SemGeek.com is proud to present an Exclusive Online Interview with Allen Hammock, Director of Technical Sales for Looksmart.com.
This interview is brought to you in cooperation with the Search Engine Strategies’ Pre-SES New York 2010 Blog & Q&A Coverage.
Question #1: Can you tell our audience a little more about your role at LookSmart?
Answer: I’ve served LookSmart in various sales, marketing and technical roles since 2004, working to help define our leadership position in PPC search advertising. In my current position as Director of Technical Sales, I act as an educator and evangelist for the company, teaching customers and partners about LookSmart’s unique approach to search advertising. Internally, I am partially responsible for training programs for our account management and sales teams.
Question #2: What are the biggest challenge(s) that LookSmart faces in this “Google” dominated industry? In which areas does LookSmart have an advantage over Google?
Answer: At the end of the day, you have to understand that your customers’ choices aren’t about “Google” or “the other guy.” Instead, the biggest challenge is putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and understanding how to make your product worth their time and consideration. So, how do we do that? From our point of view our advantage is clear: it’s our service. LookSmart offers top notch customer service to all of our advertisers, regardless of the size of their budget. We have dedicated account management teams committed to ensuring that our clients are meeting their goals. If our customers have a question, they can give us a call and we’ll actually pick up the phone.
Google offers a great product to be sure, but they set a very high bar to succeed in that environment. LookSmart doesn’t require it’s customers to be authorities in how to get value out of networks—we provide that expertise and the service to support it.
Question #3: What would you say is the single most important reason for an advertiser to try LookSmart whether it would be their first time ever or again in many years?
Answer: LookSmart has a commitment to deliver predictable, sustainable, and profitable results to our clients. Our goal is to be the network you can trust. That means, we work tirelessly to achieve results for our clients and we’re honest when we’ve reached those limits. It’s about being able to contact your LookSmart rep and ask questions, get ideas, and try new things while feeling confident that we’ve got your best interests in mind.
Question #4: Can you explain in more detail about how the quality of traffic within the LookSmart platform and why a potential advertisers should consider trying out LookSmart.
Answer: First and foremost, delivering quality is making a commitment to provide traffic you yourself would want to buy if it were being sold to you. That means taking measurements, developing models around those observations, and diligently testing and re-testing your assumptions. We have a proprietary process in place with several check points to promote a clean network including: advanced pricing and targeting controls, click scoring technologies, and independent measurement through companies like Anchor Intelligence and Click Forensics. We segment our traffic and price it appropriately according to performance . We proactively solicit feedback from our advertisers and act on it.
And, to speak to the matter of trust—we advise clients about opportunities and give them a fair and honest assessment about the probability of success with their campaigns. We adapt our programs to suit the needs of the advertiser. For example, some advertisers are willing to take more risk on their CPA margins in order to grow their overall net contribution more aggressively. Others need to hit precise goals even if overall growth is more conservative.
Traffic quality is more than just a score on a chart and it’s definitely not black and white. Buying from LookSmart is more like working with a financial advisor. We have a sophisticated view of the available inventory, really granular controls that allow us to customize our clients’ exposure to the network, and a set of ethics that guide how we handle our customers’ investments. We’re the network you can trust.
Question #5: Can you help us understand LookSmart’s Keyword Matching/Targeting options? For example, what are the key differences between your Broad Match Smart Matches as compared to the match types from Google and Yahoo.
Answer: LookSmart offers smart matching and broad matching technologies not too different from the leading search providers. In some cases, like category matching, our platform is more capable than others. Advertisers using our platform will find that the campaigns they run on Google and Yahoo! fit nicely into the same boxes we’ve reserved for Campaigns, Ad Groups, and Match Types on LookSmart.
But, we’re not really trying to differentiate ourselves from competition in that way. The reality is, as a marketer it can be a scary choice to leave the safe confines of the web sites you know really well like Google and Yahoo!. There’s a big difference between trying to figure out how to maximize productivity on two web sites where there is little variability from one pageview to the next.
In the world of networks, we don’t have the luxury of dictating the position, font size, and layout of every ad on every page. You’re working with hundreds of thousands of unique web sites all with their own ideas about how pages should be designed. Instead, LookSmart is sifting through over a billion queries a day looking for the opportunities that suit the right advertisers at the right price within an acceptable tolerance of risk versus reward. So, our technologies are designed to help us measure that risk and deliver that reward. We tend to emphasize the sophistication of our analytical and pricing capabilities over the nuances of targeting.
Question #6: With more and more PPC Software tools becoming available for PPC Marketers to manage multiple accounts across all SE Platforms through API technology, can you tell us how LookSmart has adapted to this shift in PPC management?
Answer: LookSmart offers an API that is similar in function and form to the API’s you see from other leading search providers. If you’re trying to manage Campaigns, Ad Groups, Ad Variations, Keyword
s, Budgets, Geo-Targeting, and get reports, you’ll find our SOAP-based web service easy to work with and comparable to other API’s you’re already working with.
But, we see the value of our API a little bit differently than the other providers do. In a bid management scenario, for example, your automated bidding strategy depends a lot on the assumption that every page view is just like every other page view—the only difference being the advertisers you compete with and the price you pay. That’s fine on a search site that hasn’t changed the layout of its results in over a decade, but when you get on a network with hundreds of thousands of page designs, your automated bidding strategy goes out the door along with those assumptions.
Our API makes it easy for clients to manage the performance of their campaigns with LookSmart alongside performance with our peers. We have to live up to the same standards of return on investment that the leading search providers do. Our API enables our clients to hold us to those standards. But we deliver that performance through our own unique blend of service and technology that no automated bidding strategy is going to enhance.
Question #7: Other thoughts we want to share???
Answer: At LookSmart, we have a dedicated group of people who are working day-in and day-out to deliver value to our customers. Because we don’t have the virtually unlimited resources of some of our competitors, we have to work smarter and focus our energies where we can make the most impact. Ultimately, we believe that is through superior service. You don’t get to play in the game if you don’t have the technology to keep you running with the pack, so we’ve made substantial developments in that area. But you can’t engineer a trusted relationship with a client, you have to earn it the old fashioned way.
Question #8: Are there any Special Offers you would like to extend to our readers?
Answer: LookSmart would like to extend semgeek.com readers with the opportunity to try our network with $50 in matched clicks. To redeem your $50 advertising credit, you will need to open a LookSmart advertiser account using a valid credit card. Enter the coupon code “ls-mb-50″ at checkout and we’ll match every dollar you spend on our network, up to $50, with an additional dollar in advertising. Get started today!