Ethical SEO

Will SSP sound the death-knell for SEO?

If you haven’t heard of Search Submission Pro (SSP) you aren’t alone. Yahoo’s latest online advertising venture has been spared the usual launch fanfare and instead smuggled silently through the back door. A cynical observer might even think that Yahoo! has something to hide.
So what exactly is SSP? Let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth and hear what Yahoo! has to say “(SSP) URLs are included in the index that powers algorithmic search results… When Internet users visit partner sites (Yahoo! All the Web, etc) and enter keyword searches, your listings may appear within the search results… Pricing is based on cost per click”

Yes, you read it right; you can now pay to have your web pages algorithmically fudged into Yahoo’s organic search results. Given that Yahoo’s pages are already saturated with PPC advertising (at 14 ads per page they currently carry more than the other search engines) you’d be forgiven for thinking that this latest initiative smacks of greed. Could there be any other explanation?

Yahoo’s marketing department is keen to sell the idea that SSP is an inclusive tool for pages that aren’t spider friendly; including CMS driven sites and those heavy with flash or relying on session IDs. However, given the well documented fact that organic results enjoy far higher click-through and conversion rates than sponsored advertising (and would presumably command a higher rate card) it’s easy to come to the conclusion that there’s another agenda going on here. Of course this throws up all sorts of questions for SEO professionals, who may now think that it’s time to throw in the towel with Yahoo! However, it isn’t all doom and gloom.

On the up-side SEO companies can now guarantee clients Yahoo! listings. On the downside they are going to have to pay for the privilege (SSP is “typically for customers with search marketing budgets of $5,000 per month or more”). Some would say that turning Yahoo’s search results upside-down isn’t a bad thing (especially considering what’s currently being dished-up by Yahoo!), but this doesn’t address the ‘ethical’ question. Switch on the news in the UK and you can guarantee there will be an article on ‘transparency’ or lack of it (currently the BBC is the punch bag of choice) and you can’t help thinking that if the SSP results aren’t labelled as ‘sponsored’ there’s something a little duplicitous going on.

Of course the advertising industry has never been held up as a beacon of morality, but this latest move doesn’t sit too comfortably with Yahoo’s seemingly altruistic mission statement to “connect people to their passions, their communities, and the world’s knowledge”. In reality it seems to have more to do with connecting Yahoo! to the Federal Reserve. However, the real concern for SEO companies is that if SSP works so well for Yahoo! it won’t be long before the other big guns follow suit.

Written by: Nick Maynard

Nick Maynard is a director and co-founder of The Web Project Ltd, a company specialising in digital and search marketing. You can find him on Google+

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