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Old 09-27-2005   #1
Jeff Martin
 
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Paid Inclusion Making Yahoo Results Seem Hijacked?

I was gauging the effect of the Yahoo! update on some sites I have a special interest in. I saw some very interesting shifts where these sites were now ranking #1 over state government agencies that police this industry and .edu sites.

What makes this even more interesting is that the #1 spots that the sites are occupying appear normal with the right title tag, copy snippet and green URL. However, once you click the Yahoo! SERP link you're taken to Business.com and then forwarded to the actual site with a bizcom tracking code.

Of interesting note is that the owner of these sites advertises through Business.com listings and through their PPC program. So it may be possible he is paying for all of these clicks. They did tell me that Business.com traffic was up significantly.

I've provided detailed information and files here.
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Old 09-28-2005   #2
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Hm. First time I clicked on the link, I was denied access by your server. Second time's fine, though. Your .htaccess, perhaps?
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Old 09-28-2005   #3
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Jeff, I think these are paid inclusion listings. Here's one of the Yahoo listings:

Texas Real Estate License Online
Offers a full selection of Texas real estate pre-license and continuing education courses. Online training on appraisals and starting a practice.
www.texasrealestatelicenseonline.com

OK, that's also in this Yahoo Directory category:
http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/U_S__S...d_Development/

But description there is:

Texas Real Estate License Online
offers approved online courses and exam preps to realtor students seeking a self-study method to obtain a Texas Real Estate Agent license.

Why isn't the Yahoo Directory description being used in the web results? Paid inclusion submitted descriptions can trump that.

Now go over to Business.com:
http://www.business.com/search/rslt_...&search=Search

And you get see one of the many listings (all slightly different, but all pointing at the home page):

Texas Real Estate License Online: Appraisal Training
Offers a full selection of Texas real estate pre-license and continuing education courses. Online training on appraisals and starting a practice.

The title is slightly different, but the description is the same, as is the tracking code: http://www.texasrealestatelicenseonl...ackcode=bizcom

It could be that Yahoo just somehow spidered this listing, but I doubt it. That because of this:

http://www.business.com/info/about_b...ss_network.asp

See how Inktomi is listed there among the places that you get placed if you buy into the Featured Advertisers program at Business.com? I think that's just not been updated to say Yahoo. And if you do this:

http://www.business.com/search/rslt_...&search=Search

You see that this site is a featured advertiser, albeit with a different description. But they might use a different feed for paid inclusion.

That explains the tracking codes to me. As for the ranking, paid inclusion URLs are given a quality score checkoff, and that can help with rankings. Some non-paid inclusion URLs are also given it, but that's more random. The checkoff for any site isn't a guarantee, but it can help. All the more reason why people may want to do paid inclusion at Yahoo -- or all the more reason Yahoo might want to elminated that, because of the trust issues involved.

I also changed the title of the thread to reflect what I think's going on.

Last edited by dannysullivan : 09-28-2005 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 09-28-2005   #4
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Sounds ominous Danny, kind of like selective "trust rank" being applied. "Things that make you go hmmm...."
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Old 09-28-2005   #5
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This is a problem on the Business.com side.

I had this happen to my site. Business.com seems to put all of it's listings in a trusted feed (Search Submit?) to Yahoo!. If for some reason your site drops out of Yahoo!, the Business.com feed takes over and replaces your links.

I had to contact Business.com directly and ask them to remove my links from their feed. It took a couple of calls, but they did it and now those links are not a problem.
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Old 09-28-2005   #6
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Quote:
That explains the tracking codes to me. As for the ranking, paid inclusion URLs are given a quality score checkoff, and that can help with rankings. Some non-paid inclusion URLs are also given it, but that's more random. The checkoff for any site isn't a guarantee, but it can help. All the more reason why people may want to do paid inclusion at Yahoo -- or all the more reason Yahoo might want to elminated that, because of the trust issues involved.
First, I managed the SEO program for all of this company's sites and this site had ok rankings for "texas real estate license" and hovered close but out of the top ten behind the Texas Real Estate Commision site, a few .edu listings and after iRed, which is a major real estate site. This company has advertised with business.com for quite awhile, over a year. Only after the most recent update are the rankings in #1 spots.

