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August 27, 2007

Searching for Better Health


What are people's primary sources for health related data? 70 percent said the Internet.

72 percent said their doctor.

Let me reiterate that. The Internet is 3 percentage points away from being people's #1 source of health information.

Ten years ago--FIVE years ago--that'd be unheard of. But here we are. For approximately 70% of the population, instead of "doctor, I have this pain in my chest," It's:


Other choice nuggets of information we discovered, courtesy of the survey we commissioned from Harris Interactive, include:

  • TV as a primary source of medical information seriously lags behind at 26%. Sorry Dr. Phil.
  • Newspapers and magazines have a 30% rating. Books, 25%.

Why Online?

The survey uncovered a few choice reasons as to why so many rely on searching for health answers:

  • Privacy: Over 1/5 of 18-34 year olds said they turned to the Internet because they were too embarrassed to actually talk to anyone.
  • Overworked doctors: Just over 1/8 of those surveyed were encouraged by their doctors to search online.
  • Alternative medicines: 44% of 35-44 year-olds looked to the Internet for to research homeopathic medicine.

These also help to explain why Health is a top five search topic on Ask.com.

Our Health Smart Answers

All of which are reasons why we've partnered with Healthline Networks, the leading provider of intelligent health information services, and Revolution Health, a leading consumer-centric health company, to provide content for our health-related Smart Answers.

Here are a few Smart Answers you can try straightaway:


Poison Oak


Our Health Smart Answers include medical definitions, images, links to reference materials and other data that makes it easier for people to find health information online. And since so many of you are turning to the Internet for medical information, we're working to give you the best info possible.

--The Ask.com Smart Answers Team

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August 24, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / SearchBash!

Thursday night's SearchBash,   presented by us and WebmasterRadio.FM,   was a three-ring circus without the rings.

Here's a shot of the Ask gang in the VIP area: (L to R) Product Manger Sven Rossbach, Me, SVP Corporate Communications Mary Osako, CEO Jim Lanzone, Director of Online Information Resources Gary Price, and Senior Product Manager Kapil Raina.

There was a DJ playing mash-ups of 1970s hits and 2007 hits, Marilyn Monroe and MC Hammer impersonators working the crowd, ladies in little black dresses with trays of kamikaze shots, and a live band playing classic rock. At some point hula hoops were taken out on the dance floor. Hopefully that, and these photos, tell the rest of the story.

Ken Grobe
Content Product Manager

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August 23, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / Day 3: AJAX, Paid Links, and 98 Million Blogs

One of my favorite things about the show was all the great word of mouth Ask3D has been getting. From the panelists to the Expo floor to the lunchtime banter, we seem to be on everyone's lips. My fellow Askicker Natalie noticed the same. You'll see a few of her notes about it below. As well as some choice bizspeak from Ask's Todd Morrish.

And on the "everybody's talking about" subject, nope, I didn't make it to the Google Dance. As curious as I was to see their campus, after two days of waking up at 6 and posting at midnight, I practically fell asleep on the train back to SF. At least one of my Ask co-workers did attend, determined to undermine the big G from within by putting a serious dent in their free milkshake supply.

LOTS went on at Day 3, so let's get to it:

Excuse you!

I don't mind that today there are dozens of people who, magically, the day after the Google dance, started sniffling and coughing. I do mind that I have to spend an hour and a half in the WiFi lounge sitting between two coughing SEOs who did not know to cover their mouths.

Seriously. It was like a bad ZirCam commercial. I would've moved but I needed the power strip access. (And when did I become that guy?)


This was entertaining, thanks to Danny's interview skills and expertise of working off the cuff, and Marissa taking every question in amiable stride. She seemed to manage to include plugs for Google products in every answer, but with so many Google products I imagine it's hard not to.

I did appreciate that they'll start blurring faces, license plates, etc. in Google StreetView, upon request, to assure privacy. And their 1-800-GOOG-411 service sounded pretty handy, especially if you have an iPhone.

