Monday, March 21, 2005

ExactSeek Pay for Inclusion program

If you subscribe to some of the more prominent newsletters, then you’ll probably have seen adverts like these:

Put a Google-type Ad Box on 7 Search Engines ($12 for 3 months or less)

They’re ads for ExactSeek.com’s Pay for Inclusion program (or “Featured Listings” if you prefer). ExactSeek is a small Search Engine (“Relevant Web Search” is their adage) that’s been trying to break into the paid search market for some time now. These ads first appeared about 9 months ago (or so).

At first sight their proposition seems like an attractive one: get a Google AdWords style ad box with a 30 character title and a 100 character description for $12/3 mo. Buy more ads and get a discount.

But all isn’t well in this Pay for Inclusion program. Firstly, the ads’ appearance may be very Googlish but that’s about all they have in common with the AdWords program. While AdWords lets the advertiser choose an extensive range of keyphrases under which ads will be served up, the ExactSeek featured listings cost $12/3mo PER KEYPHRASE. That’s right, for your 12 bucks you only get to choose one search term!

So, to have the same ad appear under your, say 10 prime keyphrases, you’ll need to buy 10 ads (discounted to $10/3 mo each = $100/3 mo). All of a sudden this whole thing becomes a lot less attractive.

But there’s an added problem. Because ExactSeek is a truly small Search Engine, you’re only going to get significant amounts of traffic on really popular, broad keyphrases and these generally don’t convert well. If you’re “bidding” on hotels you’d be shooting in the dark, unless your site is about hotels all over the world.

A glutton for punishment I decided to give it a try anyway. I chose an uber competitive keyphrase (something travel related) and a very competitive keyphrase (something merchant account related), put my ads together and submitted them. I used my trusted link tracker script to easily count the clicks on a daily basis.

It was all a bit depressing: despite choosing search terms that definitely attract searchers in just about any Search Engine, the amount of clicks was negligible and the calculated CPC quite high.

In a nutshell: what exactly do you pay for with this Pay for Inclusion program? It’s not clicks because the amount you’ll receive depends strongly on the chosen terms. It’s not impressions because… ditto.

According to ExactSeek it’s a “no hassle” advertising method. I’ll tell you something else it ain’t: cheap!

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