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Pay Per Click Advertising on MSN Through the LookSmart LookListings Program

Note: The partnership between MSN and LookSmart has ended, for now you must use Overture Pay Per Click Advertising to get listed in the sponsored listings ad the top of the MSN page. The Overture SiteMatch (for small sites) or SiteMatch Exchange (formerly Trusted Feed) must be used to get into the regular listings quickly and easily.

Articles on this site will be updated shortly.

The primary benefits of the LookSmart LookListings pay per click program is that it puts your website in the "web directory" listings on MSN, right below the Overture sponsored listings.

LookSmart can be cheaper than AdWords or Overture

If you've experimented with pay per click advertising on Overture or Google AdWords (to a lesser extent) you know that bid prices can be out of sight. Some search terms command up to $50.00 per click. On Overture and AdWords the bid amount either dictates your ranking within the sponsored results or influences it. The higher you bid, the higher your listing appears in the search results or ad listings in the case of Google AdWords.

Pay per click advertising on LookSmart is a totally different from either AdWords or Overture. Its more like a Trusted Feed program where your site is guaranteed to be included in the search results, no specific ranking is purchased and you will be charged for each and every click delivered to your website as a result of its listing in the LookSmart network. Most search engine traffic from your listings in the LookSmart network comes from its syndication partners, most notably MSN. There is a one-time review fee for each listing (currently $29.00 as of April 2003) and a flat price per click ($0.15 as of March 2003 for the small business listings product) regardless of what keywords your audience uses to find your website.

LookSmart pay per click advertising will cost at least $15.00 per month

LookSmart is going to charge you for a minimum of 100 clicks ($15.00) each month even if your site gets no referrals from the listing. It is to your advantage to research the chance you have to attain rankings for the keywords you want, and submit the pages that can attain the listings necessary to attain those rankings. If you do your homework you will have a pretty good idea of where your site will rank in the MSN search results before you submit your site. No matter how well you prepare there is no guarantee you will get the listing, ranking, or amount of search engine traffic you want. You cannot precisely control the outcome; only influence it.

Note: Exact ranking methodologies are never known and are subject to constant change. They may differ dramatically subsequent to the date this article was published (April 15, 2003).

You'll need to do some MSN specific keyword research

At this point, it is assumed that you have done your keyword research and have a list of keywords you want to target. If you want to make the most of your LookSmart listings, you need to take the keyword research steps.

Go to MSN.com and perform a search for each keyword your want to target. Note how many "web directory" listings show up for each search. When you submit to LookSmart, the number of "web directory" listings that show up is the number of competitors you face if you want to target that particular keyword phrase (and it should be phrases you are targeting - not single words like "marketing") on MSN.

Write down the number of "web directory" results for each of your desired keywords and put them in order from least number of competitors (number of matches) to largest number of competitors.

Once you have this information, match the number of keyword searches per month if you've used the Overture keyword tool, or per day if you've used WordTracker for keyword research to each keyword you've selected. At this point you should have the number of competing websites and an estimate of the number of daily or monthly searches for each keyword you want to target. From this list, choose the five phrases that you think are most relevant to your site and have the best balance of competition to number of searches.

Idenitfy your best opportunities for success

Generally speaking, if there are more than 100 "web directory" sites returned for a specific keyword search on MSN, you have little if any chance to secure a top-30 ranking for that specific search term and get any traffic from the LookSmart network for that particular search term. It's not an exact science so it's important to know how LookSmart and MSN rank their search results.

Understand how MSN ranks web sites

MSN and LookSmart tend to put the most emphasis on the title of the listing. It is always best to get your most desired keyword in the title of your listing. In order to achieve this you may have to modify your site but we'll go into that shortly. In addition to the title, LookSmart and MSN look at the description you submit to LookSmart. Your description needs to contain secondary keywords and phrases.

It's best to get exact matches to your keywords in your title and description. An exact match means that if you want your site to show up for a search on European ski vacations, the title or description needs to contain that exact phrase.

A simple example

If the name of your company was Snow Tours Unlimited, and you wanted to show up in the search results for European ski vacations, this listing would enable your site to show up in the search results for that term:

Title: Snow Tours Unlimited
Description: Offers European ski vacations to Interlaken Switzerland, Chomonix France, Cortina Italy, and Garmisch, Germany. Packages include ski lessons, airfare, lodging, and meals.

This listing contains an exact match to the search term European ski vacations and would show up somewhere in the MSN "web directory" search results for that term. A listing without an exact match such as the one below might not show up for European ski vacations:

Title: Snow Tours Unlimited
Description: Offers ski vacations to European destinations including Interlaken Switzerland, Chomonix France, Cortina Italy, and Garmisch, Germany. Packages include ski lessons, airfare, lodging, and meal.

The second listing does not contain the exact phrase "European ski vacations" so depending on how MSN chooses to apply its ranking algorithm on a particular day, your listing may not show up for your desired keyword phrase, European ski vacations.

Prepare your page for success

The layout and content of your web page will influence what keywords you can get the editor to put in the title of your listing (remember, you want to get your most important keyword in the title if at all possible). If you submit your homepage, the title of your listing is likely to contain only the name of your site and no keywords. It may be to your advantage to submit an internal page of your site, specifically one that is strictly about European ski vacations.

Titles are critical

When internal pages of commercial sites are submitted to LookSmart, the guidelines dictate that the title of the listing will be the name of the page followed by the name of the company. An internal page of the Snow Tours Unlimited site that focuses on European ski vacations could be listed as follows:

Title: European Ski Vacations - Snow Tours Unlimited
Description: Offers a variety of package ski trips to European ski resorts in Interlaken Switzerland, Chomonix France, Cortina Italy, and Garmisch, Germany.

This listing with European ski vacations in the title would generally show up higher in the MSN search results than either the first listing with an exact match in the description or the second without an exact match in the description.

Prepare your page to attain the desired title in LookSmart

In order for this listing with European ski vacations in the title to be accepted, the focus of the page would have to clearly be on European ski vacations. The best way to convey this to the editor would be to put a header on the page that says European ski vacations. The header is often a bold or large heading at the top of the page much like the title of a magazine article.

There are different programs for small and large businesses

LookSmart typically allows small businesses to have one listing per site. Sometimes special offers are extended that allow up to 5 listings per site.

Large businesses can submit tens, hundreds, even thousands of listings. Typically the price per click for these larger programs is as low as $0.17 (depending on volume and keyword market) per click with a minimum monthly expenditure of $2500.00 required. The process for small and large businesses is basically the same. Visit the LookSmart site and learn more about the LookSmart LookListings program and how you can use it to reach your customers when they are looking for you.

LookSmart is not the only game in town

Be sure to check out the articles on pay per click advertising on Overture, the Google AdWords tutorial, and the site analytics and ROI tracking section for more per per click advertising options and tracking services.

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