Second, these Business.com rankings have taken over all previous rankings. So, in effect, all organic trafic from Yahoo now flows to Business.com and not straight to the sites this company owns.

Their Texas, Illinois and California sites are all ranking #1 for major terms and now these listings all originate from Business.com. The company told me that their business.com traffic is significantly higher and they are checking to see if they are paying for all of these clicks, which would could get very expensive quickly.

From Danny's and my analysis, the history I have with this company's sites and the update that Yahoo did this past weekend I would say that, to a significant degree, the paid listings in Business.com are having an impact on Yahoo's SERPs. They are making the difference between top 10(ish) rankings and #1.

What's more troublesome is if what happens if they drop the Business.com PPC spending becuase these clicks are costing them too much?
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Last edited by Jeff Martin : 09-28-2005 at 12:48 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old 09-28-2005   #7
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Business.com in Yahoo SERPS

I have a client whom I've worked with and I have seen our organic listings in Yahoo SERPS that are actually Business.com redirects. I think (or sumise) that there is some type of relationship between business.com and Yahoo over this because I have seen different snippets appear beside our clients listings that are obviously lifted from business.com's site and in no way are conntected to any content or meta discription on the client's site. When I've done testing on these links (which I end up paying for), it does go to the client site and does not stop at business.com. I approached a Yahoo engineer at SES San Jose but he personally was unaware of this relationship.

I certainly have issues with this - I recommend to all my clients to use business.com but because of these paid inclusion results in Y organic, I do not trust Y results. It is a trust issue.
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Old 09-28-2005   #8
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From the offices of Business.com

This thread is an important one, and we’d like to address it for all those interested.

It’s no surprise that the industry leaders on this site are aware of paid inclusion as a practice that has been long established in the paid search category. We understand the philosophical discussion around paid inclusion as a practice, and we continue to follow the cases on both sides of the debate as our industry continues to develop and mature.

The bulk of the leads Business.com generates for its advertisers come from Business.com itself. According to Nielsen Net Ratings, Business.com had 3.1 million unique visitors in the month of August – more than Yahoo! Small Business, AOL Small Business, Fortune.com, and The WSJ.com.

Like Overture and Google, Business.com also distributes its directory and paid search listings to leading business-to-business related partners such as BusinessWeek.com, Forbes.com, Internet.com, CNET, and Inktomi among others (a more comprehensive list of partners can be found at http://www.business.com/info/partners.asp). This large reach is what makes the Business.com Network the leading entity in Nielsen Net Ratings’ Business & Finance category.

Our advertising clients use us to efficiently and effectively reach the business internet. Inktomi is a distribution partner of ours, and it is through this relationship that some of our clients’ listings appear as paid inclusion results on Yahoo!.

If a client prefers to manage paid inclusion initiatives on their own, we of course remove their listings from our Inktomi distribution.

We hope this sheds light on the issues being discussed as they relate to Business.com.

Lane Soelberg
VP of Marketing & Communications
Business.com
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Old 09-28-2005   #9
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The issues I have here Lane are:

1) Why are business.com feeds taking over already existing natural rankings?

2)Is this a value-added service or are your clients having to pay for these clicks when, arguably for a lower ranking, these clicks were 'free'?

3)What happens to a client's natural rankings if they end their relationship with business.com?

If business.com's feeds are going to play a roll in natural rankings (eventhough I believe Tim from Yahoo! has said that no paid inclusion or feed would affect rankings) then to what degree is it going to be?

YahooSarah, YsMike or Yahoo!Rep please step in here and clarify what role Business.com feeds have on rankings.
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Old 09-29-2005   #10
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Business.com in Yahoo SERPS Case Study

Lane, thanks for the corporate line rationalization. You're just doing your job. I think your statement that "it’s no surprise that the industry leaders on this site are aware of paid inclusion as a practice that has been long established in the paid search category" now only applies to Yahoo organic results and not clearly defined paid listings on the major search engines.

