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LookSmart

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LookSmart’s (http://www.looksmart.com) logo text sums up this PPC search engine pretty well – “Where To Look For What You Need”. Based in San Francisco, LookSmart has come a long way since it caused a stir in 2002 when it switched to a pay-per-click basis from a one-time placement fee-based listing setup.

LookSmart now is directed towards vertical search, using categories for organizing its ad and listings content, rather than the more typical Google-type “open” search.

Vertical search allows the user to narrow their search easily into the available categories and LookSmart has extensive listings in the markets they have chosen – currently Auto, Cities, Education, Food, Health, Home Living, Money, Music, Recreation, Sports, Style, Tech & Games, and Travel.

Under each major market is a page that breaks the category down further into a number of sub-categories with short descriptions for each. Also on each category page is a list of resources, including links to a number of articles and web sites, as well as a list of pages others have recently viewed. The integration of the Furl network is evident in the option to save a copy of any page you reach via LookSmart, and options to Find, Save or Share your results or web sites you have found with others via an easy-to-use interface.

The PPC product is called LookListings, which delivers content from Lycos, InfoSpace, Search.com (CNET), Apple’s Sherlock, Snap.com, among others. LookSmart has more than 180 demographically targeted search sites in addition to their distribution network. Two types of keyword matching are offered: Smart match (where slight variations of the keywords are included) and Broad matching (brings up all results containing the keywords).

LookSmart is customer-oriented, with a great deal of information on their site to help you optimize your ads, and easy access to customer service reps to assist you in setting up a campaign. Various documents are available explaining the options in detail and recent customer webinars are available for viewing online as well that deal with LookListings CPCs, budgets, using the online Advertiser Center, as well as more general advice on keyword choices to garner more leads. You can also subscribe to an email containing news, tips, best practices, and LookSmart special offerings.

The online demo of the Advertiser Center reveals a robust and versatile system with spend data being updated each hour, so that advertisers can access their accounts and check out their ads, make changes to their campaigns, and view a huge variety of customizable reports online. Traffic is monitored using a service called TrueLead, which verifies responsiveness and screens for click fraud. An extremely comprehensive FAQs section answers a myriad of questions about LookSmart and LookListings in a clear and attractive manner.

Non-commercial sites can be listed free with the community directory and will also be listed in Zeal’s directory for possible distribution to other search engines, but commercial sites are limited to LookListings. There are a number of handy resources for help with keyword selection, etc.

LookSmart has made a foray into the vertical search arena that historically mostly shopping comparison search engines have excelled at. The inclusion of other aspects, such as the ability to save your searches and listings for recent searches made by others, as well as their extremely detailed and versatile reporting, make this a search engine worth considering experimenting with and comparing results with similarly placed search engines not set up for vertical search.

Pros
  • Nice, clean look to the interface
  • Customer service is a priority in all areas, including assistance in improving the performance of your ads if your clicks per month aren’t generating a minimum amount of traffic
  • Added value properties of web page personal archive (formerly Furl.net), access to “Find Articles” archive of 10 million articles and Net Nanny
  • Monthly ad spend amount can be easily changed online
Cons
  • Funding of ad campaigns relies on a monthly spend limit you set. Within any given month, If your account needs refunding to cover costs, your credit card will be automatically debited
  • Minimum monthly spend of $15. However, if your spend is below this amount, LookSmart will contact you to suggest a free consultation with their editorial staff to assess your ad campaigns
  • One of the few PPC search engines to still offer paid inclusions, which can apparently show up in sponsored listings if not enough PPC ads are available