During the Q & A segment, someone brought up the Eye-tracking results that someone (Gordon Hotchkiss, I think)  presented at a panel, which showed that, on a Google Universal Search page (with the media results mixed in among the blue links), people are less likely to look at the pages' ads. Marissa said that they were looking to change the presentation on GUS pages, and hinted that they may experiment with richer types of advertising to better compete with the blended results. Rich AdSense ads? Advertising agencies, meet your life preserver.

And yes, she got a question about the Google Phone, and yes, she dodged it like a pro.

Today's New Bizspeak

…comes from Ask.com ASL Product Manager Todd Morrish: Level-setting.

I've now heard it in 3 different sessions. Maybe my BS Bingo cards are out of date, but I have hardly ever heard this phrase before this show.

Presumed meaning: the act of sharing info to bring everyone "level."

Thanks, Todd! Hey, Reader! Did you hear any brand-new bizspeak at SES SJ? Let us know in the Comments!

SEO Through Blogs & Feeds

I wish I could've stayed for this whole session, because the tips and suggestions they were giving came at me faster than I could write them down. The proliferance of blog technologies and strategies are--and I'm showing my geek colors here--exciting.

Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts hit hard and fast with a barrage of valuable blog tips-mostly involving tagging your posts. His daughter is making a mess of AdSense cash from her NeoPets blog, so clearly he knows what he's talking about.

Some of his Blog SEO tricks:
-Tag clouds
-Related tag pages
-Tag conjunction pages
-"Sticky posts" that always appear at the top of the page and are a superb place to include keyword-rich copy.

Rick Klau of Google (and former head of FeedBurner publisher services), took a slower pace with his preso of various tools. Obviously a smart guy, he came off as quite affable but lacked the polish of most of the other Google speakers I'd seen. Maybe because FeedBurner is such a recent acquisition? Pitcher of Kool-aid, table two, please!

Rick also offered some handy search engine best practices for blogging:

-Use the "Noindex" tag in your Robots.txt file if you want to keep your blog off the indexes
-Auto-discovery "advertises" your feed's availability to browsers & bots, and puts your subscribe link right in the browser
-If you do a podcast, include show notes so the text can be crawled

Doug Hay of Expansion Plus Inc. took the B2B route, showing how RSS feeds can benefit any business, by conditioning customers or press to maintaining a relationship with your brand by:

-Putting your press releases on a feed page
-Using RSS any time you release news or content like audio or video to create
-Add social media tagging (Digg, etc) to gets you in social media networks and become more searchable

But it was Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR who lit a fire under the crowd, telling them it's no longer enough to just have a blog--you have to work it. "If you don't have a blog yet, you're too late." He smirked, "If you have one already, big deal. Now, it's all about results."

Greg quoted a startling statistic: there are currently 98 million blogs, but only 100 million websites. At this rate it won't be long before blogs outnumber sites.

He also gave some tips on how to benefit from blogs--even if you don't have one--from a PR point of view:

-Look for emerging terms something that's ranking in importance but hasn't peaked yet.
-BuzzLogic has a product that lets you type in a search term and find out which bloggers are most influential in the conversation on that emerging topic
-Find them and give them an advance lead on the story.They'll generate traffic to your site.

During the Q & A , the moderator asked the panel what they thought about the news that Radio Shack forbids their employees to blog about the company. Greg rolled his eyes and said: "Yeah. And they should prevent their employees from talking on the phone, or from talking to their neighbor while shopping. Get real." I like this guy!

Fashion note:

I stopped counting goatees after I got to 36.

CSS, AJAX, Web 2.0 & Search Engines

A VERY popular issue at this conference. Everyone wants AJAX for its flair and its User Generated Content flexibility, but it can't be searched. Or can it?

Mikkel deMib Svendsen of deMib.com gave us a flashy spiel about how the social web and UGC are great for SEO, since they provide content freshness, authenticity, etc. His presentation ended with a photo of him with his arms around two showgirls.

Vanessa Fox of Zillow.com was refreshing by comparison, not just because she had some great, useful examples of the pitfalls of Flash, Javascript, AJAX, etc., but because she used her own company's site for some examples of "don't"s.

