OK. Here we go: AskCity is a new local search application from Ask.com. You can find it in one of two ways: through the AskCity link on our homepage, our automatically, at the top of our standard results page, in response to your local queries. AskCity is the fifth major search vertical we’ve launched this year, following Image, Maps, Blog/Feed, and Mobile search, and we’re really proud of it. It stands out from the crowd because it seamlessly integrates four types of local search – business/service, events, movies, and maps – with the best local content on the Web, along with ergonomic design and features, to form an “all-in-one” resource. AskCity users won’t have to bounce around to multiple sites in order to find, and take action with local information. In short, we get you from Point A to Point B faster.
Local has been around for ages. Why now?
Very simple. Local accounts for 10% of all Ask.com searches, and yet it is the vertical on our site, and in the overall search category, with the lowest user satisfaction. Our research showed that people felt that recent local products launched by our competitors focused too heavily on maps, or on “cool” fly-through graphics, and not enough on helping them dig deep into local content, or into helping them accomplish tasks. AskCity fixes that and then some. Upgrading our local capabilities will hopefully serve our users needs better, increasing their likelihood to adopt Ask as their primary search engine in a very competitive environment.
I really like user reviews/testimonials. Will AskCity have this feature?
We found in our research that one of the biggest causes of dissatisfaction with local search is an over-promotion of and over-reliance on the map, and limiting information to mere links. It reminds me of the over-reliance on comparison shopping in product search, as opposed to product research, which is 80% of online shopping. In response to this, with AskCity, we went deep on information, incorporating over 25 companies from across the Web directly into the product. We not only feature full editorial profiles of each business, but we include 10 years worth of reviews, both from IAC companies like Citysearch and ServiceMagic, as well as non-IAC companies like Yelp, Tribune, OpenTable, RottenTomatoes, TripAdvisor, InsiderPages, JudysBook, Fandango and others. An important differentiator with AskCity is the fact that we return these reviews right within the results, just beneath the full profile of the business, service, locale, movie, etc. We even have reviews of the movie theaters themselves. Speaking of which, its important to note that AskCity is much more than just an online version of the yellow pages. Yes, you can use it to find businesses. But there are four types of search in the product – business/service, events, movies, and maps/directions. And we plan to add more next year.
But can **I** post a review?
Are you some kind of review monger?
No, but I do like to hear what folks have to say…
You don’t write reviews directly on OUR site, but that’s not our job. Instead, when you post it on Citysearch, Yelp, InsiderPages, etc., we will crawl them and post the top ones in AskCity. We also tell you how many reviews exist on each one of those sites for that particular business, and link to them. We also have 10 years worth of editorial reviews from Citysearch, which adds a different flavor.
We’re not currently a place where you can write them yourselves. But we are crawling those other sites constantly, so as soon as you write it there, they’ll be searchable on Ask. And the bottom line for this version of AskCity is that we’ve gone further than any other site to incorporate review content directly into our results.
How long did it take to pull this together, and is this the start of Ask.com becoming the “connective tissue” of IAC?
We worked on AskCity for the better part of the year, really turning up the heat over the summer, after our initial relaunch. With Local being such an important part of search, and something we weren’t doing very well, it was an obvious place to make an effort to do something really good and really original.
I look at the connective tissue thing a bit differently, in that to date I think people have assumed that meant we’d stick a bunch of links for IAC companies all over our homepage. But that’s not what people want from search, and going back to Pathfinder I don’t think that’s a model that’s worked well. Even today, we’re being used more and more for what you might deem “portal” content, because people find it easier to use a search box than navigate a page with dozens of services on it and going through a separate experience. If they can get it, people want one, cohesive experience. So instead of looking at Ask as the glue, I look at us as a chef that is remixing IAC into our own recipe, to create new, valuable products that didn’t exist before. AskCity is a great example, but IAC has leading brands in many other categories, so you’ll see us create new recipes for things like shopping, real estate, travel, etc. We develop things with a “quality over quantity” mentality, however, so it may take a little while to get there.
I know you’ve answered similar questions (see Om), but how does this change the positioning of Citysearch, which was a local search destination?
It doesn’t change anything. We’re the doorway, they’re the destination, and we both have well over 20 million users per month, respectively. With AskCity, we’re incorporating more of their content directly into our results than other search engines do, and that helps people make more informed decisions more quickly. This will raise the water level for both Ask and CS at the end of the day, and that’s why the Ask and Citysearch teams worked so well together on this one.
How important a launch is this for Ask.com – what are your expectations?
Very important from the perspective of doing a lights-out job on 10% of our searches, where we formerly had a pretty high failure rate. Any time you can do that, you build your foundation for growth. That’s been a key to our success all year against a very strong headwind, with a company that has few, if any, structural advantages over our competition. Image Search has been the fastest growing part of our site on the back of critical praise and industry-leading relevance. Even our Mobile search, launched last month, has been growing like gangbusters – well beyond my expectations – with almost no real press coverage. With Local, I expect even more. The product deserves it, because it delivers.