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7. Get A Yahoo! Listing - Maybe

OK, so you've probably made a bee line straight for this page expecting some kind of magic formula. Well, there isn't one. If there is a secret to it, then this is it: you must earn it.

Go to: Help! | Understanding | Requirements | Plan | Step 1 | Step 2 | Step 3 | Step 4 | If You Get It | "Free" Listings! | Desperation

Help! I can't get listed on Yahoo!

You are not alone. So many people complain to me about this that I've now banned the question from my message board to avoid repeating myself every two minutes. It's not uncommon for people to try unsuccessfully for well over a year. I doubt if this is any consolation to you though.

Pay attention because I'm about to tell you (almost) everything I know about Yahoo! and I'll be taking no further questions.

Understanding Yahoo!

A Yahoo! listing is one of the toughest, and certainly the most lucrative award on the Net.

When you submit a URL to any deep search engine it's visited by a robot who looks at the HTML code and syntax of your pages. Whether the design and content of the site is outstanding or utter drivel makes not the slightest difference. Because of this, the average webmaster believes that s/he deserves a listing on all the search engines - why should Yahoo! be any different?

Yahoo! is very different. You're not trying to fool a dumb robot now, you're dealing with some of the most Net-savvy humans on the face of the planet: the Yahoo! staff. Their job is to build their database with quality listings. This is how they manage to stay at the top of the pile, ahead of all those big, robot-driven deep engines. The average Yahoo! reviewer will see hundreds of sites every day and will reject at least 90% of them. S/he has seen every 'trick' in the book (and then some) so the slightest whiff of deviousness means certain death to you.

So if you're going to employ deceit, it must be odourless.

Basic Requirements

Don't try to run before you can walk. If you can't satisfy these requirements you're dead in the water:

  • Size matters - a single-page site has less chance of a listing than a comprehensive multi-page site.
  • Content - they're looking for a useful site. This means having information and/or a unique or interesting product. Your site must have value.
  • Design - if it looks a mess, if it loads slowly or if it's generally amateurish mister Yahoo! reviewer won't hang around for more than ten seconds.
  • Follow the rules - don't try to be clever by choosing an inappropriate category or having a list of keywords as your description. Miss Yahoo! reviewer won't visit your site at all.

Plan Carefully

There's only one thing worse than not having a Yahoo! listing, and that's having a bad Yahoo! listing. A 'Change URL' form exists but it's a red herring, it hasn't worked for years. Do it right first time, or you'll be soooreeee!

When you submit a listing to Yahoo! you're doing no more than making a suggestion. The idea is to satisfy the requirements of Yahoo! and yourself both at the same time. If you've picked the wrong category, if your description is too long, if your title doesn't contain your company name, if the title you submit doesn't match the title of your page, if.... the list goes on, but the point is that if the reviewer doesn't agree with the details of your submission he'll change it as soon as blink. This will never benefit you.

The moral: give them something that they don't need to change.

Step One - Categories

You're allowed to submit to two categories; a primary and an additional.

To choose your primary category, perform a Yahoo! search for the keyword at the top of your list that you prepared earlier. If the first category isn't a regional one, then that's probably the one you want. If it's a very busy category, with lots of listings, that's not necessarily a bad thing because it means it has a lot of user activity.

You may not be awarded an additional category, even if you request one, but always submit one. It might be prudent to go for a regional category as your additional choice because the staff are more keen to fill the regionals than the already overcrowded main categories. Or you could go for broke and request a second main category. Look at your site and decide what you think you can get away with.

You have a business site so you must choose categories within the 'Business and Economy' hierarchy but, to be honest, it's very difficult not to.

Start your submission by going to your primary category and clicking the "suggest a site" link at the bottom of that page.

Step Two - Title

Time for a splash of odourless deceit.

A Yahoo! Title and the <TITLE> of your page as mentioned in a previous section are two entirely separate things. The Yahoo! Title is what you type into the submission form. The page <TITLE> is the HTML code in your page. You need to understand this difference to follow the rest of this tactic.

The Yahoo! Title is more powerful than the Yahoo! description, so you need to try putting keywords in it, but here's the catch. The Yahoo! staff will always try to shorten your Title to your company name only. Therefore you need to temporarily change your company name to include keywords. For example, if your company name is 'Acme' and you sell lawnmowers, Yahoo! will list you as:

Title: Acme
Description: Lawnmowers

This is a Bad Thing. What you really want is:

Title: Acme Lawnmowers
Description: Grass cutting equipment, garden tools and landscape design.

