Posted April 13, 2009 3:59 pm by with 12 comments

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Looking back at the past few months of posts here at Marketing Pilgrim it is real obvious what players dominate the search and ask logosocial media landscape. I am not going to rehash those names again because you will likely read about one or more of them in the next post. One player that gets little attention is They are back trying to make some noise again but is anyone around to hear them?

Ask has been at this search thing for quite a while now. Now a part of IAC / InterActiveCorp the search engine has been around in some way, manner, shape or form since 1996. It even had a butler at one point ;-). Now, however, it struggles to be more than a footnote in the search engine wars running a distant fourth in a three company race (despite seeing some increase in usage in March).

MediaPost reports that the latest attempt by the search engine to set itself apart and make some inroads in the search race is through providing quality scores for clicks using Anchor Intelligene’s ClearMark software.

ClearMark, Anchor’s traffic scoring system, classifies traffic quality and ad events. It provides a score that represents the quality of the traffic and the value of each click. now has better information about each ad event to better target advertising to people who use the engine to search the Web.

The system is designed for both user and advertiser alike,

The deal also benefits advertisers, from mom-and-pop shops to larger companies similar to eBay, according to Richard Sim, VP of product management and marketing, who likened the ClearMark system to a FICO credit score for clicks, as well as other scoring systems such as Quality of Service (QoS) for the telecom industry, VeriSign and TRUSTe for ecommerce, Arbitron for radio and Nielsen for television.

The most telling remark of all, however, comes from Nicholas Graham, VP of communications at who responded to whether Anchor and Ask had other plans. He said that the search engine continues to learn how to walk before it can run. One has to wonder how patient anyone can be with a business that has spent 13 years learning how to walk.

  • “a distant fourth in a three company race” is hardly fair.

    It may be a one company race, but the gap between and MSN is nothing like that between any of the other players and is losing ground to Google slower than any other search engine.

    Being the company losing market share the slowest may not sound like much of an accolade, but is closing on MSN fast and, although they are not likely to challenge Google in the next decade or so, they actually do have a pretty damned good algorithm.

    Manley’s last blog post..Mini SiteLinks appear on Google results

  • “It even had a butler at one point 😉 .” — LOL!

  • I remember using quite a bit but I can’t see myself ever going back unless it comes out with something pretty amazing.

    Of course I would use it before MSN.

    Michael’s last blog post..Swing for the fences to retain subscribers

  • Tens of millions of people use Ask search every month. That is nothing to snicker at.

  • Frank: we appreciate the attention you show Ask in this post. I wanted to point out just a few important things, to be helpful:
    First, my comment about “learning to walk before we run” simply and specifically had to do with the newly announced Ask/Anchor partnership. When asked by MediaPost whether there were opportunities for expansion of the partnership, I told them that it made good business sense to “walk before we run”, as in – let’s see how things go in our business relationship, and then we’ll map-out about next steps.
    Second, while you note that Ask as a ‘distant fourth’ in the search rankings, a few noteworthy thoughts: the Ask Network reaches almost 40% of online Americans; the Ask Network is the 6th largest internet property in the U.S. (ahead of iTunes and Facebook); and, last, has the largest year-over-year growth in unique users of any U.S. search engine.
    Third, with over 81 million monthly unique users worldwide, Ask is in a great position to continue to be a search force – offering a unique and differentiated search experience.
    Thanks again for shining a light on the Ask business. Best, Nicholas

  • Hear hear!

    Manley’s last blog post..Mini SiteLinks appear on Google results

  • @Nicholas Thanks for coming by. I appreciate you adding to the conversation and simply being aware of what is being said regarding

    While I hear all the statistics and they are impressive there is still the reality that in most conversations one hears Google and Yahoo regarding search. Live Search isn’t even used by most Microsoft employees (by their own admission) and Ask gets honorable mention at best. Is the fair? Probably not but it is a reality.

    I sincerely wish you only the best because unless some real competition is given to Google the balance of power can be more troubling than comforting.

    Thanks again for stating your case.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..The Intentional Twitterer

  • Is ask the same as ask jeeves? IF so, I have been a fan of it since the early days (2004, 2005?), and used it regularly, but now-days I use nothing but google, as it gives me the best results, in the shortest amount of time.

    Interview Questions’s last blog post..Re: Banned Xbox Commercial

  • Several times recently when I was installing “Free”-ware ( more like Freeloader-Ware ), has been installed as both an unwanted toolbar and as default search engine in my browsers without my permission. Because it does not appear as a browser option, nor does it appear in the “Add or Remove Programs list”, it was every bit as difficult to uninstall as any other virus and therefore has become software non grata. (i.e. I will NEVER again use or recommend for anything)

    As evidence of Ask’s complicity (or at least knowledge) in this scheme, they have even created a special uninstall app to help users who are infected by their malware.

    Thanks, but no thanks!

    Ben Franklin

  • Ask are not alone here, nor terribly guilty:

    The Yahoo! Toolbar is bundled with Flash Player
    Chrome is bundled with RealPlayer
    Google Toolbar is bundled with Shockwave
    MSN Toolbar is bundled with Java (which used to have Google Toolbar bundled with it)
    Yahoo! even bundled their toolbar with the driver for a Logitech mouse.

    It sucks, but Ask are far from the guiltiest party here.

    Manley’s last blog post..Mini SiteLinks appear on Google results

  • Hey “Manly” ! You are absolutely correct. Indeed, is not the only offender, but they are unique in several ways:

    1) They are the subject of this post

    2) All of the others you mention (at least to my recollection) have presented the option to not install them. Not so with

    3) In my experience, their hijack was by far the most pernicious and difficult to remove, and thus, they are absolutely (contrary to what you said) “The Guiltiest Party” of your list. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that you’ve had other experiences. I’m relating mine.

    While the defense of “everyone’s doing it” is used by common people, it is still not only invalid logic but an extremely unwise method to determine the morality of one’s actions.


  • I agree that it is invalid logic, but if you are going to call me common then I am afraid I must leave this conversation at this juncture.

    Good day to you.

    Manley’s last blog post..Mini SiteLinks appear on Google results