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LookSmart is not Small Business Friendly
by Lee Traupel

There is a firestorm of negative press regarding LookSmart's recent
marketing stumbles via numerous discussion groups, including two of
the oldest and most influential, I-Search and I-Advertising Digests.
Most of the critiques center on LookSmart's inability to develop
programs that are well matched for SMB/SME ("small to medium business
or enterprise" with revenue in the $5-50M range), their lack of
customer responsiveness and the difficulty in managing their new "pay
per click" traffic generating program.

Many of us in the agency/marketing services world relied upon
LookSmart's directory in the early days; especially as an offset to
Yahoo's "my way or the highway" attitude when they became the 200
pound gorilla in the marketplace So, it's sad to say, but LookSmart
appears to be morphing to just another portal with little marketing
awareness of how to work effectively with the tens of millions of SMB
companies that have rapidly embraced a web-centric business model.

One of the core issues that frustrates many small businesses is the
difficulty in getting a listing that actually describes their
company, products, services accurately to add insult to injury, you
have to pay in some cases twice to have your listing upgraded.
Apparently, LookSmart's editorial staff can't keep up with the
demand, or is so pressured to maintain some internal quote their
descriptions suffer accordingly.

LookSmart's new "pay per click" "Small Business Listings" program is
simply not "small business friendly". It is a complex program with
lots of important details buried in an FAQ that has to be read
carefully as there are some "gotchas" in the small print - including
being forced to wait up to 90 days for the return of the upfront
deposit of $150. and paying a setup fee for a listing; but having it
deactivated when you exceed the dollar amount of your "monthly click
limit." I can understand their dropping the listing once you exceed
your budget, but it does not seem equitable to charge $49. to setup
the listing in the first place your in essence subsidizing
LookSmart's cost of doing business.

We've found inconsistencies in LookSmart's stated Privacy program
versus inbound e-mail traffic we've received from them over the past
3-6 months. We've unsubscribed 3-4 times and still keep getting self-
promotional marketing materials which are not of any value, other
than promoting LookSmart's business. They are clearly not adhering to
their stated privacy policy and to compound matters, our complaints
have not been addressed via their customer service department.

So, if you're an SMB company what are your alternatives to working
with LookSmart? We would recommend your assessing Google's
new "AdWords Select" program which is geared more for business of all
sizes; but, I must warn you there is some complexity in setting up
this type of program as well. But, you certainly get much more
coverage with Google they're rapidly becoming the dominant search
engine du jour with approximately 40% market share of all combined
searches.

Inktomi's "Search Submit" program should also be assessed as an
alternative to working with LookSmart and as an adjunct to an
existing Search Engine or Marketing program. They have partnered with
some of the same companies that LookSmart is working with, including
MSN, AOL, iWon, and many others. They offer very good value for the
cost, charging a nominal fee $39. for the first URL and $25. for
additional URLs to have your web site "crawled" (assessed or indexed)
on a regular basis for one year and sharing this information with the
most heavily used search engines on the web.

Finally, you may want to consider utilizing standard pay per click
("PPC") search engines to drive qualified traffic to your web site
and/or looking at competitive PPC programs offered by LookSmart's
competitors including Yahoo, AOL, Alta Vista and others. Overture
(formerly GoTo) is the dominant market leader in the pure PPC market
that can deliver a great deal of traffic. But, there are
approximately 150 second tier pay per click search engines operating
at present and you should be able to leverage your marketing costs by
carefully analyzing your "keyword costs" via some of these PPC search
engines including Kanoodle, FindWhat, Sprinks and many others.

Lee Traupel has 20 plus years of business development and marketing
experience - he is the founder of Intelective Communications, Inc.
http://www.intelective.com, a marketing services and software company
which provides strategic and tactical marketing services exclusively
to small to medium sized companies. He can be reached at Lee@intelective.com
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