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LookSmart Launches Local Search, Plans Directory Expansion

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LookSmart has unveiled localized directories for 65 cities or major metropolitan areas in the United States, which are available in conjunction with its web wide listings. In addition, the service expects to greatly enlarge its 800,000 listings after the New Year.

To access the new local listings, choose the Your Town tab, then select your desired area. The Your Town tab will then change to display the area name, and local listings will be available through it. You can also jump back to web wide results by selecting the "The Web" tab. To change your default area, select the "Change Your Town" option that appears in the lower left-hand corner of the page.

The local directories were developed in partnership with Cox Interactive Media and also appear at Cox city sites, such as BayInsider.com and AccessAtlanta.com.

LookSmart also has some regional listings within its main web-wide database, but sites appearing here do not yet appear when viewing categories via the local tabs.

"At the moment, there are separate databases," said LookSmart cofounder Tracey Ellery. "Over a period of time, we'll integrate that data into the overall directory".

In addition, LookSmart says it is getting closer to populating its directory with a large number of site submissions gathered over the past few months.

LookSmart has had long standing plans to allow sites to post themselves instantly in categories where strong editorial oversight may not be necessary, such as lists of schools or clubs. In fact, the service now believes it can do this in most categories.

The idea is that when a user comes into a category, they'll first be presented with a list of top picks as determined by editors. Down at the bottom of the page would be a "More" option. This would show sites that either have not been reviewed or have not been selected as top picks.

"The vast majority of categories will have some ability for suggested sites to be listed, even if they are not on the first page," Ellery said.

Look for the release of these "unselected" sites in the first months of next year -- LookSmart says that it is currently notifying webmasters who have submitted if they'll be present in the unselected database.

Of course, editors continue to select sites for inclusion in the existing directory, and LookSmart says even more sites will be appearing as a result of the editor expansion program underway. The company says it currently has 80 editors and plans to increase them to 150 by March of next year, which will in turn enlarge its reviewed listings.

"The size of our selected database is going to literally explode by 10 times over the next 12 months, said LookSmart CEO Evan Thronley.

LookSmart also plans changes to improve how sites are listed in response to keyword searches.

"We've really focused on the directory than the search engine, although we are now doing a whole range of things to improve the algorithm," said cofounder Ellery.

That should help benefit users, because at the moment, it can be hard to distinguish why a site may appear first in the search results.

FYI, one current factor that bumps a site up higher is if it also is ranked highly within its home category. For example, a search for "bill clinton" brings up matches from the Starr Report and President Bill Clinton categories. If you browse to these categories, you'll find that these sites are also top picks within these categories.

LookSmart
http://www.looksmart.com/


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