The Little Engine That Could: Ask.com 3D Redesign On Track
Based on what comScore reported as more than 51 million unique visitors in July, over 5 million people--or about 3% of the total online population--let "Search Suggestions" suggest a relevant search phrase or a better way of spelling their keywords.
According to Daniel Read, Ask's vice president of site product management and user experience, the company has been "blown away by the numbers" of users that have taken to Ask 3D.
The site also includes a "Zoom Related" search, allowing users to change the emphasis of their queries without having to start from scratch. A "Binoculars" feature gives searchers a snapshot of their search results' Web pages before they navigate to them.
Although the company declined to provide specifics on the actual number of post-revamp searches, comScore's data shows that traffic to Ask jumped by more than 2 million unique visitors from May to June (the month of the rollout.)
As both advertising and casual curiosity waned in July, Ask's traffic dipped slightly (from just over 52 million to 51.8 million uniques), but in the two months since the algorithm's overhaul, traffic has been the highest it's been all year.
Ask fared well in the University of Michigan's recent annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report, as user satisfaction grew from a rating of 71 (out of 100) last year, to 75 in 2007. The four-point increase contrasted with slips in satisfaction for Google, MSN and AOL--and for the category as a whole.
According to Read, the increase stemmed from Ask's focus on "customer satisfaction as our top goal," with the key performance indicators of increased queries, user retention, and revenue per search coming afterward. With the company now guided by feedback from extensive consumer tests, "we're looking forward to even better results in 2008," said Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone.
The company intends to continue investing in search technology and personnel, rolling out new options like the ability to customize its front page with an image or "skin." While throwing features like videos, extra panels and customization onto the typically clean search interface was a risky move, Ask's willingness to make highly visible changes seems to be working in its favor.
According to Larry Freed, author of the ACSI report and president of ForeSee Results, the interface serves as proof to users that there is innovation at Ask--a point of differentiation as it battles with MSN (and to a much lesser extent Google and Yahoo) for its share of the search marketplace. "An additional three or four points in market share and we might even double in size," added Read.
Overtaking MSN's Live Search for the third spot "would be huge," said Read. "That's the thing about being the littlest big guy in the market--we can grow market share significantly in the short to medium term."