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AskJeeves Wants to Help- But who will help AskJeeves?

 5:39 pm on Jun 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

The headlines are unanimous: AskJeeves to focus on Web Search

I have to admit that I like AskJeeves, and appreciate their dedication to solving the technical problems of delivering accurate results to users who require search engines to read their minds.

Johnny Can't Surf
One of the problems with online search is that users don't know how to search, which accounts for the statistic I heard a month ago that the average search term is 2.5 words.

Using a Search Engine is Like Using a VCR
One of the other major problems is that most users don't like to read the manual- Using Search Engines is very similar to using any other appliance, and taking the time to learn the features will reward the user with a more accurate search result.

For instance, I like to turn off the safe-search feature in Google because I'm afraid the filter might filter out something relevant. But you have to RTFM to know this. There are more examples but you get the picture.

AskJeeves Attempts to Idiot Proof Search
Not so with AskJeeves. They have been clever enough to automate those advanced features by providing links to help users drill down to the best result. This is ingenious.

But I think they have done a poor job articulating this advancement. In fact, I'm not certain they are aware of what they did, because I've never heard them articulate the solution in this manner.

Does AskJeeves Really Work? Show me the Search:
As it currently stands, I'm having trouble tracking AskJeeves traffic. The reason for this is the frames that they use to keep their site "sticky."

Removing the AskJeeves frame from when you click on their results would help webmasters track AskJeeves traffic, and analyze the search terms that are being used.

Analyzing the search terms helps us understand if the traffic is random garbage or good quality phrases.
This is important because our demographic is one of the major opinion makers in regard to search engines, and if we are seeing quality traffic from AskJeeves, then we will be more willing to throw them a bone.

But we don't want your stinking bone...
AskJeeves will probably argue that they don't need to be thrown a bone but I would have to politely disagree.

If there ever was a time for AskJeeves to stir up a favorable opinion, it is now. Webmasters who check their traffic talk to other webmasters and their clients, we are one of the major search engine opinion makers. If this wasn't so, you wouldn't see GoogleGuy in here.

But by cloaking their traffic they are missing out on an opportunity to improve their image.

Taking the short Term Approach
Selling off your underperforming assets are short term solutions to the long term problem of swaying public opinion that your search solution works.

Selling assets and generating press releases do nothing to woo the search engine user. What AskJeeves needs to do is come to recognize webmasters as friends- not parasites, not as an obstacle to get around- it's a symbiotic relationship.



 6:05 pm on Jun 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

Great post martinibuster, couldn't agree more.

Jeeves/Teoma has made some great strides in the past couple of months. They started aggressively spidering to freshen their base (didn't last too long) and introduced a lot of behind the scenes stuff (on-the-fly related searches, etc.), AND have been able to return some incredibly accurate results (at least for the searches I do -- use Teoma much more than G now).

But they forgot to tell anybody about it!

My Jeeves traffic has increased tenfold since April 1 (0.7 to almost 8%) which I attribute to ease of use and new relevancy of results -- Alexa (notably unscientific) shows about the same amount of traffic.

At PubCon Paul Gardi did try to 'get the word out' but only in small groups. It surprised me that so many under-the-hood changes weren't highlighted in his presentation, they would certainly be welcome at WW.


 1:05 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

At PubCon Paul Gardi did try to 'get the word out...

Yup, I remember.

I also saw Mr. Gardi at a Search Conference last month, and while his presentation was informative and refreshingly free of "buzzword hype," I have to say that he didn't emphasize what they are trying to do, which is to present advanced search results without making users learn "DOS style" commands to achieve them.

AskJeeves is aiming toward something that Google was joking about [google.com] a couple years ago.

What are the benefits of MentalPlex search?
Easy-to-use: Users no longer need to think in Boolean query terms or use quotes, linear thinking or logic.

Does MentalPlex search read minds?
Don't be ridiculous...

While AskJeeves stops well short of reading minds, they do take the next best step by anticipating the better results that can be received from a poorly scripted search query by applying additional variables and presenting them for consideration. It's almost like having your vcr automatically set itself.

But as far as I know, this traffic I'm receiving may very well be garbage and I couldn't in good faith recommend them without knowing what search terms are driving people to my sites.


 1:13 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I thnk ask jeeves is a great brand. I was suprised that at pubcon there was more emphasis put on teoma versus ask jeeves.

ask jeeves is poular now. There is nothing wrong with working on teoma, but it just isn't as good of a brand as ask jeeves.

If there were three search engines I'd focus on - it would be google, msn, and ask.

I think you get a good cross section of the people there. Google for the more experienced web user (but also includes aol and yahoo newbies).

MSN for their default microsoft product traffic.

And ask jeeves for the rest :)

AskJeeves Attempts to Idiot Proof Search
Not so with AskJeeves

Did you mean to say that?


 2:25 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Using a Search Engine is Like Using a VCR...

Not so with AskJeeves

I think the title got in the way of the meaning. Good catch.

I was on my way to the horse races this afternoon and ran out of time for proofing my post.

:) Y


 6:35 am on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

here is an interesting article:


it talks about jeeves and blog.

jeeves and links. Well, it pretty much says that jeeves is good but there are things that they should iron out. Maybe jeevesguy can bring this back to the boss...eh?

jeevesguy don't talk much. I guess he doesn't have the freedom enjoyed by a private company. :)


 2:48 pm on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I was just using Ask & Teoma to do a bit of research to answer a colonial history question for a friend. I've got to say that the 'Refine' & 'Resources' sections on Teoma are quite powerful and led me to much more than I needed within a click or two.

But to me these seem to be the tools that should be on Jeeves to further 'idiot proof' a search. For my search terms Jeeves offered no drill down tools but, because the term included a location, offered to sell me airline tickets and a hotel room.

Oops! Found the 'refine your search' at the bottom of the Jeeves page. Now it wants to send me to a golf tournament!

Oh well, I'll take the traffic from Jeeves and use Teoma for my searches.


 4:35 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

But I think they have done a poor job articulating this advancement. In fact, I'm not certain they are aware of what they did.

Oops! Found the 'refine your search' at the bottom of the Jeeves page.



 5:06 pm on Jun 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have to admit I for the most part, pretty much dismissed AskJeeves when commercial and fairly poor results tended to rule. That- and it's been a long time since they've even appeared on my clients' radar for traffic.

Having just checked them out now- and understand about the issue with their frames and stickyness, do think they are shooting themselves in the foot.

So let's make it clearer for them:
1. Webmasters tend to track which engines send them traffic via log analysis.
2. By placing the URL result within the AskJeeves frame ( similar to what About.com does- and equally irritating), AJ is both irritating their users (most users are perfectly capable of using their "Back" button to return) AND preventing the traffic they bring from being logged and recorded.
3. Thus, webmasters are unlikely to spread the word about AJ or assist in that word-of-mouth approval that many marketers dream about and which launched Google into the stratosphere (without any marketing on their part). (Of course, Google stays there because of its results.)

Thanks Martinibuster. It's just a summary of what you've said. But hopefully, someone at AJ will listen. Though I suspect many like Paul Gardi are of the belief that simply by producing good results, the public will turn. I'm not sure that would be enough these days, given the consolidation. And as I've said above, if the numbers aren't there to support the traffic they provide, I'm not all that interested from my clients' perspective. Especially given the fact that Google AdWords appear first for the sponsored results.

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