Interview With Dakota Sullivan of LookSmart
By Kalena Jordan of Web Rank Ltd
Vice President of LookSmart,
Dakota Sullivan, is apparently a very busy man, judging
by the amount of chasing I had to do to have him
respond to my questions. Nevertheless, he finally took
time out to be interviewed and I'm happy to share the
results with you below.
In the interview, Mr Sullivan reveals how the
Yahoo/Inktomi deal will affect LookSmart, the new
features LookSmart will be introducing for Small
Business Listings customers shortly and why he thinks
WiseNut is a better search engine partner for the major
portals than Google:
(WR) = Web Rank, (DS) = Dakota Sullivan
Question 1 (WR) - With Yahoo purchasing Inktomi,
how will this affect LookSmart's search results?
(DS) LookSmart, Inktomi and Yahoo are discussing our
relationship going forward. For now, it's business as
usual, with LookSmart listings being distributed
throughout the Inktomi network, and Inktomi providing
fall through results on LookSmart.com and on
LookSmart's hosted properties.
Question 2 (WR) - A recent email from LookSmart
Public Relations staff mentions "The Yahoo! deal makes
LookSmart prime for partnership (or the picking!)". Are
LookSmart currently looking for new business partners?
Have LookSmart received any take over offers?
(DS) LookSmart already partners with more than 100
major portals, search engines and ISPs including MSN,
About.com, AltaVista, Netscape, Inktomi, InfoSpace,
Cox Communications and Road Runner in the US, MSN in
Japan, Australia and the UK, Lycos in Japan and Yahoo
in Australia. We are continually in discussion with other
portals and search engines in the US and around the
world, as we expand our distribution network.
Question 3 (WR) - Following the industry backlash
last year when LookSmart moved from a directory to a
pay per click model, there seems to have been a large
loss of search market share and customer loyalty. Does
LookSmart now regret their change of business model
and are there any plans to counter the market share
(DS) The truth is, our customer base has grown
significantly since last April. At that time, a number of
businesses had paid a one-time fee to be reviewed for
our search directory, yet we had no customers paying
an ongoing fee. Today, we have more than 30,000
businesses renewing their accounts with us each
month, and actively participating in their relationship
This spring, we'll be introducing the first
update to our Small Business Listings product. The
update will give customers more control over their
account management and performance tracking, new
tools to optimize their campaigns, and reduce costs for
adding listings and making changes to their listings.
Here are some of the new features you can expect:
1) Simpler submission of new listings -
automated checks that look for incomplete submissions
or potential violations of editorial guidelines, ability to
automatically upload a large number of listings for our
customers who have applicable contracts (our larger
clients), and greater detail around guidelines and
2) Flexible options for grouping listings
together - Multiple listing campaigns can be
grouped together within a single billing account or each
listing campaign could be set up in its own account,
each with its own billing. (Note that monthly budgets
can already be set up for each campaign).
3) Different levels of on-line account
access - Several people can be given access to the
same account, but each person would have their own
log in and password. Additionally, each user could be
given a different level of access to the account; for
example, one user would just be able to see campaign
information, but not change it, while a second user had
permission to view and edit campaign information. This
will be highly beneficial to SEOs, agencies or other
people who manage listings on behalf of clients.
4) Ability to set flight dates - ability to set a
specific start date and end date for a particular listing
campaign. This is especially relevant to advertisers with
seasonal products or promotions. (Note that monthly
budgets are already available to advertisers to help
manage spending levels).
Question 4 (WR) - That same email from LookSmart
Public Relations staff talks about how "LookSmart is
plotting against Google". Can you explain this?
(DS) Google provides an excellent search experience,
and has helped raise the bar in terms of search
relevancy for the entire industry. However, Google's
rapid growth has come at the expense of its partners'
search franchises. Most new Google users are former
Yahoo or AOL search loyalists. Our position is that the
optimal search engine partner for the major portals is a
company that delivers best of breed search relevancy,
yet does not compete with their brand for ownership of
the search user. With our purchase last year of
WiseNut, a world class, next generation search engine,
we're focused on meeting this need.