Amit Kumar of Yahoo! had some simple tips as well:

-Turn off js/css in your browser and nav yoru site. Is all the content viewable? Okay then.
-Provide alternate navigation for flash-heavy sites
-Use your Robots.txt file
-List your sitemaps files

Then there was Amanda Camp of Google's Webmaster Central, who led off with "Hi, I'm Amanda, and I don't have any slides, but everything you need to know is on my shirt." The shirt of course, had the "Google" logo. She told us that she was from the "Google Webmaster Ecstasy Group" or somesuch, and that her group was dedicated to making webmasters as happy as possible. Uh…yay?

Eyes and ears on the floor

A few choice bits of reportage from Ask.com's Search Marketing Manager, Natalie Cann:

After Jim's keynote, I noticed a lot of foot traffic at our booth and people were buzzing around the Expo saying "I really want to go check out the Ask.com booth". I spoke to a couple of people that raved about our new Ask3D product and said they really enjoyed Jim's keynote, and in particular, his thoughts on personalization and how you can "over-personalize".

Our own Michael Ferguson's quote and face was featured in a presentation during the Putting Search Into The Marketing Mix session.

And finally, I turned in a lost iPhone at the Marriott, which I was very proud of myself for doing. :-)

Thanks Natalie!


Search Engine Q&A On Links

Shashi Thakur of Google explained the philosophy of proper linking in a simple, charming way: "A link from your page is like a personal reference; it says a lot about you. And poor linking affects your credibility." Giving someone a bad link (i.e. an un-relevant or black-hat link) is like sending them into a bad neighborhood. How likely is that person to trust you after that?

Sean Suchter of Yahoo! Search gave some great link tips as well:
-Attracting organic linkage is important
-Don't bother generating massive numbers of links
-Keep your URLs clean-looking and stable
-Attract cut and paste behavior
-No pop ups
-It's OK to create links between multinational sites (.com, .uk versions of site), but be careful of duplicate content

Eytan from Microsoft announced the debut of the beta version of the new MSFT webmaster tools portal, and Peter Linsley of Ask gave some sage advice as well--without even using PowerPoint slides, no less!

The Q & A devolved into a paid links dispute--an extremely hot issue at the conference.

Of course, after that came the Searchbash we co-sponsored at Vivid…but I think that warrants a blog post of its own, don't you?

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager

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August 22, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / Day 3: SEO Panelist Secrets

So I was chatting with a couple other Askickers at the conference, and one of us, Senior Product Manager Kapil Raina, pointed out a fascinating aspect of the show:

Some of the SEOs on the panels have been optimizing their own presentations.

They're taking advantage of fact that their presentations are being recorded, either in audio, in transcripts, or in blogs. Two of those media (maybe all three) are searchable online--so the SEOs are using keywords in their talks that will show up when being crawled and searched.

Their slides are sprinkled with their sites' keywords, and speak to the the SEOs' expertise.

Lastly, at the end of their presos, many are offering links to the Powerpoint decks & content from their presentations--on their own sites--even though the presos are offered on the SES site. The links are subdomains on their own sites--which allows them to track their leads.

What have we learned from this? If you're ever looking for real-world examples of SEO, just look to the SEOs themselves.

Thanks Kapil!

My Day 3 Recap is going to have to wait a day, as Ask is sponsoring a party and I have to represent. Have a great night.


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SES San Jose LIVE / Upcoming Panels with Peter Linsley

Here's a quick plug for a few Ask.com panels that feature our Sr. Product Manager, Peter Linsley, from Peter himself. Check out this schedule for all the remaining Ask.com panels.

One of the many fun parts of my job is reviewing websites for how they are structured, what content they offer, how users interact with them and most of all, what kind of new and interesting spam tactics might be lurking under the hood. These are all important factors that directly affect your ability to get crawled, indexed and ultimately rank in our search engine.