To achieve this you must, of course, submit the details as above. However, If Mr Yahoo! visits your site and sees that your company is simply called 'Acme' he'll shorten your Title. The way to avoid this is to alter your home page <TITLE>, plus any main heading at the top of the page to show that your company is called 'Acme Lawnmowers'.

Here's la pièce de résistance that will swing it: the main graphic. If you have a nice graphic at the top of your home page saying 'Acme Lawnmowers' that will seal the deal. Once you've been awarded a listing you can put it back again the way it was because Mr Yahoo! will never visit again unless you hold a gun to his head.

Alphabetical Relevancy

Your company name must be the first word of your Title, and you already have a company name so there's not much you can do about it if you're called 'Zeus Zodiacs', but if your chosen category has a large number of listings it can be a big help to be called 'Acme Lawnmowers'. Don't worry though, it's much less important than it used to be.

Step Three - Description

The official maximum length of a Yahoo! description is about 25 words. The practical maximum length is much less. The description is a prime candidate for the chop, so tread carefully. Take a look at the listings within your chosen primary category. Your description should be no longer than the longest existing listing within your category.

It must be a natural sentence, with one full stop at the end. If you try to break it into two sentences, even if they're both within the maximum limit, chances are you can kiss goodbye to the second sentence. You should even try to avoid commas.

Whilst bearing all this in mind (and reciting the Lord's Prayer balancing on one foot) you must try to include as many keywords within the description as possible. You don't need to include words that already appear in the category and/or Title.

Step Four - URL

Yes, the URL does have relevancy on Yahoo! although it's the least relevant of the elements I've mentioned already. Ideally, your domain name will contain a keyword or two, this will give you the best of both worlds: a straight domain name will give you a better chance of getting listed in the first place and you'll also have those extra keywords in your Yahoo! database record to be found on. Keywords in your domain name are a Good Thing in general when it comes to promotion.

If you don't have keywords in your doman name, consider putting them in your URL in the subdirectories, for example This might possibly make the Yahoo! reviewer slightly suspicious but if you can get away with it then it's worth it.

False Rumour

A recent scare story was that Yahoo! had started to accept only sites with root domain names eg. This is simply not true. A good example of a "long" Yahoo! listing is - View the listing.

If You Get A Yahoo! Listing

...congratulations, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank. That's the end of your involvement with Yahoo! submission. It's set in stone.


... you want to try for more listings and you have enough to spend on a new domain name, in which case you should make every attempt to make it appear as a different site. Mr. Yahoo! will check: your domain name for matches within the Yahoo! database, the Title of your submitted listing for matches within the database and maybe even the description. This is OK, because you want to target slightly different keywords from your original listings anyway, since you already have certain keywords covered.

If you have a very large site that covers multiple topics which belong in multiple categories then you'll be granted multiple listings, but you have to be careful about how you submit the different pages. The main thing is that if you submit a new page on the same site, make sure it's "isolated" from the rest of the site. Let me explain...

A while ago I tried to submit my Tagmaster software pages to Yahoo! but when the reviewer visited he emailed me back and said "this page is part of a larger site which is already listed on Yahoo!" so I didn't get listed that time. Before I made a second attempt, I removed all the links to the main site so that there was just a series of pages linked to each other, forming a mini-site dedicated to Tagmaster. Lo and behold it was listed within a few days, at which point I put back the links to the main site. Lovely!

Getting listed without asking(!)

As I said earlier, the job of a Yahoo! reviewer is to build a collection of quality sites, biased towards information rather than products. It's a little known fact that sometimes they surf around in order to find nuggets of information that have NOT been submitted to them. You want proof? The very page you're looking at is listed on Yahoo! and I've never submitted it! [Sound of wild cackling!] Here's the listing.

The moral of the story: good content promotes itself (see article on building content).

If You're Desperate

Pay $299 for "Business Express"

It won't guarantee you a listing, but I would highly recommend it if you've made 2-3 unsuccessful attempts. You'll learn why you're not being accepted, so you can then fix the problem and resubmit, hopefully with more success. Further details.

Try Calling Them

(408) 731-3333 used to ring at the desks of the people doing the additions and changes. In February '98 it changed to a voice mail device. Still, worth a try eh?

Try Purchasing Banner Advertising

This should give you a certain amount of preference when it comes to achieving regular listings... maybe. However, it's expensive, and I have it from two separate sources that Yahoo! banner advertising doesn't produce an adequate return on investment to justify the expense.

I should leave you on a high note but, let's face it, Yahoo! is pretty depressing if you're on the outside looking in.

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