Paid Advertising in the Yahoo! Search Returns?

by Stephanie Rewis on July 10, 2006

I have a problem with Yahoo!. Had I not been verbally attacked by a man in a neighboring city, I wouldn't even realize this interesting issue existed. And though it benefits my clients, it really bugs me personally.

The back story in a nutshell is — I have a client in the moving industry. A man in the same industry an hour away was having a fit that our search returns on Yahoo! were coming up at #2. (Nice for my client of course.) This competitor was sure I was cloaking or doing something illegal to get my client to that level (well actually, he accused me of putting text into the meta tags. But anyone that knows anything about SEO knows how far that would get me. And if he could read code he'd know that there are no meta tags on this site. There never have been.) When I looked at the search return he was complaining about, it read more like an ad than text on my client's website. Odd. So I looked at the page. Then I looked at various pages on the site. I also looked all through the way back machine archives. That text has never been on the page Yahoo! is linking to (or the site). Hmmmmm… A mystery.

It took, me a couple days to figure out (and some sleuthing from some brilliant SEO folks) that my client was marketed by BellSouth. And though I've put nothing in the pages, he had purchased something, as he put it, “to help with my SEO.” Well, my my yes. It surely did. (He had no real clue what it was even when I told him.)

I always thought paid advertising was placed at the top and right side of the SERPs. That it was easily distinguishable from the regular organic returns. Turns out BellSouth pays an SEO company (Trafficleader). They create these little ads which become an XML feed directly to Yahoo!. Yahoo! puts them directly into the database and thus, the supposed organic return area (and of course, it's pay per click for Yahoo!). There's no way for the consumer to identify that it's basically a paid advertisment.

Am I the only person this bothers? The fact that we can work our butts off to move our clients up in the organic returns and someone else can pay Yahoo! per click for an XML feed directly in — well, something's smelly about that. Yes, in this case, it's benefiting my client. And good for him. But meanwhile, I think it stinks. Sorry Yahoo!, bad call.

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