Aug 22, 2007

Key Note Address With Jim Lanzone - CEO of Ask,com

Chris Sherman hosted a keynote address - with Jim Lanzone from Ask, as guest speaker. By all accounts, Ask is firmly in 4th place with less 10% query share, and dropping. It was an interesting session, during which Jim responded to general questions about GUS, the Search Landscape, Personalized Search and the Ask value proposition. (below are my key takeaways from the keynote).

Jim contends that Search Share is one measure of the effectiveness and popularity of a Search Engine and should be reviewed annually - monthly and certainly not on a weekly basis. Ask is motivated to introduce innovative features which help address users' Search Intent. The ultimate goal is to Satisfy users Search query with a rich result feature set. "Ask doesn't think about query share growth when introducing new features. We are competing for users and we feel that our local offering and our dynamic search engine results features provide better value for our users".

Ask contends that they have always been focused on delivering great Search Results. The purchase of Teoma improved their core product offering. Now that Search is an essential tool in everyday life, Ask strives to be the most wholly relevant engine, by delivering a good mix of Search Results - Ask 3D Search, being an example of an innovative search feature.

Interestingly, Jim Lanzone mentioned that approximately 50% of the engagement on the Ask SERP is NOT from web results. Apparently -that's a clear indication that Ask results are very relevant for their users. He stated that Live Club is not Search - it's simply Games - in which users solve puzzles or word games whilst initiating search queries. Some Search Engines measure the relevance of their Search Results, based on how many clicks are generated on the SERP. Others, monitor the amount of time which the user spends on the SERP or subsequent pages, before closing the results pages altogether. Jim Lanzone contends that Ask users are finding what they want on the results pages, so there is less of a need for multiple searches.

However, Query share is based on query volume, which is a function of the number of Searchers who use a particular search engine and the relative number of searches generated per user. If Ask results are really so accurate, then more people should be using their Search Engine and their Searches/Searcher should be higher. Ultimately, that would result in a better Search Query share than 5 - 8%, which is where they sit right now.

To be sure, Ask has a rich content offering on it's SERPs and is more synonymous with the concept of Universal/Blended Search than any of the Top 3. That hasn't yet translated into stronger overall relevance or greater adoption of ask, by Google, Yahoo or Live Search users. One question which seemed to freeze Jim, was the monetization aspect of Ask. Why would any Search Marketer buy ads on, when they could gain access to Ask users through Google. IMHO, Jim struggled to identify the value proposition which Ask offers to advertisers. The prospect of gaining access to other IAC properties may not be worth the hassle of monitoring separate campaigns on the same platform. Jim did demo an interesting new Ask TV ad, which highlights the value of Universal Search, but then - what else is new...........

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