I'll be on three panels at SES San Jose, covering some of the more important aspects of basic good SEO:

Wednesday, August 22:
Duplicate Content & Multiple Site Issues

Search Engine Q&A On Links

Thursday August 23:
Meet the Crawlers

These Q&A heavy sessions provide a great chance to get up to speed and have all your questions surrounding these issues directly addressed. I'll be milling around the other presentations at the conference so don't hesitate to stop me if you have any specific questions regarding your site and Ask.com



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SES San Jose LIVE / Day 2: Legalese, Bizspeak, and Vulcan

Today, the business-speak started to get a little thick (scroll to the bottom to see my favorites). But there was still plenty to learn, and in some cases, to rant about.


Angel in a Pickup

First off, a shout out to Amy Dalton of Topix, who gave me a ride in her pickup so I could get to the Convention Center in time to catch my own boss's keynote speech. Bad Ken. Yay Amy!

How do I know the show is starting to wear me down? I'm starting to show up late for stuff. Ever try to open a velcro bag to take out your laptop in the middle of the panel?

I've already covered the keynote, so let's move on to the panels:


Copyright & Trademarks: What SEMs Should Know


It's always interesting to attend a session that has very little to do with your particular focus. For instance, now I know how to slap a service provider with a take-down notice. Thanks, lawyers!

Ask.com's Eve Chaurand-Fraser explained how to make a clear DCMA take-down request: the clearer and more detailed the request, the quicker the take-down will be. Simple as that. "You don't have to argue with us," Eve explained, "We're not a court. And please don't threaten us with the seven plagues if we don't reply."


Halitosis in the Wi-Fi lounge

Can a person's breath be so bad you can't even sit across a table with them? Fortunately the gentleman--another green shirt!--closed up his laptop & left the wi-fi area before I passed out. Hope he doesn't work in sales!


Web Analytics & Measuring Success Overview

I stepped out of Copyright and Trademarks early to check this panel out for a bit, and the main message seemed to be to "Think beyond the performance of clickthroughs" and take a more holistic view and active role in your site's analytics.

That said, I was particularly impressed with Laura Thieme of Bizresearch, who gave some advice to the bounce-rate-obsessed ("Analyze bounce rates by keyword to determine which need to be adjusted") and dropped other pearls of wisdom.

She also explained that new tools were needed to track specifically what happens in social media properties. Same with media that shows up in Blended Search engines like Ask3D.

Early in her talk, she asked how many people in the room use Google Analytics--and a shocking number of hands shot up.


Search long and prosper

During the Analytics Q&A, a gentleman thanked panelist Matthew Bailey of Site Logic Marketing for his Star Trek anecdotes that were apparently part of Matt's preso. The gentleman in the audience added that he in fact shook Scotty's hand years ago, and "it was a life-changing event." Matt grinned back and did that spread-hand Vulcan thing.


Images & Search Engines

This panel was PACKED. There were people sitting in the aisles for this one. Is there any better indication of the importance of Image Search?

I got to this one late, and the first words I heard when I walked in the door was "Squackers McAll." I hope they weren't referring to me.

It was a pleasure to hear panelist Liana Evans of Commerce360, not least of which because she loves Ask3D. When she showed screen shots of the three big engine's image search, she stated with "Ask…is…Ask is…just beautiful." She emoted during a comparison of the big Image Search engines. "Ask does a great job again!" She pointed to an Ask3D results screen. "You even have social media coming up in here!"

Chris Smith of Netconcepts gave some tips on how to optimize your images for search engines. Go to his site for whitepapers on this subject.

James Jeude, the Project Manager of Ask.com's Image search, gave some helpful tips on how to optimize your images for our image search in particular. A couple tips in particular came out of left field, but made perfect sense when you think about them:

- Make sure that your image is on an search-optimized web page--the better the web page, the easier it is to search on

- Put misspellings & synonyms--i.e. every possible way to name your image or product--in the meta tags


GUEST REPORT: Search Marketers On Click Fraud

Hey, I can't make it to every panel--though after hearing Ask Sponsored Listings' Product Manager Todd Morrish's account, I wish I'd been to this one. Take it away, Todd!

Juicy. As usual. This one never fails to entertain, enthrall, enrage.

