Ask Jeeves Nixes Site Submit Paid Inclusion Program

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Ask Jeeves plans to end its Site Submit program for Web sites, saying its Teoma Web search technology was now powerful enough to ferret out the Web's nooks and crannies. It also will follow the lead of Google and Yahoo and boost the storage limit for its portals' e-mail users.


The Emeryville, CA, search engine said it informed its two Site Submit resellers, ineedhits.com and Position Technologies, that it no longer would let Web sites pay to have their Internet addresses included in the index of sites Teoma crawls. It will stop accepting submissions Sept. 30. The program was meant to help sites guarantee they would be found by Teoma's spider.


"We will continue to get better at crawling," said Jim Lanzone, vice president of product management at Ask Jeeves. "The value proposition of Site Submit has ceased to exist."


Ask Jeeves said it would honor current Site Submit contracts but no longer would sell new ones. Lanzone declined to say how many customers used Site Submit but noted that eliminating the program would not have a material effect on the company's finances. Site Submit charged Web sites from $18 per URL after a $30 charge for the first Web address. (Adult sites pay double.)


Ask Jeeves also announced that it would increase the amount of storage for the 2.5 million e-mail users at its Excite, iWon and MyWay portal properties. All users will receive 125 megabytes of storage for free, and Excite Gold users will get 2,000 megabytes of storage for $19.99 a year. The changes take effect Sept. 1.


E-mail providers have engaged in a storage arms race since Google's announcement of Gmail in April with 1,000 megabytes of storage. Last week, Yahoo said it would increase its free users to 100 megabytes of storage; Yahoo Mail Plus users can get 2,000 megabytes for a $19.99 annual subscription.


Scott Garell, executive vice president for sites and search, said Ask Jeeves had no plans to offer advertising listings based on scans of users' messages, like Gmail. Ask Jeeves is a distribution partner for Google's search listings.


"It's not something we're seriously considering," he said.


The ending of Site Submit will remove Ask Jeeves from the paid inclusion business. In March, it ended its Index Express program in which advertisers used an XML feed to submit Web pages for inclusion in its index. The listings were not guaranteed placement, though advertisers paid each time a user clicked.


Ask Jeeves said it made the change after determining that such paid inclusion listings could not be integrated seamlessly with index listings gathered through a Web crawl.


Lanzone said Teoma, which Ask Jeeves acquired in September 2001, has greatly expanded its reach in the past year and that it would continue to improve this year. Webmasters have complained that Teoma's spider does not visit their sites nearly as frequently as Google and Yahoo.


The search industry has split over the issue of paid inclusion. In March, just a day before Ask Jeeves said it would drop Index Express, Yahoo unveiled a paid inclusion program that lets advertisers pay for Web pages to be included in its search index. Advertisers pay a fee each time a user clicks on the listings, which are not identified differently from other results. Yahoo says the listings are not given any preference in ranking.


Google has forcefully decried such tactics, saying they undermine user trust. Earlier this year, Microsoft removed LookSmart paid inclusion listings from MSN search results. It has not said whether it will have a paid inclusion feature when it releases its own Web search technology later this year.


"We cannot justify charging people just because we can," Lanzone said. "We believe in search being a great monetization vehicle and a great marketing vehicle for advertisers. We already have a method for doing that, which is advertising."


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