BellSouth, LookSmart Offer Search Ads

LookSmart signed an agreement with BellSouth that will let sales reps for the print and Internet Yellow Pages provider sell paid inclusion search listings along with its other products.

Atlanta, Ga.-based BellSouth will offer the Real Search Engine Solutions package to customers in the southeast region. The paid inclusion listings will run across LookSmart’s partner, which includes Lycos, Road Runner, InfoSpace, CNET, Cox Interactive Media, Inktomi and 85 regional Internet service providers. Paid inclusion guarantees advertisers that their pages will be indexed by the search engine, and come up when they’e relevant to the users’search, but they aren’t promised a specific ranking. BellSouth will also advertise its online yellow pages offering, RealPages.com, via LookSmart’ paid placement product, LookListings, but the product won’t be offered to BellSouth advertisers.

While some search providers focus on a technology solution that identifies local searches and feeds appropriate content, LookSmart is taking a different approach, according to Dakota Sullivan, vice president of marketing for LookSmart — making sure there’s a critical mass of local merchants in the system to satisfy local searches. “These advertisers will be available to be pulled up by Internet users anywhere across the country, but only when appropriate,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Real Search Engine Solutions were targeted to local businesses that have a Web presence but aren’t participating in search marketing. The merchant will designate a Web page to which it wants to drive traffic, and a team of LookSmart editors will help create titles and descriptions for the listings, and choose keywords. Merchants pay a flat price per click, rather than having to use the auction system. “With flat-price paid inclusions, BellSouth can comfortably and easily put customers into search marketing,” Sullivan said.

“This is a groundbreaking deal for our industry,” said Charles Stubbs, president of BellSouth IntelliVentures, the BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corporation subsidiary that operates RealPages.com.

San Francisco-based LookSmart needs some good news. In October, it lost a distribution deal with Microsoft’s MSN, which accounted for a horrendous 65 percent of Looksmart’s listing revenue and a full 100 percent of its licensing revenue in Q2 2003. Yesterday, FuckedCompany.com reported that LookSmart’s entire editorial staff had been laid off. Kevin Goebel, director of U.S. editorial, said that some, but not all, editorial staff had been let go.

The partnership with Microsoft ends January 15, 2004, and LookSmart is working on deals that will keep it afloat after that. As regional search becomes increasingly important for marketers, deals such as this could help keep LookSmart in the game.

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