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 Marchex’s network of local Web sites now also feature local content and services from a variety of leading content partners, including:
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.