operates its site directory as an "editorial"
operation, it accepts Website listing submissions in two distinctly different
modes: free and paid. Guess which one produces better results.
Free no more
A simple inquiry to Yahoo! reveals why the free model doesnt
always work. For one thing, tens of thousands of suggested site listings
are actually ignored. Srinija Srinivasan, a vice president of Yahoo! and
editor in chief of the directory, explains that the company has constantly
changed priorities and criteria in its listing policy to reflect a wide
variety of user behavior data it has collected from the services it runs.
"Its never been our goal to process every submission," she says. Rather,
Yahoo! looks at suggestions that meet its current needs.
Manyperhaps mostsubmissions never reach the eyes of the editors who
make the real determination of whether the site meets Yahoo!s criteria
of quality and uniqueness. Srinivasan adds, "For the free service, we get
to what we get to, and we do everything we can to get to as much as possible.
We simply dont get to everything."
How do you find out whether your site meets Yahoo!s criteria once and
for all? You pay, thats how.
Crystal clear criteria
Yahoo!s Business Express service was first introduced in February
1999. The service guarantees a yes or no response within seven business
daysfor $199. The process for submitting a Website is identical to the
free method until you reach the final step, when you agree to terms and
provide a credit card number for a nonrefundable fee.
Suddenly, Yahoo!s criteria become crystal clear.
Before you (like me) become too indignant, its important to take a
step back and understand whether a service is intended for you as a marketer
or for the services users. Yahoo!s directory lives and breathes for those
who search it, not for those who want to be listed in it. Some pay-for-play
directories, such as GoTo.com, try to subvert that in a marketers favor,
but such search engines are distinctly in the minority at present.
Business Express tries to provide marketers with a consistent result
inside Yahoo!s editorial process. The fees, according to Srinivasan, essentially
underwrite the cost of dedicating staff to the task of responding. This
is not a profit center for Yahoo!. Although Srinivasan wont discuss specific
numbers, she says that Business Express represents a very small fraction
of all submissions, and thus relatively little revenue.
Many search engine and promotion experts recommend using Business Express
for speed and peace of mind. Regardless of whether your site is accepted,
you get a response in a predictable period of time. You also get an explanation
if the site is rejected, and an email address to which you can respond
if you want to appeal Yahoo!s decision or have made changes to your site
in response to the criticisms and would like to resubmit it.
Worth the fee
Users at www.searchengineforums.com, an excellent place to get
tips and exchange advice on Web posting, seem to agree that being able
to use follow-up email to address problems with the site is almost worth
the fee in itself.
Danny Sullivan, editor at Search Engine Watch, says, "People think nothing
of paying $70 for domain names that dont actually generate traffic, so
I think Yahoo!s fee is minimal, especially for guaranteeing that people
can get an answer. And most people who use it do get in."
Eric Ward, owner of the linking and submission strategy service NetPost,
advises time-sensitive sites, such as those getting ready for a launch,
to pay the fee. Ward claims he has had 100 percent success using either
Business Express or the free method with his clients. But his clients are
self-selected in that theyre willing to pay him for promotion. "My experience
may be unique in that I only submit high-end, deep-content sites, which
Yahoo! is more likely to accept," he admits.
In truth, Yahoo! sets its own agenda, period. And although marketers
might carp and chafe at paying for a no answerin fact, when I paid recently
to list a site, I got a yes within two daysits still important to figure
out whether your site is worth spending $199 to be listed in the worlds
most popular directory. It shouldnt take most good marketers a lot of
time to come up with a yes answer to that one.