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Looksmart May Be Worth Another Look

After researching Looksmart extensively while working at another company I posted a this article on a number of forums to get some feedback.

I’ve prepared an overview of the following:

Looksmart timeline
Looksmart issues to consider
Current Looksmart situation
Why the Looksmart statistics have changed
Recommendations.

Looksmart

I thought it would be helpful to provide a Looksmart timeline initially.

Time Line

Oct 1996 Looksmart Founded, submissions are free.

Feb/march 1998 Partnership deals with HotBot and AltaVista
1999 Partnership deal with MSN

Feb 2000 Express Submission Service Launched, cost is $199.

2000 Later in June 2000, free submissions were dropped. Normal submissions initially cost $49, then $79 and finally $99. And express submission increased to $299.

Oct 2000 Looksmart acquires Zeal.com

2002 buys WiseNut, changes to cost per click listings. Looksmart hit with class action lawsuit. Settlement runs until June 2004.

2003 MSN announces they will not be renewing Looksmart contract

2004 MSN drops Looksmart, uses Looksmart intermittently. Looksmart broadens partnerships.

Looksmart Issues

(1) Supposedly the relationship between Looksmart and MSN was to end in December 2003. What is the current status of MSN’s relationship with Looksmart?

(2) We have several websites where we pay for a listing with Looksmart, the volume of clicks reported through Looksmart has increased over the last year. But we don’t see a corresponding rise in traffic reported or identified in our web site traffic reports. How do we tie the Looksmart report into a traffic report?

(3) Where is the traffic described in the LookListings report coming from? Is it traffic on MSN?

Current Looksmart Situation

* Looksmart has three products (1) Directory (2) Web (3) Articles

* Directory is powered by paid inclusion and paid keywords. It is possible to run either program or both. Looksmart licenses this product to other partners, however their customer service department would not give me a list of partners.

* WiseNut powers web product. Used to be powered by Inktomi. WiseNut does not license this service to other partners.

* Gale Group powers article product. Looksmart does not license this product to other partners.

Why the Looksmart Statistics have changed

* When MSN used Looksmart: MSN served Looksmart results less frequently for directory results. MSN was the only partner for Looksmart results at that time. Now that MSN is no longer a partner, Looksmart has formed other relationships with other companies. Looksmart directory results appear more often on those sites.

* The former MSN requirements for entry were rather strident. You could only list title, description and URL. If a visitor searched on a keyword phrase and the keywords for the keyword phrase chosen were not next to one another, MSN would not display the results. However since the change in relationship with MSN, Looksmart has formed more relationships with many new partners. Those search engines are displaying results more often because the engines can now combine keyword phrases from text across the title, description and URL.

* According to Looksmart "MSN is still intermittently displaying LookSmart listings as we help them transition into their new search offering."

* Looksmart does not have any partnerships etc. with MSN international.

* When Looksmart was building the original directory (1996-2000) many websites were put into the directory for free. This changed in 2000. Looksmart introduced paid submission. However, old legacy sites continue to be present in the directory. When paid inclusion and keywords products were introduced those sites continued to be in the directory and their rankings was not affected.

* There was a class action court case against Looksmart. Looksmart was required to give a number of free clicks to those customers who had paid for submission before clients were also required to pay per click for either the inclusion listings and keyword listing LookListing services.

*The Looksmart settlement ended in June.

* Looksmart told me that the date of inclusion into the directory does not affect placement within the directory.

* Non-commercial sites are indexed for free in the directory through zeal.com

Recommendations

* For Looksmart's inclusion product every keyword in a listing can be used in a search and initiate a website to show up in the results page. Example. Paper Support Group. If someone searched for the word “support group”, this would cause the page to display. This feature is okay if you want a lot of traffic, but did does not target traffic for specific audience focused keywords well.

* Looksmart strongly suggests using their keyword product. Results will only appear for searches that contain a list of targeted keywords. Plus, the ROI is better with the keyword product; cost can be lower than $0.15 per click. After reviewing a few our websites, the clicks for the keyword product were always less then the inclusion product.

* Any free listings that were originally put into the Looksmart directory are still free today, even if the site was entered back in 1996. However, if we want to change a title or description, we would have to convert to the new inclusion system. It is my hypothesis that those websites with free listings stretching back to the 96-2000 period will have listings that are not as optimized as they could be. And so their rankings will not be as high as a website that has paid to submit a listings. I recommend we reconsider any free listings with a view to converting those websites to paid inclusion if their listings are not optimized.

Lastly, at my new company I am seeing a pretty good return on investment in terms of sales to cost of advertising.

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