When Internet users conduct searches at Ask.com, they pose their keywords as questions three times more than any other search engine. So, it makes sense that Ask.com is focused on improving the Q&A experience on their site and on the web.
Last summer, Ask launched a specific Q&A section with 300 million Q&A pairs in their database. They've recently reached the milestone of reaching 400 million Q&A pairs. Adding 100 million Q&A pairs in 5 months is impressive indeed.
But Ask's focus on Q&A is not *just* about finding pairs and serving them up in search results. Ask.com has big plans for the Answers niche.
I spoke with Ask.com US President Doug Leeds yesterday and he identified the key areas of both search and the Answers niche that need solving - and how Ask.com is tackling them.
Specifically, when people want a question answered, they don't care to sift through tons of sites to find the answer. They want to find the answer quickly and be on their way. They aren't there to buy anything. This understanding is, yes, even good for search marketers, who don't really want clicks when there's zero intention to buy.
Sometimes, however, there aren't Q&A pairs available for a given question. Think of current events, for example. There may not be a Q&A pair out yet for a breaking news event.
Ask.com seeks to solve this problem by identifying the right people to go to for Answers. So, theoretically, if you have a question about a newly identified hurricane, you could at least know a meteorologist to pose a question to, as opposed to reading up the raw reports at NOAA laden with science-y speak.
I asked Leeds how search marketers could take advantage of this focus on Q&A. He gave the admittedly common search engine answer: Create quality content.
But Ask.com's focus on search is a great reminder to be active in the Q&A field. Sites dedicated solely to Q&A are on the rise - precisely because of their ability to precisely and quickly answer questions.
While focusing on Answers may not have some sort of tech-sexy appeal, it's a smart move for the sixth largest network of sites. While Yahoo! and AOL are focusing on content portals and Bing is busy trying to take down Google, Ask is simply focused on improving the user experience. Hopefully, they'll be able to gain some traction in search with this sharpened focus in an industry that desperately needs some solid innovation.