- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
Ask.com goes “all in”… and my strategy suggestions to help them fight the beast
Update: Josh at Read/WriteWeb dives into my suggestions and offers up some of his own.
Also, let me make one thing clear… Ask spending $100 million on this stupid "xxxx hates the algorithm" ad campaign is downright stupid. Waiting for the public bus this afternoon, the billboard had one of these ads. I looked at the 20 people waiting for the bus. How many really know what Ask is let alone what "algorithm" means. If Ask wants to run ads, great… run some that people will get… "Ask is better than Google" or "Want a better search engine, try Ask" or "Paris Hilton uses Ask" or even better, "Your Momma uses Ask"… just don't make me think.
Ask.com has made the decision to go "all in". All in is a term used when an opponent puts everything they have on the table in an attempt to take their share plus their opponents share. Ask wants to become the leader in search.
I agree with a lot of what Duncan wrote about earlier this month as it relates to Ask. His last point is, "If a tree falls down in the woods and no one is around to hear it- does it make a sound can be equally applied to Ask: if a search engine does a viral marketing campaign and no one understands it, does it make a difference?" It's also very important to remember that people hate change. Imagine for a minute that a new mp3 device came on the market and it was freakin awesome – it did everything the iPod does plus 100 more great features. Would people drop their iPods and run out and get the new xyz? Yes, some will, but not most. Same case here even with no cost for changing.
Does it really matter if Google's results are good or not? Think about it. Let's assume Ask has better results. Will your local news personality say, "Ask it" instead of "Google it" if Ask actually did provide better search results? Will Rachel on Friends no longer say Google that?
The real question is what does it take to be able to knock off the leader. Google has reached the mountain top as their name is equal to the Internet for most people just as AOL held that position in the early 90s. Ask has launched a site called "Information Revolution" to help them get the word out in an "underground" style. Danny Sullivan has a very indepth review of the campaign.
Some of the text on the site includes, "Most people get online, use whatever search box is there, and just click on whatever results they're given, without thinking about what they might be missing. We're trying to spread the word about searching differently. Different results, different tools, different features & things that could help you get stuff done faster. Unfortunately, most people have stopped searching for better search. They use the search engine that came with their computer, the one that's attached to their email, the one the press writes about, the one their friends use, even the one their mum uses. The environment for 'other' search engines has become downright oppressive."
I agree completely. My mother gets a new laptop, Google is there, she uses it. My sister gets a cable modem, they install Google or Yahoo as the default, she uses it. But today, search is search. I think Google's strength is in their suite of tools… the email, the rss reader, the document tools, the blog tool, etc. And the feeling.
What would I focus on if I was Strategy VP for Ask? Funny you should Ask (har har). While I can't share all of my thoughts, here are some thought starters:
- Push hard to get site publishers to integrate the Ask engine, even offering cash for the swap. I would certainly change some of my sites to use Ask if they came calling. This is the way to begin the movement, not with stupid billboards.
- Look at the data and privacy issues Google is facing and attempt to leverage those
- Focus on owning categories… I have played a bit with their Kids search and I like it. This is an area Google does not have. Why not attempt to own this market?
- Work with bloggers in the tech sector, invite them to visit and learn more about Ask and spread the word. Don't be afraid of the negative reviews. Remember people like the "Google Feeling". I don't see Ask trying to create a "feeling".
- Use the Ask local tool and create local parties that can demo the Ask suite of tools. Remember it's about a feeling. No one cares about the results.
In the end, will Ask be able to become a strong player in the search market? I don't know but I, unfortunately, tend to doubt it. Their marketing campaign is confusing and for most of the non-techy world, the cost to switch is just too high.