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Ask – MSN Search killer?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Friday December 14, 2007 )

For the four weeks ending November 24, 2007, Google accounted for close to 65% of US searches according to HitWise – not a big surprise, but Ask seems to be positioning itself to kick some serious MSN Search. Perhaps it will grab the no.3 spot soon.

Here’s how the big 4 engines, accounting for 96.49% of all US searches, stack up:

1. www.google.com 64.89%
2. search.yahoo.com 21.33%
3. search.msn.com 5.56%
4. www.ask.com 4.71%

It used to just be the “big 3” – but with Ask now closing in on MSN search; I think it’s about time they were considered “big”. In fact, MSN search may find themselves at the bottom of the pile soon if Ask continues this trend; they’ve been somewhat of a dark horse in recent years.

Looking back on some data from 2005 from Nielsen Netratings

1. Google Search 47%
2. Yahoo! Search 22%
3. MSN Search 12%
4. AOL Search 5%

Ask isn’t even listed as a “playa” in the top 4 back then. While Yahoo! Search seems to have maintained its position pretty well, which some may view as stagnating, MSN has certainly suffered. The other interesting point is back in 2005, the top 4 engines only accounted for 86% of total searches.

While Google should be a prime focus for site owners in terms of optimization, it wouldn’t hurt getting a bit more familiar with the way Ask works – they may not ever be a Google-killer, but given that even now good rankings on MSN can drive appreciable traffic, ASK could likely deliver the same amount.

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4 comments for Ask – MSN Search killer?
  1. Thank you for this interesting article. I have been doing a bit of optimizing for the Ask search engine over the past few months. By checking my logs, I have found that though my traffic through Ask.com has indeed increased considerably, that same traffic does not seem to convert into sales.

    It’s odd. When I am able to increase my traffic flow to the other search engines, my sales also increase. But for some strange reason, this does not occur with Ask. Any ideas?

    Comment by AJ — December 18, 2007 @ 4:27 am

  2. Hi AJ, thanks for stopping by. Much like with social bookmarking services, certain types of people tend to gravitate towards particular engines. Are you finding that people coming to your site from Ask are arriving via the same terms from other engines and are they “money” terms rather than obscure phrases with little relevance to the goals of your site?

    Comment by Michael Bloch — December 18, 2007 @ 4:54 am

  3. Hi Michael,

    You bring up a good point. Yes, people are finding my site via the same search terms on Ask.com as they are on the other major search engines. And it is a mixture of “money” terms and more obscure, long-tail terms. However, whether they are highly competitive “money” terms or not, they are all very relevant to the site. I’m only interested in providing to people what they are looking for.

    Perhaps the reason why my Ask.com traffic doesn’t convert into sales as well as my traffic from the other engines is like you mentioned about social bookmarking: the people who are searching on Ask for the terms I am optimizing for aren’t of a “buying” demographic. I’ll keep my eye on this trend and see if there is anything I can do in terms of SEO to reverse it. I’d be happy to report my findings here…

    Thank you for your excellent insight and very informative blog. I’m a big fan!

    Comment by AJ — December 19, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

  4. AJ, I’d be really interested to hear about what you discover; thanks! I went looking for some demographic information briefly, but didn’t find much except for this:

    http://www.quantcast.com/ask.com
    http://www.quantcast.com/ask.com/demographics

    Comment by Michael Bloch — December 20, 2007 @ 2:50 am

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