By Mike Shields
Second-tier search engine LookSmart is launching five vertical search engines designed to provide search outlets for niche audiences ranging from teens to parents.
The five new search engines include three homework-related sites, including Teenja.com for teens; Gradewinner.com for "tweens;" and 24hourscholar.com for college students.
In addition, the company has developed two search engines aimed at parents: the family-oriented Parentsurf.com and Gobelle.com for busy moms.
LookSmart says that these particular topics were selected based on the company's proprietary audience and research data based on user traffic patterns.
Many industry experts are touting vertical search, or search engines that are dedicated to particular areas of interest (like shopping or travel), as the next big thing in search engine marketing. Such engines should theoretically offer users fewer, more relevant search results while allowing advertisers to target particular audience segments more effectively.
This move appears to be a concerted effort by Looksmart to establish a leadership position in the emerging niche search space. In recent years, the company's flagship property, Looksmart.com, as well as its various partnerships, have fallen behind top-tier engines like Google and Yahoo in terms of advertising dollars and user loyalty. The company has also recently gone through several changes in upper management.