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The coming out party for Ask.com

Google is #1 in search, but it’s not because of their innovative user interface. You’d have to be a real search geek to see much difference between today’s Google and Alta Vista circa 1997. Enter a search query, see a list of ten results. But Ask.com is ready to try something new. Is it better?


New ask.com user interface When you first look at the new Ask.com interface, you see this is not your father’s search engine. There are no ads on the right side. The left side offers options to refine your search and the right side offers related information, with the middle columns reserved to familiar-looking search results, paid and organic.
Ask.com promises that the beauty is more than skin deep— each searcher’s search history will drive the search results in a personalized way. New interface, personalized response—it certainly sounds worth checking out, so I did.
My initial take is that the interface seems well-tuned to popular search queries, such a “Paris Hilton” as shown. In addition to the typical celebrity pieces, there are links to new stories and videos similar to the way Google does with OneBox and Universal Search. Ask is more aggressive than Google in showing different kinds of results—my suspicion is that more searchers will find what they are looking for more quickly with Ask.
So what should search marketers do? For now, nothing.
New ask.com user interface For one thing, it’s not clear how many queries can get the special “Paris Hilton” treatment. Here’s a query for a not exactly unknown term, “social media marketing.” The right column is blank and the left column offers little in the way of refinement options.
But even if Ask can apply this new interface far more broadly, it will take a long time for Ask to pick up momentum. Ask must innovate to grow, yes, but the amount they need to grow to be taken seriously as a major search engine is huge: Consider that they’d need to grow their market share by one-fourth to grow even one percentage point in share, according to Hitwise.
So, keep an eye on Ask—they’ve long been known for innovative approaches. Even if Ask doesn’t pick up market share to sidle up to the big boys, you can expect that their cutting edge ideas will find their way into the user interfaces of the majors if they seem to work.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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