Looksmart/Zeal no longer function as a directory as they once did. The information in this article is being kept up for historical purposes only. No claim to current accuracy is made.
LookSmart is a pay only directory, and they keep changing how they charge you. They fluctuated around with various flat fees for awhile and now they've moved to a pay-per-click model that most people do not like. You can't bid to a higher position like you can with Overture, but you still pay for every click. In general Looksmart won't get you as much exposure as Overture so it is very hard to recommend paying for them at this time, however they will get you a small amount of link popularity, which Overture does not provide.
There is no free way into Looksmart. At least there didn't used to be. LookSmart bought Zeal in October of 2000, probably because they realized that if they were going to compete in size with ODP, or even Yahoo, that they need a better way to add sites. After the purchase LookSmart spent a good deal of time changing Zeal around slightly and integrating it into their own directory. Now Zeal is in effect a back door into LookSmart for non-commercial sites. Well whats a non-commercial site you ask? Basically a non-commercial site is one that doesn't sell things, its okay if they have advertising just so long as they have good content. This means that for most content driven websites you can get into LookSmart for free by using Zeal.
Getting into Zeal requires some work though, like ODP it is a volunteer organization, but unlike ODP its setup is both more professional and more objective. Once you register for Zeal you need to take the Member Quiz before you can submit sites, this quiz can be very hard for some people, it will test your knowledge of the editing guidelines so you will need to study those first. Once you pass the Member Quiz you can submit sites, but you cannot yet add them.
You will get approximately 5 Zeal Points for every site you submit that is later added. Once you get 75 points you can take the Zealot Quiz, if you pass you will be able to adopt a category and add sites to that category. As you spend time editing and adding sites you will gain more points that will allow you to adopt larger and larger categories.
Because of the quizzes the quality and consistency of editing is much higher at Zeal than at ODP. Additionally, because of the quantitative point system and the fact that you are working side by side with paid LookSmart editors, the oligarchy problems that plague the internal structure at ODP do not develop. If you have to choose a place to edit I would recommend Zeal over ODP.
Another good thing about Zeal is that they also offer prizes occassionally. I have personally won an MP3 Player and a $500 gift certificate from my editing there. Prizes serve to both motivate editors and to give back to the volunteers.
LookSmart also has a decently large reach and being in the directory will bring in a good deal of traffic. The biggest partner is perhaps MSN, which gets primary search results from LookSmart. Additionally AltaVista, Excite, DogPile, Mamma, IWON, and others all use LookSmart data.
Once you are listed in LookSmart/Zeal you will be in some of its partners, such as MSN, in a few days to a week, others will follow shortly. As a whole it seems the LookSmart's partners update their data more often than those that partner with ODP.
LookSmart ranks based on keywords much in the same way that ODP does. It does not have any editor's pick feature however. Sites are instead rated by a numerical value from 1-5 with 5 being the highest. Any Zeal member can rate a site, though for the most part the majority of sites do not have a rating. So if you can join and give your own site a high rating it should help a good deal. LookSmart will also featured listings resulting from paid submissions higher than unpaid submissions.
Looksmart bought the WiseNut search engine some time ago, though they haven't really done anything with it. They also recently bought Grub, an open source distributed search crawler (like Seti@Home).