It's only February and already this year the search
industry has had more plot twists than a daytime soap.
Yahoo's bought Inktomi, Overture's bought AltaVista
and MSN's bought time by renewing their deal with
Inktomi until 2005.
All these developments have made other key players
understandably nervous, especially LookSmart with
their MSN deal now hanging in the balance. Our
feature article this month is an article with LookSmart
Vice President, Dakota Sullivan, with his take on how
LookSmart plans to survive the industry shake up.
Before I go, a quick note that if you haven't already
purchased our indepth report
Search Engine Compatibility and the Top 100 Australian
Public Company Web Sites, now's the time to do
it - because for a limited time, we have dropped the
price by 50 percent!
Enjoy this issue and remember to visit our daily
Search Engine News Blog for the latest industry
news and gossip.
Till next time - wishing you high
- AltaVista Snapped Up By Overture
Internet search company Overture made
the shock announcement this month that it would be
purchasing search portal AltaVista from
CMGI Inc. for $140 million in cash and stock.
In their end of the deal, to be completed in April,
Overture will pay AltaVista in common stock valued at
$80 million, plus $60 million in cash and assume certain
AltaVista liabilities. The deal represents a strategic
move by Overture to expand their current product
offerings outside the realm of pay-per-click and to start
competing with rivals such as Google and Yahoo in the
mainstream algorithm-based search market.
|Terra Lycos Slashes Workforce by 20 Percent
In a serious cost cutting measure, Spanish Internet
Search firm Terra Lycos
sacked more than 20 percent of its United Staff
staff this month, bringing total US staff down to 500.|
The cuts were apparently necessary in light of major
losses for the company, a direct result of a worldwide
slump in online advertising expenditure. The across the
board job losses impacted several offices nationwide,
including including Waltham, Massachusetts, New York,
Miami, San Francisco and California.
|Overture Doubles Minimum Bid for Advertisers
doubled their minimum bid for U.S. PPC campaigns from
USD 0.05 to 0.10 and advertisers are far from happy.
The warning signs started flashing when Overture UK
announced last month that their minimum bid was going
to increase from £0.05 to £0.10 from February 6.
Overture U.S. customers had their fears confirmed with
the arrival of an email from Overture on February 8,
with the USD minimum bid increase taking immediate
effect. Thankfully, existing bids between 0.05 and 0.09
are being "grandfathered" at their current max bid for
the foreseeable future. But if advertisers decide to
change existing bid amounts or add new bids, they
must comply with the new minimum.
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|MSN Extends Deal With Inktomi
| ||Search portal MSN surprised the
industry earlier this month with the announcement
they had renewed their deal with Inktomi
through to December 2005.|
The non-exclusive deal sees Inktomi continue to
provide secondary search results to MSN, who also
uses LookSmart paid search listings as part of their
search results. Following Yahoo's recent decision to
purchase Inktomi in April, speculation was rife that MSN
would dump Inktomi due to competitive concerns about
their largest rival. The deal extension has ended such
speculation for now, although things may change after
the Yahoo / Inktomi deal becomes official in April.
|The Nitty Gritty of Writing for the Search Engines
| ||Anybody who subscribes to Jill Whalen's excellent SEO
Rankings Advisor will know that she launched her
The Nitty-Gritty of Writing
for the Search Engines last week. What you may
not know, if you haven't already bought it, is how
fantastic it is!
Nitty-Gritty spells it all out for you: where to place your
keyword phrases, how to use real text, how to make
your copy make sense to your readers and things to
avoid, all with crystal clear, practical, step-by-step
examples. I highly recommend Nitty-Gritty to any
webmaster seeking advice on how to edit their site
copy or improve the search engine compatibility of their
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