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Perhaps they should add the phrase 'Search Engine' to their <title> tag?
Something even more obvious that might give them a nice boost! Sometimes it seems to take the engines a while to get around to SEO or thinking about promoting themselves when people search for their own web properties or info on them.
Overture shows 669,855 searches for "search engine" and Ask doesn't even show up in the top-30 organic results on G. Buy "search engine(s)" on broad match in Google, MSN & Yahoo and maybe it would help gain some traction.... There seems to be a lot of demand among people who turn to search to find a search engine....:)
TV is good for branding, as are ads on buses, signposts, and so forth. PPC is not. I think Ask is doing the right thing not using PPC. Arguably, they don't want to subsidize their competitors.
It's not like branding consumer packaged goods where if you see enough commercials for something you might be inclined to buy it the next time you walk down the aisle at the grocery store. Chances are whatver you see advertised you will run across in the store. Unless you go out and actively look for Ask or go to Ask.com you may never come across it in the course of everyday life.
Ask can advertise on all the traditional media outlets they want but there is nothing like being there when someone is looking for what they have to offer. Branding could of course help to reinforce it.
I have a suspicion that their competitors would not take kindly to Ask starting PPC for 'search engine'. I might be wrong.
Perhaps the SERPs do have something to do with it (which I'm sure it does), but branding is a major issue as well. A lot of people who aren't computer sauve wouldn't know any better if the results completely stunk (or rather, they wouldn't know anywhere else better). They either go to the last place they've heard of (which could be a commercial) or a place their friend told them. And right now it's Googling.
Careerbuilder did the same thing during the superbowl, and gained notice in the news media that they were bidding on terms related to their monkey ads. So I thought, "this is fun, I'll bid on those too and see how much traffic there is."
I created competing ads and actually expanded my campaign to include ads Careerbuilder hadn't thought of yet, and optimized my creatives better than they did, so I'd get an algo bump over them.
About two weeks into it monster.com bought a clue and started advertising on the terms as well. My ads, for awhile, were the top listed ads, listed over careerbuilder's ads.
In order to not spark a bidding war, I had decided to go stealthy, too. I did regional bidding, excluding the city careerbuilder's headquarters was located in, so that their managers would never see my ads and have a coronary. If they had folks in Los Angeles or Madison Avenue doing the actual bidding, they might see it, but the actual careerbuilders at HQ would not. LOL.
Anyway, the upshot of this is that the actual impression levels before during and after the SUPER BOWL ADS was 3,970 over the course of around a month on either side of the Super Bowl, the bulk of it the day of and after the superbowl, then quickly tapering down.
While there is some traffic for those keyword buys, I believe a company generates more branding exposure from the news media talking about the PPC ads, than from the PPC ads themselves.
btw I notice the "p" word is blocked out? Good enough for national television but not a message board? This makes my point precisely. LOL
... and kudos to WebmasterWorld for promoting common decency.