OpenList Grows Up

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When I first encountered OpenList (then Local-i) about four years ago it was an ambitious startup that was focused on a couple of local-verticals, mainly hotels and restaurants, but with an ambitious plan for a broad range of categories. The company was crawling and aggregating content from numerous online sources and extracting metadata to enable complex user filtering and drilling down on results. In other words, you could get down to the hotel in New York that was three stars, two dollar signs and family friendly. They weren’t the only ones to be able to do something like this, but the functionality was quite valuable and effective.

Even though aspects of the site were underdeveloped at the time I found it to be impressive. Local-i had put together a site, almost entirely through automation, that rivaled what Citysearch had done with years of work and considerable editorial overhead.

I subsequently had numerous contacts with OpenList’s CTO, Matthew Berk, a former Jupiter analyst. I found Berk to be one of the wisest people around in thinking about data, local and the overall user experience.

In May of last year, Marchex acquired OpenList and the acquisition has literally helped transform the company’s business. Marchex took its domain portfolio and used OpenList’s content aggregation and search capabilities to make its domains into actual content sites. Fast forward to June of this year, Marchex launched 100,000 local and local-vertical sites using OpenList’s toolset and functionality.

This was, in many ways, a remarkable thing. Beyond the sheer Herculean scope of the effort, the company had created what amounts to a massive local network that laid the foundation for the relaunch of OpenList as a broad consumer destination today.

I spoke to Berk earlier in the week and we discussed how this relaunch is the fulfillment of his original vision for Local-i/OpenList.

Here are some particulars from the release:

Open List and Marchexs network of local Web sites now also feature local content and services from a variety of leading content partners, including:

  • OpenTable (www.opentable.com): Openlist.com users, as well as users of such local Marchex Web sites as www.seattlefinedining.com can now make reservations at any of more than 7,000 restaurants across the U.S., using the OpenTable reservation service.
  • Contractors.com (www.contractors.com): Users of Open List and such Marchex Web sites as www.remodeling.com can now access hundreds of thousands of reviews of home improvement service providers from the most comprehensive directory of residential contractors.
  • HealthGrades, Inc. (www.healthgrades.com): The leading health ratings organization provides users of Open List and other local Marchex Web sites such as www.newyorkdoctors.com with detailed patient experience surveys of doctors across the U.S.
  • Judys Book (www.judysbook.com): Open List and Marchex local Web site users have access to hundreds of thousands of market- and category-specific reviews from Judys Book, an online shopping community.

The proof is in the searching and side by side comparisons with IYPs and other local search sites. But OpenList has created a powerful and user-friendly local search destination that is supported by the broader network of local and vertical sites that launched earlier this summer. They all point back to OpenList.com.

It’s the first instance of an SEO strategy preceding a destination site launch that I’m aware of.

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3 Responses to “OpenList Grows Up”

  1. Today’s News from Marchex » Small Business SEM Says:

    [...] Greg Sterling: OpenList Grows Up [...]

  2. Rich Hargrave @ Ambassador Internet Says:

    The interface is impressive – clean and simple navigation. A great “look and feel” as well. There also seems to be a deep level of information for the included businesses (reviews, etc), but my informal tests found a few cases of limited local listing data.

    They’ve done a great job in putting together a property which may raise the bar in local search. Content + usage + good ui = $$$!

  3. Weekly Local Wrap Up - 09/28/07 | LocalPoint - Perspectives on the Local Internet Says:

    [...] News: Web’s Local Mogul More on the (Local) Shopping Front OpenList Grows Up Is One Good Web Site Enough for a Local Business? Marchex Connects Its Local-Vertical Network [...]

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