Ask Jeeves Grabs More Search Share

Ask Jeeves reported solid earnings growth in the second quarter, saying it is poised to steal more market share.

For the second quarter, Ask Jeeves reported revenues of $25.6 million, a 66 percent increase from the same period last year. Net income was $4.4 million, or 8 cents a share, compared to an $8.5 million loss last year. Both numbers exceeded analyst estimates.

Ask Jeeves, which sold its enterprise search unit in May, said its focus on search was paying off, as it saw an increasing number of searches at its flagship Ask.com site and greater monetization of those searches.

“We have good results for Q2,” said Skip Battle, Ask Jeeves’ chief executive, in a conference call on Tuesday. “Everything seems to be clicking for us.”

According to Battle, search queries on the site grew 37 percent compared to last year, while industry-wide query growth was 10 percent. The company monetized 16 percent of those searches, in great part through its partnership with paid search provider Google. Last quarter, Ask Jeeves monetized 14 percent of searches.

Price per click remained flat, however, with revenue growth powered by higher traffic.

Ask Jeeves was bullish enough to raise its annual guidance. The company now expects to take in $102 million for the year with 40 cents per share income (36 cents per share on a pro forma basis). Previously, Ask Jeeves forecast $94 million in revenues and 26 cents per share of pro forma net income.

“We believe we’re still in the early days of a multiyear secular shift in advertising to Internet search,” Battle said.

The company also announced that Steve Berkowitz would assume the role of president. Berkowitz served as president of the Ask Jeeves Web properties division.

According to Deutsche Bank analyst Jeetil Patel, Ask Jeeves’ rising user figures are testament to the success of its advertising campaigns launched this year. In April, it signed on TBWAChiatDay as its agency of record and kicked off a wide-ranging ad campaign.

Battle downplayed the effect of the marketing push on driving traffic, saying technical improvements to the site had more influence.

Ask Jeeves also said it planned to roll out a paid inclusion product in the next six months. Berkowitz said it would be a “hybrid” of its Teoma technology and third-party providers.

Paid inclusion “involves many different systems and relationships and we don’t have to take all those projects on in-house,” he said.

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