Ask Jeeves Ends Paid Inclusion

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NEW YORK -- Ask Jeeves is ending its program that lets advertisers include their Web pages in its search index for a fee based on the number of clicks they generate, a company executive said this week.

Jim Lanzone, vice president of product management at Ask Jeeves, said the search engine would end its Index Express system in which advertisers used an XML feed to submit Web pages for inclusion in its index, with Ask Jeeves paid each time a user clicked on the link. The program, like most paid inclusion, did not guarantee placement. Search results were determined by relevancy.

"We've found it's not the most effective monetization vehicle," he said.

The decision follows Yahoo's institution of a paid inclusion program Tuesday, highlighting divisions in the search industry over the merits of letting advertisers submit pages versus keeping algorithmic search results free of any advertising.

Lanzone said the decision was unrelated to Yahoo's paid inclusion move. It was taken after Ask Jeeves determined that Index Express did not improve its search results. He said Ask Jeeves would not work on an alternative paid inclusion system.

"There is an issue of the perceived integrity of it, of charging CPC for something that is not performance-based," he said.

Google has criticized paid inclusion as a violation of consumer trust. Tim Armstrong, vice president of advertising at Google, reiterated that paid inclusion is not something it would consider.

"The only way to keep user trust is to keep a church-and-state divide between what is paid and non-paid," he said.

Yahoo defended its program yesterday morning in a panel at the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York, stressing that it included commercial and non-commercial sites, allowing the search engine to give better relevancy through a deeper index. Tim Cadogan, vice president of search at Yahoo, said it also would address the problem of search spam.

"What you're getting is a better interaction with the search engine," he said. "It has no bearing at all on the relevancy algorithm."

Lanzone said Ask Jeeves could not find a way to ensure paid inclusion links operated seamlessly in its search index. Ask Jeeves uses its own search technology, called Teoma, which bases results by giving weight to expert sites within communities.

"We found that sometimes we'd rank it too high, sometimes we'd rank it too low," he said.

Ask Jeeves will maintain a separate inclusion program, Site Submit, which lets advertisers submit their sites to be crawled for an annual fee. Site Submit Web addresses are checked and updated weekly. Ask Jeeves charges $18 to $30 per URL.

Kevin Lee, chief executive of search marketing firm, said the paid inclusion would improve the reach of Yahoo's search engine. Ask Jeeves simply did not find a way to make it work properly, he said.

"I think it is a mistake," he said. "There's no crawler that can get to all of the Web."

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