A new program from LookSmart has made it possible for small businesses and others with low publicity budgets to get listed within the paid placement area of its search results.
Called "Site Promote," the program that launched last week lets site owners pay a monthly fee of $20 or $30 to appear within the "Featured Listings" area of the LookSmart search results page. These are paid listings that appear above LookSmart's editorial results.
Aside from appearing at LookSmart itself, the listings also appear at a variety of partners such as Juno and Dogpile. They do not appear at LookSmart's most important partner, MSN Search.
The fee doesn't guarantee placement for any particular words. Instead, the terms a site will appear for depend what's included in the site's title and description. The more expensive $30 per month version of Site Promote will take into account up to ten keywords associated with the listing, though it still doesn't guarantee placement for these terms.
So how do sites get placed in this area, say for a term like "gift baskets?" Preference is given first to major advertisers in LookSmart's "LookListings" program who have explicitly paid to appear for particular terms. If four major advertisers all cut deals to show up for "gift baskets," then all four "Featured Listings" spots will be filled.
Now let's say there are no major advertisers or maybe only one or two with explicit keyword deals for "gift baskets." Who then gets placed in the remaining spots? LookSmart will first look at relevancy. Did the term "gift baskets" appear in the site's title and description? Next, assuming it finds a variety of sites that are roughly equal on a relevancy basis, it then generally sorts them like this:
+ Cost per click paid
+ Associated keywords
+ Relevancy of title and description
In other words, if all things are equal between sites, then those agreeing to pay LookSmart the most on a cost per click basis get bumped above others. After that, sites that have keywords associated with them through the Site Promote process get the nod (something you can do with the $30 option). Finally, LookSmart will list those that just have the terms in their titles and descriptions.
If you are paying a flat fee per month, how can you compete with larger advertisers who, though they may not have explicit keyword deals, still operate on a cost per click basis with LookSmart? It turns out that even small businesses using Site Promote are also paying on a cost per click basis --15 cents per click.
You'll find this buried in the program's "Terms of Service." It means that sites are effectively allowed 133 or 200 clicks per month, depending on the level the selected. Once they hit this amount, they'll no longer have a chance to appear until the following month.
"If you use up all the clicks, then you are out," said Jennifer Schindler, who oversees the program for LookSmart.
This also means that if you don't use all the budgeted clicks in a month, the money is effectively lost, when the new month begins.
Compared to Overture, the LookSmart Site Promote program is underwhelming. There's no guarantee about when you will appear, which is the entire point of a paid listings program. Moreover, assuming you are doing well for a particular phrase or combination of terms, there's no way to "top-up" your account with more money, once you've hit your click limit. There's also apparently no clickthrough reporting.
Schindler did say it is possible to purchase Site Promote for a site twice per month, as a work around to the top-up problem. That means you could receive up to 400 clicks per month, at most.
For some sites, the program might be worth experimenting with. At the very least, it's an alternative resource for getting some additional high-quality clicks per month, for a small outlay of cash and minimal account management.
If you do find yourself constantly bumping against the 400 clicks per month barrier, you'll probably want to consider moving to the regular LookListings program offered by LookSmart. This offers greater flexibility, though the price per entry begins at $1,000 per month.
The new Site Promote option is part of an overall revamp LookSmart has made to its listings offerings for small businesses. All its small business products have been consolidated into a new "LookListings Small Business" area, which sits in contrast to the existing "LookListings" products that are aimed at large advertisers.
Visiting the new small business area, you'll find that there are four major options: Submit, Promote, Update and Not Sure. Submit lets you submit to the LookSmart directory. Promote takes you into the Site Promote program, as described. Update allows you to change existing editorial listings in the directory. As for Not Sure, this simply reviews your URL and suggests one of more of the small business programs that the URL is not already involved in.
The new "My Account" tab in the small business area lets you manage all URLs you've submitted to LookSmart. You can update a URL to change a description or choose to enroll it in the Site Promote program.
Only those who submitted since last week will have existing accounts. However, LookSmart says it soon will add historical data and automatically create accounts for many who have submitted in the past. Emails with account information should go out, in the near future.
You also have the ability to add or remove sites from your "My Account" portfolio. Just use the big "Add or remove listings" box at the bottom of the My Listings page, after you log into the My Account area. To be clear, this will add or remove sites to your portfolio, so you can manage them more easily. It does not add or remove sites from LookSmart itself.
In a real plus for site owners, LookSmart has also altered its submission form, so that you can submit up to three phrases that are important to your site. Of course, when submitting, you should already incorporate these phrases into your site description. However, by also listing them in the new "List your key products & services in order of priority" boxes, you help ensure that editors work harder not to accidentally eliminate them, when reviewing and perhaps editing your suggested description.
LookListings Small Business
LookSmart Overhauls Submission Process, Increases Prices
The Search Engine Update, August 2, 2001
My last, long-review of the LookSmart submission process, which touches on the LookListings program for large advertisers, as well as submit tips for small businesses.