Okay, here's my "real world" example of my client's Business.com listings in the organic Y SERPS. The keywords, of course, have been changed to protect the guilty. If someone from Yahoo or Business.com wants to sticky me, I'd be more than happy to take you thru this.

Let's say for sake of argument that Business.com has made a deal with Inktomi that for SPECIFIC keywords with tons of searches that they can have their clients appear as organic listings in a Yahoo organic SERP. That there is some type of financial arrangement with Inktomi/Yahoo and Business.com for such click thrus. (Maybe there's a prenegotiated flat fee between Business.com & Inktomi or it's on a click thru basis.)

For a keyword such as "Widget Rentals", Y Search Marketing (aka Overture) has a top keyword bid of $20.00. A client lists itself in Business.com for a minimum bid of $0.40 in a variety of categories and for some reason this result shows up in the first page SERP results. And let's say my client also bids the minimum in Y Search Marketing to be in sponsored results (as he/she does in Google).

My client also is in Directory Submit (at $299 per year) and has other sites that are not in Business.com also in Directory Submit that show up on the second page or later for this particular SERP.

And let's also say for sake of argument that a competitor's site THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN OUT OF THE GOOGLE INDEX for hidden text also shows up in the Yahoo SERP under a Business.com redirect to this competitor's site.

Let's also say for sake of argument that 90% of my click thrus for this specific keyword via this Business.com channel have not come directly from Business.com but from their redirect on this Yahoo organic SERP. This has been proven by tracking software.

So to sum up, I get better click thrus from utilizing Business.com to get me into an organic Yahoo SERP at a lower cost than Y Search Marketing. My competitor's site that is using "black hat" techniques that has them banned from a Google SERP can still appear in a Yahoo SERP.

For the record, "Widget Rentals" is a first page SERP on both Google and MSN for my client. As an SEO consultant, I, of course, recommend to my client that they continue with Business.com. I, as a search engine user, cannot view Yahoo as a legitimate SERP because I know for a fact that for a given SERP, there is a mixture of true organic and paid inclusion, which might and could include results that use widely unaccepted "black hat" techniques, which are specifically against Yahoo's own webmaster guidelines.

I can say with reasonable confidence that if I drop my client's "Widget Rentals" listing from Business.com that I will fall off the first page of the SERP. Visitors at $0.40 per click is better than no visitors at all. My fall back positions are to go with Y Search Submit @ $0.15 or $0.30 click thru, but of course, there are no Y guarantees.

So in my mind, just for this specific keyword category, Y is leaving money on the table where the market has set a price for sponsored listings and is willing to sell this for much less to Business.com. Even with Y Search Submit, they are still leaving money on the table. Business.com can claim they drive high quality traffic to their client sites. I as an SEO, get my client on the first page of Google and MSN and tell them to buy their way into Yahoo via Y Directory Submit and Business.com. And Yahoo users suffer because they may not be getting the most relevant results.

By the way, here's Yahoo's Search Content Quality Guidelines: http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysearc...etions-05.html

I believe the specific quote from this site is: "The use of text that is hidden from the user".

What am I missing?
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Old 09-29-2005   #11
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Reply to Jeff Martin's Questions

1) Why are business.com feeds taking over already existing natural rankings?

As you point out below, Tim from Yahoo! claims that they don't impact natural rankings. If they are, that is a question that probably only Yahoo can answer.

2) Is this a value-added service or are your clients having to pay for these clicks when, arguably for a lower ranking, these clicks were 'free'?

Clients do pay for the clicks. Like Google or Yahoo/Overture, when advertiser buys Business.com, they are paying for clicks at a single price across the entire network. Inktomi is included as a very small percentage of our network. The entire network is less than 30% of the total clicks, the remaining 70% coming from Business.com itself. We have several thousand advertisers who are happy with the volume, quality and price of the clicks that we provide them across the network. And again, if the advertiser requests removal from Inktomi, we do so immediately.

3) What happens to a client's natural rankings if they end their relationship with business.com?

This is something Yahoo can best answer.

