Ask.com, the fourth-most-used Internet search engine in the U.S. is starting a new era. One beyond 10 blue sponsored links.
Ask.com has recently announced it will spend almost $100 million to promote the services offered on the site. There will be a three-panel screen that presents answers to inquiries and links to search results. However Ask.com is raising the stakes at offering lists of related searches and results from blogs, photos, videos as well as shopping sites and news.
This service is called Ask3D. Ask3D is planning on the combination of types of online content in search results to attract more users. “There are a lot more types of content online than there were a few years ago,” replied Jim Lanzone, chief executive at Ask.com. “But the search experience still looks like it did in 1996.”
In recent years, all major search engines, including those of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, have tried to bring new types of content into search results. Last month, for instance, Google unveiled a service it calls universal search that intersperses videos, photos, news and other content into traditional search results. While the competition has been gradual in the transitions of their search results, Ask.com is taking an immediate and riskier approach. “It’s a pretty radical change,” said John Battelle, the chief executive of Federated Media, a blog ad network, and author of “The Search,” a book about Google. “Most of the big players have a lot to lose, so they don’t want to shock the system. Ask has less to lose.”
Ask.com’s approach begins with the typing in of the query. You may type in half of a name such as “Bill Cl” and will receive suggestions such as “Bill Clinton Scandal,” “Bill Clinton Memoir, “Bill Clinton Biography”, etc.
But what will separate Ask.com from its competitors is the additional panels it will provide in search results. Although the main results will look very traditional in the central panel, the left quarter of the page will be a place for suggestions on how to expand or narrow the search or for related searches. The right quarter of the page will be for different types of content depending on the query. This could potentially include weather forecasts for a geographical location, songs or video and photos of a placeor a personality. There could be current time or even a Wikipedia entry.
Lanzone stated that the new service has been testing on a site called AskX for many months and the hope is that the company will start climbing up the rankings from fourth place. They have peaked at about 5% of search users throughout much of last year according to comScore Inc. But Lanzarone is playing it smart as well and asserts that in order to succeed Ask.com does not necessarily have to take customers away from anyone. “The way we will grow is by increasing the frequency of use of the 30 million monthly users we already have in the U.S.,” Mr. Lanzone said, adding that on average, those users visit Ask.com three times a month.
With this refinement of Ask.com and the anticipated change to Google’s algorithm for their own search page, who knows what other companies are going to do in an effort to stay at the head of the pack.