Yahoo!'s Web Ignites the Robot Industry
by Paul J. Bruemmer-2003

Everyone is trying to second-guess what's going on at Yahoo!. 
Some experts are saying webmasters will stop paying $299 yearly 
for the Yahoo! Business Express listing because they've seen 
their rankings tank since Yahoo! started serving Google 
crawler-based results. Others say it's more important than ever 
to pay for the Yahoo! listing in order to boost link popularity, 
an important algorithm ranking factor.

What Changed at Yahoo!?

Yahoo! used to rank sites based on it's human-powered directory 
database with an algorithm of its own, but filled in with Google 
crawler-based results when it lacked data on search terms in its 
own database. This meant that a Yahoo! listing with excellent 
title and description produced high rankings on Yahoo!.

With the recent change, Yahoo! is now using Google crawler-based 
results (and algorithm) in its default Web results, substituting 
Yahoo! directory listings wherever possible. But basically what 
you get is Google results. Thus, Yahoo! rankings can change 
substantially for better or for worse. 

Yahoo still displays its directory listings, but users must 
click on a Web Site Directory link (below the fold) to see these 
results, and most people don't do this because it's easier to 
use the default search box. So not many users are going to see 
your Yahoo! Web Site Directory listing.

When these changes were first announced, some webmasters and SEO 
experts questioned the value of a Yahoo! listing at $299 per 
year. But knowing that a good portion of its revenues come from 
the Business Express listings, would Yahoo! jeopardize this 
source of income? Not likely. 

First of all, Yahoo! left open the possibility of pulling results 
from other databases such as Inktomi. Then, it knows that link 
popularity is heavily weighted in many crawler algorithms besides 
Google, making the Yahoo! listing advantageous to boost chances 
of a top-ten listing in Google and other crawler-powered 
databases like AltaVista, AOL, Fast, Lycos, HotBot, MSN, Teoma, 

Opinion of Industry Experts

Danny Sullivan, Internet consultant, author, and renown search 
engine expert, concluded that the Yahoo! listing is as important 
as ever. 

"The value of Business Express is no longer essential for 
just small business, but for big business it still remains a 
no-brainer purchase," said Sullivan ( 
"Because Yahoo! is making use of spider-based listings more than 
they ever did in the past, it is more valuable than ever to 
optimize your pages. These changes make it more important that 
companies consider their search engine strategy."

Because of the Yahoo! changes, iProspect CEO Fredrick 
Marckini ( believes "This changes 
everything: web site design and Yahoo!'s business express 
program are now the two most important factors in determining 
web site ranking and visibility."

Furthermore, Marckini ( believes Yahoo's 
changes represent an "industry mega-trend." "Namely, search 
databases have now effectively replaced human-edited directories 
as the perceived most successful search mechanism, as all major 
search properties are now leading with search databases and 
subordinating their human-edited directory matches to them," 
said Marckini.

These experts make two clear points: That Yahoo! is essential 
because it enhances link popularity, and also that Web page 
design, and thus search engine optimization, has become even 
more important as the major portals move toward spider/ 
crawler-driven listings over human-edited listings.

On the Other Hand! 

I've seen a few experts question the value of the Yahoo! 
listing. For instance, software engineer Tom McCracken stated on 
Sitepoint (, "This means 
that a listing in Yahoo!'s directory will not help your search 
ranking. Thus there is only one minor advantage to a Yahoo 
listing, which is that some people do still search for sites 
using the Yahoo! directory listing (though these users are few 
and far between)." 

Another interesting position is that of Sumantra Roy 
(, in answer to a user question: 
"Does it still make sense to pay Yahoo! the $299 it requires for 
getting listed?" Sumantra's answer: "If Yahoo! is forced to 
modify its search results again and start giving some sort of 
preference to web sites listed in its directory. At that point 
of time, it may again make sense to pay the $299 to get listed." 

These views could be short-sighted - time will tell. However, I 
still believe a Yahoo! listing is essential for commercial sites. 
It will do a lot more than provide visibility in Yahoo!'s 
directory listings. I agree with Sullivan and Marckini that it's 
more important than ever to focus on professional search engine 
optimization techniques to achieve high rankings in crawler 

Value of SEO Over PPC

This statement from Marckini is telling: "Pay-for-placement 
engines can only get you so far, and the costs are prohibitively 
expensive with keyword bids up to as much as $5 or $10 per click, 
some even $50 per click. Monthly keyword budgets in some vertical 
niches are running upwards of $50,000 to $75,000 per 
month-advertising dollars that would not have to be spent if 
the marketers focused on making their Web sites search engine 

Amen bro! 

Understanding Search Engine Marketing

It's amazing how many people at the highest levels of management 
simply do not understand search engine marketing. The single 
most important issues to consider in 2003: Can the major spider 
engines see your website? Does your navigation allow the engine 
to crawl your website thoroughly? Can the engine read your 
content? Is your content attractive to the engine and your 
visitors? Do you have killer title and description tags optimized 
for keywords? Do you have quality sites linking to you? 

Google Rules

You must ensure a quality Google listing. In a conversation with 
Google software engineer Matt Cutts, he reiterated that one step 
toward high Google rankings is to list in directories first, both 
DMOZ ( and Yahoo! 

DMOZ (Open Directory Project) is particularly desirable because 
it's used by many smaller directories, creating more links. 
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get listed if there is no 
category editor or if an editor is prejudicial. (You can appeal 
through a "feedback" link that goes to DMOZ staff.) 

Site architecture, page design, and optimization of relevant 
content with strategic keywords in text, headers and tags is of 
utmost importance, as is a strategic linking strategy. 

Also be aware that Google seems to be excluding some 
cross-linked pages for PageRank ratings. Its spiders now cross 
check link text with the linked site, excluding links with text 
that doesn't appear within the linked site. This may be the 
solution to "Google bombing," whereby linkers capriciously 
manipulate the PageRank of the linked site.

Paul J. Bruemmer is the CEO of Web 
Ignite, a search engine marketing 
company founded in 1995. Web-Ignite earned a top grade in the 
Buyers' Guide to Search Engine Optimization Firms and has helped 
promote over 15,000 Web sites. Client testimonials report 
traffic increases of 150 to 500 percent. Bruemmer's articles 
have appeared on ClickZ and other publications.