Ask Upgrades Sponsored Listings

Ask.com has upgraded its Ask Sponsored Listings (ASL) program, improving management tools and increasing premium inventory available to paid search advertisers.

“Advertisers are struggling with increasing campaign sizes, but they continue to see strong performance in search,” James Speer, VP of products and marketing at Ask.com, told ClickZ. “With our ASL 2.0 platform, we focused on putting tools in place to manage multiple campaigns, and to provide intelligent reporting tools.”

A new dashboard interface, bulk management tools, and an available application programming interface (API) simplify management of ASL for advertisers and agencies managing multiple campaigns. The bulk tools can handle up to 65,000 keywords, and utilize a queuing mechanism that allows advertisers to submit their keywords and walk away, Speer said.

In addition, ASL now offers advertisers daily budgeting tools, instead of the previous monthly budgeting, along with hourly performance data for reports. Self-service advertisers paying by credit card can also set the amount and frequency of credit card charges, improving monthly budgeting.

Ask has expanded the inventory populated by its own paid search ads. Now, marketers can bid for the top three sponsored listings on Ask.com, as well as other IAC properties like Evite, CitySearch and RealEstate.com. Previously, only the top listing was supplied by Ask Sponsored Listings with the remainder backfilled with Google AdWords ads. Five AdWords listings will continue to appear at the bottom of the page on Ask.com and other sites.

“For us, it’s not about making aggregated inventory available, but about making our premium inventory available for purchase,” Speer said.

Most of Ask’s sponsored listings are sold through a Web self-service interface, though Ask does maintain a direct sales team for larger agency and advertiser clients, Speer said. Ads can also be bought through SEMs and other third parties that incorporate Ask’s API in their own tools.

Ask has made unlimited access to its API available at no cost. More than 100 partners are developing tools using it, Speer said. The first available tools include integrated campaign and bid management for paid search campaigns on Ask, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Ask launched its sponsored listings last August, garnering interest from advertisers. Since then they have appeared alongside ads from Google. That contract is due to expire next year, but IAC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller recently told investors and analysts that he is open to outsourcing ads beyond that, either with Google or one of its competitors.

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