Future of LookSmart and Paid Search

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LookSmart sent out their LookListings Newsletter, A Closer Look,today which had an interesting self induced interview with Tony Mamone, their Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at LookSmart to ask him about the end of their relationship with MSN, recent changes to LookListings, and what else we can expect from the company in 2004.

In 2003 LookSmart announced that the contract that was seen by many as the foundation of their existence; delivering paid search results to the Microsoft MSN Search Engine, was over. Many industry analysts saw the news as the end of LookSmart, which has since taken a percepted downward spiral. LookSmart’s interview helps set the table for their drive to continue to be a force in the paid search arena- dominated by Google and Yahoo’s Overture, with possible competition coming from Kanoodle and FindWhat.

The Interview:

A Closer Look: Now that your relationship with MSN has ended, what’s next for LookSmart?

Tony Mamone: LookSmart’s focus has always been on serving the needs of search users while delivering cost-effective leads to our advertisers. That hasn’t changed. What’s new is our full-force entry into the Sponsored Search market. Now you can bid for specific keywords and control your position in search results across the LookSmart network, similar to the way you can with Google and Overture. In terms of popularity with advertisers, LookSmart is already the third largest Sponsored Search provider – most people don’t realize that.

ACL: Tell us about the changes to LookListings that you recently announced.

TM: In December, we announced that you now have two targeting options with LookListings. You can select keywords and show up only when someone searches on those words. Or you can select “inclusion targeting” and show up for additional searches where your listings are relevant. The first option gives you greater precision and lets you control your position through bidding. The second option gives you the freedom of not having to select keywords or manage bids, plus you get access to more traffic. The best part is that you can do both within one campaign.

ACL: Where are LookListings distributed?

TM: LookSmart has always provided a highly relevant search product, and therefore attracts quality distribution partners. Today, our search results are distributed across a network that includes Lycos, InfoSpace, CNET, RoadRunner and many others. We’re continuing to add new partners every month.

ACL: Why is it important for a business to advertise with LookSmart?

TM: Search marketers’ decisions about which networks to include in their search marketing mix should be based on performance. If the traffic you receive from a given source produces an ROI, then it makes economic sense to continue working with them. LookSmart focuses on partnering with leading search sites to ensure quality traffic. On top of this, LookListings now gives you the flexibility to bid for top placement on those keywords that are most important to your business while selecting low-cost, easy-to-manage inclusion targeting for other listings. This flexibility, combined with accurate tracking and reporting, helps you get the most out of every dollar.

ACL: What should we look for from LookSmart this year?

TM: In addition to growing our Sponsored Search business, LookSmart is focused on providing search directly to consumers. Recently, we launched the largest full-text article search service on the Web, giving access to over 3.5 million free articles from 700 publications. On LookSmart.com, you can search three uniquely useful sources of data: our directory of topic-classified Web sites, our index of 1.2 billion Web pages, and now, millions of quality articles. If you haven’t done a search on LookSmart.com lately, give it a try – we think you’ll like what you find.

We’ll keep our eyes on LookSmart throughout the year. Being one of the forefathers in search directories, we do hope LookSmart can meet its goals for 2004.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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