REVOLUTION ONLINE: What's new at www.revolution.haynet.com - Attracting relevant users is the rationale behind online marketing, but is it worth paying for the privilege? Online editor Steve Barrett watches the pay-per-click debate unfold

The soundness, or otherwise, of pay-per-click search engines is a subject that has produced extreme divergence of opinion on The Wall in favour and against a business model that involves paying to direct traffic through to your web site. The practice has its origins in the US and is probably best associated with search engines like GoTo.

The soundness, or otherwise, of pay-per-click search engines is a subject that has produced extreme divergence of opinion on The Wall in favour and against a business model that involves paying to direct traffic through to your web site. The practice has its origins in the US and is probably best associated with search engines like GoTo.

Warren Cowan, from UK pay-per-click specialist Espotting.com, set the ball rolling with a bullish assertion: 'If you want to optimise your position to get in front of targeted, actively seeking, self-qualified traffic and don't want to shell out on anything more than the results, then pay-per-click search engines will be one of the best ways to go.'

It's fair to say others didn't exactly share his enthusiasm for the marketing medium. 'In my opinion, any search engine that charges for listings has its priorities well and truly wrong,' says Paul Carr from internet information guide Zingin.com. 'I realise profit is a priority, but it's possible to make a profit without losing your independence and integrity. The only way to judge whether a search engine is any good is to look at the quality of the results. Speaking as someone who has spent a huge amount of time using different search tools and directories, users never get the best results from paid listings. Ever.'

But there are also worries about the quality of results garnered from traditional search methods. Kerry Taiye of K.T. & Maya Marketing Consultancy believes that pay-per-click search engines offer a real alternative to existing models. 'Some people have problems with the commercialisation of search engines and the notion of cost-per-click or pay-per-placement ruining the relevance of results,' she says. 'But recent reports have shown increasing consumer dissatisfaction with search results, in that the complexity of searching is too high and results are generally irrelevant, outdated and confusing.

'It's important to make a distinction between paid directories, such as Just35.com, which require an up-front, lump-sum investment with no guarantees, and cost-per-click offerings like Espotting.com, GoTo, ValueClick and WinWin, which only charge you for the clickthroughs. These at least offer a no-results, no-loss policy. If you are going for targeting, then make sure that they can either demonstrate the success and activity of the area, or don't require a high minimum investment.'



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