If business.com's feeds are going to play a roll in natural rankings (eventhough I believe Tim from Yahoo! has said that no paid inclusion or feed would affect rankings) then to what degree is it going to be?

Again, something Yahoo can best answer.

YahooSarah, YsMike or Yahoo!Rep please step in here and clarify what role Business.com feeds have on rankings.
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Old 09-29-2005   #12
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As you point out below, Tim from Yahoo! claims that they don't impact natural rankings. If they are, that is a question that probably only Yahoo can answer.

3) What happens to a client's natural rankings if they end their relationship with business.com?

This is something Yahoo can best answer.

If business.com's feeds are going to play a roll in natural rankings (eventhough I believe Tim from Yahoo! has said that no paid inclusion or feed would affect rankings) then to what degree is it going to be?

Again, something Yahoo can best answer.
I agree that business.com would not be the party to blame in a case like this, but I do believe that Yahoo owes everyone an explanation. This url was taken directly out of the address bar for a naturally ranked listing (I removed the part listing the actual website). This was the address before it redirected to the actual website. Not only was it directly in the natural SERP, but it was in the top 10 for a very competitive search phrase.

http://rd.business.com/index.asp?partner=inktomi&bdcp=01d2826f-2ce4-4f69-bf04-d34ae61dd1a4&bdcu=http%3A%2F%2F............

My conclusion is that yahoo is most definitely placing business.com listings directly in the natural SERPS or Yahoo's algo has gotten so terrible that a redirect page is able to rank for a highly competitive search term.
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Old 10-03-2005   #13
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Update

There have been some interesting changes since my original discovery of the Business.com/Yahoo! redirects.

I've outlined the updates to each of the case examples I have here.

What's changed is that the 302 redirects to Business.com are no longer visible and there have been some ranking changes, some a bit extreme.

What else is interesting to ponder is:
Is/was Business.com replacing natural (free) rankings with their feeds of advertisers on their own PPC system at a profit?

If so, then some advertisers are/were paying for traffic they may have once been free. Good for Business.com. Not so good for you if you’re paying .65 cents a click to Business.com and, through Site Match (modified because of the sheer bulk of advertisers Business.com brings), Business.com is paying .10 cents, or less, for your once free listings.

Before someone jumps out and says it: Yes, if you weren't getting any Yahoo! traffic this may be a good deal....if you have the funds to maintain it. But even then, shouldn't you know upfront (not buried in lawyerees) about what could happen to your budget and your Yahoo rankings?
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Old 10-03-2005   #14
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Confirm change of client's results in Y now organic and not through Business.com

I can confirm also that for my "widget rentals" that the #9 result that was filtered through Business.com (for $0.40 per click) is now at #10 in Yahoo as a "pure" organic listing. This is a different result from when this discussion first started and I shared my client's story.
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Old 10-03-2005   #15
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Quote:
What else is interesting to ponder is:
Is/was Business.com replacing natural (free) rankings with their feeds of advertisers on their own PPC system at a profit?
It definitely looks like this is case. I'm curious as to whether is was intentional or purely by accident that paid business.com listings are being listed in the Yahoo Serps. It almost appears as an accidental business.com hijacking.

Quote:
I can confirm also that for my "widget rentals" that the #9 result that was filtered through Business.com (for $0.40 per click) is now at #10 in Yahoo as a "pure" organic listing. This is a different result from when this discussion first started and I shared my client's story.
In reference to these 2 quotes, what happens when a business.com advertiser decides to stop paying for business.com clicks. The Yahoo search result leads to a dead page or redirects to business.com itself. Definitely not good looking for the future stability of yahoo rankings.
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Old 10-05-2005   #16
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Business.com uses an arbitrage model with PI and PP - they charge per click on their own site and partners but also run SEM programs for lower click costs than they charge and take the profit. They're good at SEO as well.
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Old 10-27-2005   #17
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What is a "quality score checkoff"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dannysullivan
As for the ranking, paid inclusion URLs are given a quality score checkoff,
What is a "quality score checkoff"?

Take care,

Brian
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