Ask.com to “Create the Most Powerful Algorithm in Search”

Ask.com to “Create the Most Powerful Algorithm in Search”

Ask.com hasn’t been on the radar for many SEO’s in quite some time. Despite that fact, Ask.com represents a large search portal with a defined demographic of users.

Barry Schwartz reports to us over on Search Engine Land that Ask.com is creating a new algorithm to power their search results… and it’s code name is Edison.

Rather than bore you with my paraphrasing, here are some details that Barry offers in his report:

“…they will be using Direct Hit’s click popularity technology with Teoma’s Subject-Specific Popularity to provide a more social search service.”

“…I can tell you that it’s a next generation algorithm that, among many other things, synthesizes modernized versions of Teoma and DirectHit technologies…” (Rahul Lahiri, Vice President of Product Management and Search Technology at Ask.com)

“It’s safe to say that Edison itself will roll out over the course of the year, as we improve it and tweak parameters.” (also from Rahul Lahiri)

Now… onto my take:

The Good…
I like that Ask.com is being proactive in the space. Even though there’s little fanfare for Ask.com’s abilities and SERPs, they’re not going to just sit back and allow the big three to nail down the search industry. Kudos to them on that.

I’m also interested to see more on this Edison algorithm and its relation to a “more social search service”. There is always room for a niche search service provider — and if Ask.com cannot become a major player alongside Google, MSN and Yahoo! — than maybe this is the key to their future success.

As we move into the “Web 2.0” arena… This could be a saving grace for a dying portal.

The Bad…
With a lowly 5.4% market share (comScore, 7/2006) in the search industry, it will be difficult for Ask.com to really promote and push this product out to those who are not in the industry. More importantly, this is a dog-eat-dog world. Too many times we see pioneers of an idea or service (in this instance, social search services) left in the dust when a bigger, more stable player enters the space.

Considering Google’s aggressiveness, I’d be shocked if they too did not plan on something similar to Edison.

The Unknown…
I’m scared of services that are easily manipulated. Just as click fraud exists for paid search advertising, so too could fraudulent search activity impact the performance of Edison and similar algorithms.

It’s worth mentioning that Barry relayed more information from Apostolos Gerasoulis, including the fact that…

Apostolos also explained that they have been tagging for three plus years. So for example, if you do a search at Ask.com, that search query you used, will be associated with the pages you click on Ask.com. So if you search on “cars” and click on the first result, the first result will be tagged as “cars” behind the scenes.

Given how advanced the click fraud teams out there have become with AdWords, AdCenter and Yahoo Search Marketing… I’m anxiously optimistic that Ask.com can adequately fend off any click fraud issues as they arise.

Stay tuned though, and keep an eye on Ask.com. Anything new from an algo point of view is good stuff in my book.

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