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Portals hot over search engine fees

A PERTH-based web portal site has criticised Yahoo and LookSmart for charging businesses more than $300 to be listed in their directories, despite not guaranteeing the sites will be included.

Cyan Web Solutions managing director Jonathon Huckabee, who operates the Streets of Perth search engine, said the search engines are charging business up to $320 to jump long queues and have their websites evaluated for inclusion in the directories. The trend was becoming more widespread as portal sites looked to increase their revenue, he said.

“The thing is, they have to come up with other revenue streams besides advertising and they’re giving preference to people who are prepared to pay,” Mr Huckabee said.

“But even if you pay them to look at your website, if they don’t like it they’re not going to put it in the directory.”

He said although paying for a quicker evaluation was fair, it could mean quality websites are stuck in the back-log of submissions or missed out on inclusion in the directory altogether because they could not afford the fee.

“It leaves everyone else out of the picture because they’re only reviewing sites that pay them and they’re letting everyone else slide,” Mr Huckabee said.

Sydney-based LookSmart introduced Express Submit late last year to offer an alternative to businesses not prepared to wait 60 days to have an editor evaluate their site for inclusion. The service costs $328.90 and an editor will surf the site within 48 hours.

Yahoo charges $US199 for the service and editors will look at the website within seven days. The backlog of website submissions to Yahoo can run as long as six months.

Yahoo Australia spokesperson Anna Featherstone said it was small and medium businesses that had asked for the Business Express service because they were anxious to be listed.

She defended the decision not to guarantee refunding the fee because it still took an editor the same amount of time to evaluate the site if it was included or not.

“If every site was listed in Yahoo we’d be like a Yellow Pages. We include sites that have content unique from other sites in the directory,” Ms Featherstone said.

A spokesperson for LookSmart said the Express Submit service was not claiming to do anything other than give priority to paying business sites. It did not guarantee to list the site in LookSmart directory.

“There is no guarantee ever of being included in the directory. This product quite clearly mentions it speeds up the process, but it does not advertise doing anything other than that,” the spokesperson said.

On its website LookSmart says it will list sites that are rich in content, are reliable and easy to use. It may exclude websites if they have too few pages, are excessively slow to load or have obscene content.

Mr Huckabee’s Streets of Perth is a directory listing for local businesses. He does not charge businesses for the listing, although he does offer clients a web design service separately.

He said some search engines were reluctant to include other search engine sites in their directories if they consider them to be competitors.

“I have seen some of my websites in certain search engines and then two months later I’ve been struck off the register,” Mr Huckabee said.

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