Search Engines want to make money too

The Search Engine world is ever-changing. Getting into the search engines isn’t free anymore. In fact, it isn’t even cheap! This quarter, I will discuss the various costs of submitting to the search engines and directories. Each engine charges for a different service and has a different payment schedule. It gets pretty hectic, so to follow along, put your thinking cap on.

Below is a chart of the costs for a business to get into the search engines. All prices in this article are in US dollars.

Search Engine Cost Schedule Service Comment
Yahoo $299 Annual Just to be considered
LookSmart $299 One time fee Just to be considered Option to pay $149 and
wait 8 weeks
Inktomi $25 Annual
Per page
Inclusion 48 hour refresh
The first page is $39
MSN MSN uses results from LookSmart and Inktomi,
so see LookSmart and Inktomi for their fees
AOL AOL uses results from Inktomi,
so see Inktomi for their fees
Altavista $19 Every six months
Per page
Weekly refresh
The first page is $39;
the next 10 are $29
Lycos $12 Annual
Per page
Weekly refresh
Also an Annual
membership fee of $18

Overture still shows its top three results on many search engines including MSN, AOL, Yahoo, Altavista and Hotbot. If your ROI is high enough, it is worthwhile bidding at Overture. See Last month’s article for details about Overture.

Throughout this sea of fees lies the rock-steady island of Google. Google charges no fees, and consistently wins awards for “best search results”, “most webmaster friendly search engine”, as well as others. Google makes its money by selling ad space. You can see their ads on the right side of the screen, next to the search results for high demand keywords. For example, a search for “art prints” turns up ads for and Google’s system is similar to Overture’s.

How to get a good ranking in Google?
Two words: Link campaign.

Getting other sites to link to your website is probably one of the most time intensive and frustrating tasks a search engine optimizer must do. In fact, it usually doesn’t work unless you have set up a reciprocal link on your own site. The best sites to get links from are the directories: Yahoo, LookSmart, and the Open Directory Project ( If you would like to get a link campaign started with Red Carpet Web Promotion, send us an email at for details.

How to get a good ranking anywhere else?
Two words: Credit card.

  • Inktomi, Altavista and Lycos offer free submissions, but you get a boost (and a worthwhile one) when you pay their fees. You also get refreshed on a weekly basis. This allows you to post promotions on your website and, within days, they will show up in the search results.
  • Yahoo and LookSmart require a fee just to be considered for entry into their directory, unless you are a charity or solely an informational site.
  • Overture charges a fee for every person that clicks on your result.

Here are my suggestions on how to budget a submission campaign

  1. Pay to get into Yahoo and Inktomi. These engines are most likely to get the best results per dollar invested.
  2. If you can afford it, pay to get into LookSmart ($149 if you can wait the 8 weeks). LookSmart feeds the MSN search engine, and MSN is putting up a good fight with Yahoo as the top referrer.
  3. Start up an account at Overture and bid on the keyphrases with the best ROI. The minimum bid is 5 cents, so make sure that you make over 5 cents per visitor or you will be losing money. Remember that the minimum you must spend per month is $20.
  4. Altavista and Lycos are also worthwhile, but only if you have a high return on investment (ROI).

In another six months, all these numbers (and fees) will change again. That’s the search engine optimization business. It keeps us on our toes.

Next issue, I will update you on other changes in the industry.

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.
Shawn shares search engine news in each issue.

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Shawn Campbell is an enthusiastic player in the ecommerce marketplace, and co-founded Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc. He has been researching and developing marketing strategies to achieve more prominent listings in search engine results since 1998. Shawn is one of the earliest pioneers in the search engine optimization field.