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Using Zeal to Get into LookSmart and the MSN Directory for Free

By Jill Whalen
Posted Friday, September 17, 2004

With LookSmart and Yahoo! now charging $299 (U.S.) apiece to review your Web site for inclusion in their respective directories, it's getting fairly expensive for the little guy to get listed.

However, if you're a noncommercial site, there is some good news. LookSmart recently purchased the Zeal directory and has merged its noncommercial listings seamlessly with LookSmart's own listings. Previously, anyone wishing to be listed in LookSmart and its partner sites -- MSN is the most recognized partner -- had to pay the fee unless the Web site was a certified nonprofit organization. This left thousands of hobbyist Web sites, fan sites, educational sites and other noncommercial entities out in the cold. It also made the LookSmart directory not as comprehensive as it could have been.

In fact, many sites previously listed in LookSmart were dropped once the company instituted the pay-for-review program a couple of years ago. I know this because my longtime LookSmart-listed parenting site, the Parentsroom, disappeared around that time. Once it was dropped, I began receiving e-mails from LookSmart every few weeks, telling me I could submit the site through the paid program. This was disconcerting to say the least, as I had worked on this Web site as a hobby for many years for the good of all parents, and I did not make any money on it. In fact, I lost money due to the time and server space it took. Needless to say, it didn't seem fair that I should have to pay to have it added back into the LookSmart directory. So, when I found out about LookSmart's merger with Zeal, I set out to restore the Parentsroom site to its rightful place in LookSmart -- for free!

A Little Zealousness Goes a Long Way

As it turns out, not just anyone can add or submit sites to Zeal/LookSmart. You must first register then pass a member quiz. This is not some sort of no-brainer deal whereby company officials are really just collecting your personal information. The quiz is 20 tricky questions regarding the proper formatting of submitted titles and descriptions, site selection, and category management. Zeal provides you a cheat sheet, available in the form of the company's User Guidelines, and you really do need to read carefully through these in order to answer most of the questions.

The test takes a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes, more if you don't have a firm grasp of directory submission procedures. However, if, like me, you've submitted many sites to LookSmart and already have a feel for how the company formulates its descriptions, you should easily pass the test. I'm proud to say I got 19 of the 20 questions correct.

With the quiz passed, I was now allowed to submit sites. I found the most appropriate category for my Parentsroom site and followed the relatively simple submission procedure, being careful to use the site's name as the title and to write the description so it perfectly followed the editorial criteria. Within a few hours, I was notified by e-mail that my site had been accepted. It showed up immediately at Zeal and showed up a few days later in the LookSmart directory. Once in LookSmart, it took about five to seven days for the site to show up at MSN.

Hurray for LookSmart!

What I like about this whole having-to-pass-a-quiz thing is that LookSmart doesn't let just anyone submit sites to the directory. The company also makes it easier on its senior editors because most submissions should be formatted correctly from the start. Yes, it's a pain in the neck to be approved; however, because of this, LookSmart can be fairly certain the high standards of its commercial listings will continue to be met by noncommercial listings.

Zeal offers another, even trickier quiz, which you need to take in order to become a full-fledged "zealot." Zeal calls zealots those who pass the member quiz, earn 75 member points, maintain a quality quotient of 6.0 or higher, and pass the zealot quiz. Just for fun, I decided to take it after getting such high marks on the first one. I didn't have much time, nor did I feel like doing any more in-depth research through the guidelines, so I decided I would just take my best shot and guess as necessary. Unfortunately, I got only nine of the 20 questions correct through that method.

The zealot quiz was extremely difficult in that it delved deeper into how to properly categorize sites within the directory. Because that's not something I normally do in a submission to LookSmart, I didn't have much knowledge about it. It was pretty complicated stuff! But again, this is a good thing. This shows that in order to become a full-fledged zealot, you have to really study the guidelines and the directory itself, and truly have a strong handle on how they do things.

There's a lot more to learn about Zeal and its relationship with LookSmart; I've only touched the surface. It looks like an interesting place to hang out, and I do plan on spending more time there when I get a chance. If nothing else, I need to exact my revenge on that zealot quiz!

About the Author
Contact Jill Whalen by e-mail at

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized
search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.


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