Paid URL Inclusion- Is It For You?
by Scott Buresh

One of the many options available to promote a website on search 
engines is called "paid inclusion". Although there are several 
different kinds of paid inclusion (including pay-per-click and 
"trusted" or "direct" feed programs) this article deals 
specifically with the simplest form, in which an annual fee is 
paid for each page included in a search engine index.

Many people are unsure how paid URL inclusion works, and it is 
an interesting and sometimes controversial concept. It is perhaps 
easiest to understand by recognizing that in most cases there are 
two different ways in which search engines that offer paid URL 
inclusion can find your pages.

"Organic" Spider
Each search engine purports to be the most comprehensive source 
of information, and so each has an automated program (commonly 
called a "spider") that goes out and indexes all the pages that 
it can find on the web. This means that your website will 
eventually get indexed for free by each of the major engines 
that offer paid inclusion (provided there is one or more outside 
links pointing to your site that the spider can follow). 
"Eventually", of course, is the key term.

Paid Spider
When a search engine offers paid URL inclusion, it uses an 
additional spider that goes out and indexes only specific pages 
that have been paid for. In other words, whereas the "free" 
spider would eventually find your site, follow your links, and 
index all of your pages, the "paid" spider will only index the 
URL's for which you have plunked down an annual fee (but it will
do so immediately).

The Controversy
As you may suspect, these programs create much confusion. Since 
the pages that are paid for are indistinguishable from regular 
pages within search results, the FCC has recently raised some 
concerns, although the outcome of their involvement remains to 
be seen. In addition, the fees for paid inclusion are annual. 
Even after a company has paid to have some pages included, logic 
would dictate that the "organic" spider would eventually index 
the pages anyway, making the renewal fees unnecessary. However, 
it has been reported with some paid inclusion engines that once 
annual fees are not renewed pages are removed for a period of 
time. From a business perspective, this only makes sense - 
engines that offer paid inclusion can't very well offer an 
"annual" fee only to have everyone discover that they only need 
to pay it once. From an ethical perspective, however, it's a
questionable practice (and it remains unproven that this is the 
policy of any particular engine).


Fast Inclusion
First, and most importantly, paid inclusion programs give you 
the opportunity to have your pages indexed and added to search 
results very quickly (usually within a few days). This compares 
very favorably with the month or more that it can take to wait 
for the "organic" spider to find your pages on its own (and if 
you have no incoming links, the "organic" spider will never find 
your pages).

Fast Re-indexing
The paid inclusion spider will revisit your pages frequently 
(some even daily). This means that you can make tweaks to your 
pages designed to improve your rankings and see the results in 
days (rather than months). This type of turnaround can give you 
valuable insight into the ranking algorithm of each individual 


The primary disadvantage of paid inclusion is the cost, although 
this factor naturally depends on the means of the company. The 
following details the first year fees for a ten-page website on 
the most popular paid inclusion programs:

Altavista*- $600

AskJeeves- $192

Inktomi- $264

Fast/Lycos- $170

*this is the total first year fee, although the program is billed 
in six month increments

Total first year fees for ten page site: $1,226

A second disadvantage, perhaps more accurately described as a 
limitation, is that Google does not offer paid inclusion (and 
maintains that it never will). Since Google currently provides 
the primary results for three of the top four engines (Google, 
Yahoo, and AOL), engines that offer paid inclusion may only 
account for a fraction of your overall site traffic. There is 
no way to add your pages to Google's index any faster by paying 
a fee - which means that you will be waiting for Google to index 
your new (or newly optimized) pages regardless of which paid 
inclusion programs you use. Only after Google lists your pages 
will they appear in Yahoo and AOL results.

There are many factors to consider when examining paid URL 
inclusion. The following five are some of the most common:

Are My Pages Already In The Index?
Just because you can't find your pages when you enter search 
terms does not mean that your pages haven't been indexed. To see 
if your pages have been indexed, go to the engine and search for 
each of your exact page URLs. If each page shows up for the URL 
search but not for a search of any keyphrases related to the 
page, paid inclusion will not help your rankings (your pages are 
already in the index and have been ranked according to their 
perceived value). It would be much more beneficial to invest 
some time and/or money in optimizing your pages for better 
rankings (you can still consider paid inclusion afterwards if 
you don't want to wait for the spider to revisit).

Is It A Good Investment For Me?
Naturally, budgetary constraints can be a primary consideration. 
If you can't afford paid inclusion, then it obviously isn't an 
option. However, simply because you can afford it does not mean 
it is a good investment. For example, a business that sells a 
very inexpensive product online that is counting on volumes of 
traffic may not see a good return on their investment (again, 
3 of the top 4 engines do not offer paid URL inclusion).

On the other hand, if your business has a high average dollar 
sale and you put a high value on each quality lead, you might 
consider immediate paid URL inclusion a no-brainer.

Do My Pages Change Frequently?
If your web pages are subject to daily or weekly changes in 
content, paid inclusion may offer some additional benefits. When 
your pages are spidered frequently, all new content is indexed 
by the engine soon after it is added to your pages. This means 
that your pages will begin to appear in searches for terms 
related to the new content much more quickly.

Are My Important Pages Dynamically Generated?
Some search engine spiders have a problem finding and indexing 
pages that are dynamically generated (such pages often have a 
question mark somewhere in the URL). By paying to include the 
important pages of your dynamically generated website, you can 
be sure that they are in the engine's index, even if the 
"organic" spider would never find them on its own.

Do I Need A Guarantee That My Pages Will Remain In The Index?
Although it happens infrequently, one or more of your pages 
found by the "organic" spider may be inadvertently dropped from 
an engine at some point, usually to reappear within a month or 
two. This can happen for a variety of technical reasons. 
However, using paid URL inclusion guarantees that each of your 
pages will remain in the index for a year (and if your pages are
dropped, the support staff at the search engine will work to put 
them back in as soon as possible).

Paid inclusion can be a valuable tool in the right set of 
circumstances. However, many companies are able to consistently 
maintain excellent search engine rankings without paying for a 
single URL. Only a careful evaluation of your business, goals, 
and website can help you to determine if it is the right option 
for your site.

Scott Buresh is Co-founder and Principal of Medium Blue Internet 
Marketing ( For monthly tips on how 
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