Ask.com turned the "Search" button into an "Ask" button Wednesday after tests showed that changing the word encouraged people to ask more questions, which also serve up paid-search ads and sponsored links. For now the button will remain the color blue, but Doug Leeds, Ask.com CEO, told MediaPost the team has been testing a variety of colors and features across the site.
What prompts people to ask questions and then click on a paid-search ad? "We're testing different colors for the top bar that reads 'Web,' 'Images,' 'News,' and 'Videos,'" Leeds said. "It's interesting what can happen when we start moving around simple things."
Ask.com has also been testing a larger ask (search) box, expanding it across the page. Expanding the box prompts more questions too, but the rest of the content like paid-search ads and sponsored links are then pushed down the page.
About 35% of site users can now see the "Ask the Community" button, but it should reach 100% by the end of the year. It enables people to get more than answers from the 500 million Q&As that the site crawled the Web to find, but an unlimited number from real people and experts. The human touch provides the relevancy that at this time machines can't produce. How accurate are those answers? The community decides.
Ask.com's biggest challenge has been to integrate machine and human responses, Leeds says. Through many tests and iterations of the site, the team tries to sync up the two. The human answer might be the best, but it could take a minute or two longer to create or retrieve. Technology developed originally to manage search queries now routes the questions to the appropriate Ask.com member experts who signed up to answer questions.
A few startups followed Ask.com's lead, varying the format. Q&A sites and services like Quora that rely on a community of humans to answer questions have surfaced in the past year. Google this week began indexing questions and answers from Quora on google.com in real-time search.
When IAC/Interactive reported earnings Tuesday, the company reported that search contributed $248.6 million in Q1 2011, up 25% compared with the year-ago quarter. IAC extended its contract with Google through March 31, 2016 to support paid-search ads. In the search division, Mindspark announced distribution deals with Booyah, Lolapps and Social Point in the social gaming space; The Daily Burn launched its new Meal Snap app for the iPhone, which hit the top 25 list of apps on iTunes in the first week; and Dictionary.com reached more than 30 million mobile app downloads.
Leeds said Ask.com continues to see a lot of traction on the site from changes being made across the board.