Some might call it search -- and others, asking for answers. Even before Ask.com moved from a Q&A to a search engine business model, and then transitioned back again, many seeking answers continued to rely on the site to ask questions. Searchers apparently know where to go for answers. But in a list of the top five destinations, the order of the names might surprise many.
A Brand Image Monitor survey commissioned by Ask.com that tracks awareness and use of search and Q&A Web sites, as well as attitudes and perception, tells us that 81% of searchers are aware that Ask.com provides answers to questions. The multiple-choice, choose-as-many-as you-like question asked the 1,255 survey respondents to name Q&A sites. Ask.com took the lead with 81%. Google came in second with 80%; Bing third with 60%; Yahoo Search fourth at 57%; and Yahoo Answers fifth at 48%. GMI's national panel consisted of participants ages 18 to 65 who use a search engine at least weekly.
When asked to name the Web sites that come to mind where consumers can ask questions, 53% of the survey participants said Ask.com, followed by Google at 44%; Yahoo Search at 28%; Bing at 21%; Wikipedia at 11%; Yahoo Answers at 7%; WebMD at 4%; eHow at 3%; and ChaCha at 2%.
Those who visit Ask.com today will find the site moving farther away from traditional search and toward a question-and-answer format. Can Q&A sites address search engine shortcomings? That's one question Ask.com tried to answer in the survey released April 2011.
In a multiple-answer question, survey participants were asked to name the sites they went to in the past month to gain answers or ask a question. Google ranked first with 73%, followed by Ask.com with 34%; Yahoo Search at 30%; Bing at 26%; and Yahoo Answers at 24%.
Notice that the search engines dominate the top five spots in the ranking. Ask.com, which sits at No. 2, continues its efforts to rebrand itself as it moves farther from a search engine toward a Q&A site.
How relevant are the sites that answer asked questions? The majority -- 41% -- of those answering the survey said "somewhat relevant." Still, 3% said not at all relevant; 15%, not very relevant; 30%, very relevant; and 11% extremely relevant.
Ask believes Q&A sites can address the shortcomings of search, such as not returning specific answers. Of survey respondents, 37% believe some of the questions they ask are better answered by a person rather than an algorithm. Thirty-two percent said it is increasingly necessary to dig through search results to find the most relevant. Twenty-five percent believe it necessary to try more than one search engine to find the best answer.
Meanwhile, Ask.com led revenue improvements during Q1 2011, for parent company IAC/InterActive, which reported a profit Tuesday on a 22% jump in revenue. IAC reported revenue of $18.1 million, or 19 cents per share, up from a loss of $18.7 million, or 16 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.
Correction: Exent Is Casual Game Distributor
In the April 12 Search Blog, Exent was refered to as a casual game publisher. It is a casual game distributor.