A few months ago, a lot of people in the Search Industry were scratching their heads wondering what on earth Ask.com was up to when they retired Jeeves. I questioned it, pondered it for a while and thought, "this is the make or break point."
I can say without any hesitation, retiring Jeeves was the best thing Ask could have done for their brand.
Looking at where they came from, and how they handled the "retirement" of Jeeves - quite classy and well accepted by Jeeves fans - the focus is now squarely on the products the IAC owned company provides to its visitors and users. Just this week Ask.com announced the relaunch of their pay per click program, and enhancements to the weather widgets (they also added an earthquake piece). Along with those two pieces, Search Engine Watch featured a great two part article on the Rebranding of Ask this week (Ask Rebranding Part 1, Ask Rebranding Part 2). Lastly, need I mention the TV Spots? (I personally like the one with the lab folks holding the orangutan).
A small disclaimer, I've always been a "closet" ASK fan. When mentioning search engines, I always mention it, and include it in "The big 4". I constantly get the question - "Who's the 4th?" Even from junior level SEO's and I'm amazed how they over looked this engine in the past. However, I believe those days are long gone for Ask since its market share in searches is now surpassing AOL's.
The series of TV Spots listed on Ask's site with the professor working on searching for poets with his son and ending with "Google's not better, just more popular" really made me stop and think. Lately - I've been finding Ask being much more relevant for the items I'm looking for. By default I stop at Google first, but when I get frustrated with spammy results, instead of going to Yahoo! or Live (formerly MSN), I find myself going to Ask more and more.
Recently, my sister who's working on a paper for her Physical Therapy doctorate, called me and said "I'm not finding what I need on the Internet, you know this stuff... HELP!" I asked what she tried and her response was "I searched the Internet!" With that I chuckled, I know what her default search engine is - set by Dell it's Google.
Knowing that she was looking more for medical research information, I told her to try Ask.com.
Yesterday she called me and said "Thank You soooooooooo much!! That Ask place gave me more information that was right on than that other site."
As a search marketer, that spoke volumes to me, more than traffic counts by Hitwise or keyword search counts which neglect to include Ask. The user experience here was extra-ordinary, that she actually called me to tell me how much better her experience was -- as a "novice" user as she is, it made me examine the situation with a different view. They won someone over - she even asked how to set her home page to the engine. After I told her they even have "Ask For Kids," she passed the link on to a few of her other friends - now that's Word of Mouth Marketing at its finest.
Keep up the great work Ask - I think you're on a great roll!
update: BusinessWeek has just put out an (10/5) article about Google's compeition - featuring Ask pretty prominently too. Another note - Matt Cutts uses his blog to clarify his quote - another great reason for a blog!