A rally cry for Yahoo's paid inclusion

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To gain a leg up on the competition, marketers must be willing to try new programs. Smart marketers develop test strategies, allow for sufficient data to be gathered during the test and move forward with the new program if the findings are positive.

Today, one of the best opportunities available to marketers is paid inclusion. In particular, I have witnessed several clients benefit from the Search Submit Pro program offered by Yahoo.

Yahoo's program offers guaranteed inclusion in its index for any number of pages from your Web site. It also allows you to have complete control over the title and descriptions of your URLs. Data is submitted to Yahoo via XML feeds rather than being crawled by a search engine spider.

In addition, Yahoo's paid inclusion program ensures more regular updates of your content than experienced with a crawler. The program is also very easy to track and allows you see exactly how much money you are spending and what your returns are.

But paid inclusion does come with a cost. Specifically, there is a fixed category rate that varies from 7 cents to 75 cents. Now before someone denounces Yahoo for charging marketers to list their Web pages in the natural search - and me as foolish for endorsing such a program - hear me out.

Yes, I understand that you might be disturbed by the notion of paying for clicks for what is ostensibly organic search, but once you understand the benefits and see a return, you might think otherwise.

I suggest you do yourself a favor and stick a toe in the water and give it a try - you might like it. I know numerous marketers from organizations big and small in just about every industry that have done just that and are more than happy they did.

Yahoo's paid inclusion program's flexibility is highly attractive to marketers and can be leveraged in different ways. Often, sites have significant technical challenges like sessions IDs, poor internal linking or extensive JavaScript usage. Such issues can present significant hurdles for Yahoo's crawler when it attempts to index pages deep within your site. Including these pages in the paid inclusion feed can quickly solve this problem without the immediate need to fix your site's technical issues in order to improve your rankings in Yahoo.

In addition, the program is especially well suited for sites with short-term promotions. The quick refresh times allow you to quickly change your creative to emphasize a special or add additional pages to further maximize that promotion. Once it has ended, you simply update your feed again.

Another benefit of paid inclusion is control. In short, it allows advertisers to select what content goes into the feed. It's your choice; you can add your home page or just your deep product pages. But note that content that is more informational may not be the best fit for paid inclusion as, given the nature of the content, you might struggle to show a positive ROI.

One note of caution, however: In the spirit of full disclosure, I have also seen examples of this program not delivering a positive ROI for one reason or another, but that has certainly been the minority.

It is important to note that while paid inclusion is a great option for marketers today it does not supplant SEO. Sorry, but the fundamental rules still apply.

If you want to succeed in organic search, you still need to optimize your site. Remember that while Yahoo is one of the three major players in search, it still trails Google in market share of searches by a healthy margin, according to most industry researchers.

Paid inclusion should be considered an ancillary component of your investment in search, as your SEO campaign will never succeed if your site fails to provide the information to or convert users.

To get started with paid inclusion, set aside a fixed budget and do a test for 30 to 60 days. But before you start the test, be sure to set some goals. Such objectives usually consist of ROI, revenue and brand exposure. Set up proper tracking so you can gauge your results. Then you'll be ready to go.

Start with your home page and some select category pages as well. This will enable you to not only test the benefits of the Quick Links (which allow users to dive directly into three pages in addition to the home page), but it will also allow you to test some direct entrances to category pages as well.

If your test results are positive you will have found an additional tool to help you achieve your marketing goals. In the process, remember to take advantage of the ease of tracking this program offers to measure spend and return.
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