Ask.com, Semantic Search & the SEO Industry – SEM Synergy Extras
What do you look for in a friend? Humor? Compassion? Trust? In some ways Ask.com resembles an old friend. There was good ol’ Jeeves, that funny and warm mascot. Ask’s commitment to providing the best answer the first time embodies the engine’s compassion for users. And Ask’s long tradition of innovative search technology speaks to the engine’s commitment to trust. Of course, a lot of these qualities can be seen in other search engines as well. But one place where Ask sets itself apart today is in its depth. While good friends are there for a carefree jaunt, great friends are the ones that get deep with you.
Today on SEM Synergy, Tomasz Imielinski, Ask’s executive vice president of Global Search and Answers, talked to me about what the engine’s been doing with semantic search technology. I think many people in the SEO industry know that search is still evolving, still improving, but where it’s going and to what benefit is less well known. That’s why it was awesome to have Tomasz on the show to tell us about Ask’s progress in crawling the deep Web — that vast pool of once invisible content that’s barely touched by any of the big three engines. Not all the Web’s made of HTML, and Ask’s ability to extract data from XML feeds and databases lets the engine get deep with searchers. If you’re interested in learning about Ask’s semantic search technology, I highly recommend a quick listen to our interview.
I also spoke to Ask president Scott Garell this week about Ask’s next steps. In the process, I learned a thing or two. Like, did you know the Ask Network is the sixth largest online property according to recent data from comScore? Or that Ask’s search market share remains steady year over year, while Yahoo, Microsoft (pre-Bing) and AOL are feeling a bit of a pinch?
|The data above is from comScore reports. Click on the images to view the full reports.|
I asked Scott, if Ask is actually a big fish in the online pond, does he find it funny that the search community looks at Ask as an underdog?
“While we have a massive network as sixth largest, we still like to internally talk about that because I think culturally it makes you hungry and aggressive and makes you want to take risks and innovate and push the envelope. [...] I’ve been in Fortune 200 companies, Clorox, quite a few years back. But it was the opposite. It was so big that nobody wanted to take risks and innovate. And so I’m able to use that internally as a catalyst and rally call.”
It’s this attitude that seems to be helping Ask make inroads with search market share, but a looming question remains. What about Ask’s relationship with SEOs?
In the years since the search engine optimization community has been around, SEOs have offered ranking reports as a way to demonstrate, in part, the effect search engine optimization can have on an online business. But as Bruce pointed out during the opening segment of the show, Ask.com doesn’t provide a ranking API, leaving SEOs without an automated ranking monitor for keywords in Ask. If an SEO were to tell their client that Ask.com was a search engine to pay attention to, the client’s logical response would be, “So where do I rank in Ask?” Until there’s a simple, automated way to give that client an answer, it’s easier for the SEO not to mention Ask at all.
There’s no doubt that Ask has all the qualities of a great search engine. Results are relevant and trustworthy and the technology is ahead of the curve. Ask’s passion for search is intoxicating, but will Ask bring some of that passion to the SEO community? My friends and I will wait and see.