Users Love Google, Ask Jeeves Gains Admirers

Consumers continue to express satisfaction with their experience on Google, while dark horse search engine Ask Jeeves gains traction in the wake of tweaks to its site.

According to new research on consumer satisfaction, Google remains the top search engine in meeting user expectations, followed by Yahoo and MSN. Second-tier search engine Ask Jeeves ranked No. 4, beating out AOL.

The finding were contained in the recent quarterly numbers from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which is compiled by the University of Michigan Business School, the American Society for Quality, and consultancy CFI Group.

The new quarterly report, for the third quarter of 2002, found Google continuing to steadily increase in satisfying customers, scoring 82 out of a possible 100. This represents a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year. Yahoo scored 78, a 2.6 percent increase. MSN tallied 74, a 2.8 percent jump.

Ask Jeeves, which spent 2002 retooling its technology, jumped ahead to score 69, an 11.3 percent increase from a year earlier. The improvement ranked as one of the strongest of any company in the ACSI survey.

While relegated to the second tier behind Google, Yahoo and MSN, Ask Jeeves has steadily worked to build a distinct identity. It spent 2002 integrating the search technology from its Teoma acquisition to improve users’ search experience. According to CEO Skip Battle, the goal is to become a viable alternative to Google — or “tea” to Google’s “coffee.”

With its improved search in place, Ask Jeeves has returned to advertising, launching a nationwide campaign this month that trumpets its search experience.

The efforts might be bearing fruit. Ask Jeeves reported that its search queries on Ask.com grew 37 percent in the second quarter compared to last year, while industry-wide query growth was 10 percent. Battle attributed the gains to technology improvements giving users a better search experience.

Overall, search-engine satisfaction rose 14.7 percent to 78. Satisfaction with portals, where ACSI places Yahoo, MSN and AOL, rose 2.9 percent to 70.

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