Ask.com To Upgrade Paid Search Platform

Seeking to claim a bigger piece of the growing paid search marketplace, IAC's Ask.com plans to revamp its paid search platform the first week in October.

"We're building out a much more competitive platform on a lot of fronts," said James Speer, vice president of marketing and products, IAC Advertising Solutions.

Among other features, the revamped platform will give advertisers more control over their daily search budgets, offer billable data in real-time, give marketers additional reporting tools, and allow advertisers to manage campaigns using their own desktop tools, like spreadsheets.

Ask.com launched its own paid search platform last year, several weeks after it was acquired by IAC for $1.85 billion. In addition to its own paid listings, Ask.com also displays pay-per-click ads powered by Google, although that arrangement is set to expire at the end of 2007. For now, the Ask.com listings are displayed at the top of the page, and Google ads fill spots on the bottom of the page.

Several weeks ago, Ask.com expanded the inventory available to marketers who purchased paid search ads directly from the company. Previously, marketers could buy the top three paid listings to appear on a page in only a handful of categories--finance, real estate, and telecom; in other verticals, only one paid search listing from Ask.com was available per page. Now, the top three listings typically are available to Ask.com marketers in all categories. Google powers up to five other ads on the page, shown at the bottom of the page after the organic results.

Although IAC originally anticipated powering all of the paid search ads with its own platform after the Google contract expired, IAC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller said this week at a Goldman Sachs conference that the company might continue to outsource some paid search ads beyond 2007. Diller also said the company is considering replacing Google with Yahoo or MSN to power the paid search ads not sold directly by Ask.com. He added that one of the company's biggest current priorities was increasing its share of search queries.