More NewsUpgraded Ask.com Seeks Everyday Searchers

Upgraded Ask.com Seeks Everyday Searchers

Best known for its Q&A format, the search firm improves search tools and processing speed to wean users off their Google habit.

After just four months of work, search specialist Ask Jeeves today unveiled a new version of its Ask.com site.

But the overhaul was anything but rash. Developers at the Emeryville, Calif., company pored over server logs and user surveys to ensure that the changes served a purpose.

“This is the first step in a new strategy to capitalize on search behavior,” Daniel Read, Ask Jeeves’ director of product management, told internetnews.com.

New tools are at the heart of the Ask.com upgrade. For example, a user might ask, “What is the capital of Turkey?” The answer, Ankara, is presented in a box atop of the result page, followed by links to related Web pages.

Other features help searchers accomplish tasks. Users checking local movie times are prompted for their zip code, which helps generate localized results.

Finally, the number 2 Web search company improved its keyword search capabilities in a bid to land users away from industry leader Google.

Some of Ask Jeeves improvements were the result of its September 2001 acquisition of algorithmic search engine Teoma.

“We are known for natural language question and answers and there is the perception that you can’t do keyword search,” Read said. “That’s not the case. This is an everyday search engine.”

Other improvements include cleaner pages (a Google hallmark). Tabs for news and pictures were downsized after researchers found they weren’t used enough to justify their prominence.

Ask Jeeves also made some back-end upgrades, resulting in results being presented 50 percent faster than before. Previously, Read said most users characterized Ask.com’s results as “adequate.” Improving speed can only boost customers satisfaction, he said.

Ask Jeeves is gearing up its marketing machine after two very quiet years to promote its enhanced offering. Recent regional efforts such as signs in phone kiosks, bus shelters, have succeeded in driving up traffic, the company said.

A larger effort is coming from the company’s new ad agency, San Francisco-based TBWA/Chiat/Day.

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