LookSmart: The Sleeping Giant

The goal of driving traffic is at the forefront of every web site’s marketing strategy. I can’t think of one person involved with Internet marketing who isn’t interested in growing web site traffic.

As you know, I’m an advocate of search-engine traffic and believe search engines and directories deliver some of the best traffic around. More importantly, the quality of traffic they deliver is superb.

After all, search-engine users are self-directed. Subsequently, these users are self-selected and drilling themselves deep into directories to find exactly what they want. What does this mean to an advertiser or a listing? High-quality, pre-qualified leads.

Traffic from directories eliminates the guesswork of what users are interested in. So the value to the advertiser, or the value of this listing by category, is high. Clearly, searches are much more refined within a directory.

You’d think this might be a preface to a column on Yahoo and all its glory. Well, not quite. Grab a chair and get ready for the next battle of the Titans.

LookSmart is gaining significant momentum in its quest to lead and dominate the Internet search infrastructure realm. This became quickly evident in my recent conversation with LookSmart Vice President of E-commerce Scott Stanford, who said, “LookSmart is dedicated to helping our partners’ users find useful information quickly. It’s our number-one goal.”

Here’s an interesting fact: LookSmart’s search services network reaches more than 52 million people a month, the equivalent of 74 percent of all Internet users in the U.S.

“LookSmart is in the business of providing web directories for companies who care about quality search. Our partners include Microsoft Network, Alta Vista, Excite-AtHome, Time Warner and over 370 ISPs,” Stanford said.

“We power an unrivaled volume of targeted search queries with high quality results. We have a huge infrastructure and provide syndicated content to partners such as Time Warner and Microsoft. This allows us to provide scale in searches along with quality and targeting,” he added.

LookSmart’s massive infrastructure of people looking for information, combined with the recent announcement of its exclusive partnership with the Gale Group, has truly energized this sleeper directory. The Gale Group is a division of the Thomson Corporation of Toronto, Canada, and a global leader in research and reference publishing for libraries, businesses and information technologists.

With this partnership launching in the next few weeks, it’s clear LookSmart’s priorities are in helping people find good-quality information.

LookSmart is allergic to a pay-for-inclusion model. Says Stanford, “We are a search infrastructure company confined to editorially reviewed directory results focused by category we are not interested in pay-for-position or pay-for-inclusion.”

How can you get listed in LookSmart? Actually, quite easily. As with most high-quality directories, there are no guarantees. If you want its editors to review your site, it will cost a relatively small fee (to offset administrative expenses). LookSmart’s value-add is provided through its process of selection, review and careful categorization of sites, carried out by a highly knowledgeable team of professional editors.

Recently, LookSmart’s listing initiative program has been in beta mode. The submission channels have returned to two basic options: free submission (no guarantee of being reviewed) or a paid submission (editorially reviewed within 48 hours). I recommend the $199 editorial review.

The editorial process requires editorial review of all web sites submitted for registration and a comparison of newly submitted sites with all others; placement is strictly on an editorial basis. There are firm definitions of what can and cannot go into the LookSmart database. No pornography, no hate sites, and there are technical rules such as no dead links. LookSmart editors favor original content and quite possibly penalize sites simply made up of links to other sites.

Like I said, there are no guarantees. But if you follow the editorial policies and proper registration channels, you’re likely to succeed. And when you consider that LookSmart provides its search solutions to the leading Internet portals and ISPs, as well as powerful partner sites, you realize how important this listing can be.

LookSmart has built web directories for 30 countries, including the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Brazil. Through its partnership with Cox Interactive Media, it also offers one of the largest collections of quality local web content in more than 70 U.S. markets.

I ask you this: Can you afford not to spend $199?

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