Ask.com plans to expand Smart Answers into Europe, as well as two to three categories per month in the United States next year. The answers combine data from Web search, partner information and real people -- all accessible from Web and mobile platforms. The data gets sourced and analyzed from query logs looking for patterns, focusing on what users ask, as well as how often and when.
A small team of business development folks at Ask go out and look for the top Web sites for specific content, and apply logic to determine the user experience. A file from the potential partner -- a "huge data dump" -- is inputted into Ask's system, using machine technology and human learning to compare the questions in the category to determine what percentage of the questions the content will address.
Aside from driving revenue for the company, Smart Answers support consumers coming to the site for answers ranging from Food to Games. David Amato, head of business development and partnerships at Ask.com, told MediaPost that there is typically one partner providing information per category for Smart Answers, but "we may add more than one to get the level of detail and analysis we're looking for in each question."
People come back to the site to repeatedly ask different questions, allowing Ask.com to increase revenue as query volume rises, Amato said, so finding the correct answer quickly matters. The app offers voice activation, too.
In the United States, Ask.com offers Smart Answers in Auto, Travel, Reference, Games, Food, Jobs, Entertainment, Shopping, and Health. About 20 partners participate. Although challenging, the Health category will likely become the first category in Europe, Amato said.
Companies typically see about 20% to 30% click-through rates across the board, Amato said. The answer serves up at the top and people do little or no hunting to find the information. Ask.com gets several million questions related to food monthly.
The Food Network became Ask.com's latest partner for the Food category, joining Sports Network, Lonely Planet, Calorie Counter, IGN Entertainment and Lyrics.com, among others. The Answer on Ask.com drives traffic back to their site through two links, as well as awareness of the content. For example, a search on "how to make deviled eggs" returns a listing describing cooking time, number of eggs, cuisine, and directions.
Facebook Like and Twitter tweet buttons allow site visitors to share the content. The social buttons rolled out three weeks ago. The click-through rate is in the low single digits, Amato said.