This year, Danny (Sullivan) & Chris (Sherman) opted to split what was one big panel -- with SEMs, agencies, 3rd party providers & SEs -- into two: "Search Marketers On Click Fraud" presided over by the first three of the above groups, & "Search Engines On Click Fraud", with the usual cadre of tech/product rep's from the Big 4 SEs, including our fave, Paul Vallez.

After the usual PowerPoint dog-&-pony shows, the witty Jeffrey Kohrs (moderator) strutted straight to the back of the room w/ his Q&A microphone & sparked the tinder. Jeff had invited the panelists from the first click fraud panel to evesdrop on the SE version. Jeff asked Tom Cuthbert (President & CEO, Click Forensics), "Why are the SEs' #s on click fraud different from yours?"

After some back & forth on which data SEs are or are not providing 3rd party measurement companies for the sake of accurate fraud tracking -- including a seemingly poignant jab by Shuman (Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager, Trust & Safety for Google) that search marketers should ignore all data but their own -- this tack sort of dead-ended into an agree-to-disagree cul-de-sac.

Well, Jessie Stricchiola (Founder, Alchemist Media Inc.) -- also on the "Search Marketers On click Fraud" panel -- wasn't in the mood for any more us-against-the-SEs barbs.

Game on!

Jessie's message: Why are the SEs accusing & needling & jabbing at us?? Aren't WE, the advertisers, the customers here? Shouldn't you, the SEs, be finding ways to SOLVE our problems rather than exacerbate them?

Whose numbers are right? Can the SEs service their advertisers cordially & effectively? Or is it us against them?


Meet the Search Ad Networks

The big networks came out in force for this one. Doug Stotland of Microsoft adCenter gave us a list on the updates to Microsoft Ad Center, including making Content ads available to everybody.

Then came Paul Vallez's preso. He mentioned that Ask.com is often considered the fourth network, and drew a parallel to IAC head Barry Diller, who was known for creating a fourth network: Fox.

He then went on to introduce folks to the Ask Sponsored Listings network, which has a much lower CPC than competitors, and translates to a lower CPA How do we do it? URL stuffing, Performance Based Discounting, and our Ask Contextual listings program, which gives you access to the IAC family of companies.

Dan Boberg of Yahoo! Talked a little bit about their acquisition of Right Media. Julie Greenhouse of AOL announced the launch of AOL Contextual marketplace in q4 of 07."And Emily White gave an impressive example of how they serve audio/radio ads. "Say you're selling a nasal decongestant." She outlined. "You can go into ad words and say, "when the pollen count hits a certain level, push my audio ad."


Today's worst SEO business-speak:

"Maximizing your success in the market is anything but easy."

"Our client teams take a team-oriented approach."

Aaaand that's it for tonight. Two more days of this? Caffeine I.V., stat!


Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager

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August 21, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / Day 2: Jim Lanzone's Keynote

Jim's morning keynote wasn't a speech, but rather an informal Q & A with conference programmer Chris Sherman. Chris changed up his pitches a few times, and Jim took it all in stride.

Chris started out by congratulating Jim on the positive reviews Ask3D search have been receiving. Jim credited the product--and the company's culture as well--as a deft "combination of art and science."

From there, they talked market share. Jim explained that he prefers to view success on a basis of growth--particularly since the recent new-criteria ComScore results "turned 'market share' on its head." Jim said he prefers to focus on the company's growth in the market instead.

"When we're creating our products, we're not sitting around a table thinking, 'how can we beat (Google)'," he continued. "If we take care of the user, market share will take care of itself."

Coopetition at Home and Elsewhere

Chris shifted the conversation to Google, specifically the fact that Ask is Google's biggest advertising partner. Jim explained that Ask and Google have come up together, having taking the risk of choosing them over established player Overture way back when. "When our first (advertising) deal was announced with them, it was three years, 100 million dollars." This year, Ask's ad deal will be several billion dollars, "Whoever we go with."

After a bit of reminiscing about the dot-bomb times ("I came through an acquisition...the stock was 79 cents...we sold to IAC for 2.3 billion in 2005...") The conversation turned to our parent company, IAC.

Chris asked how we work with our sister companies. Jim explained that we give them less favoritism than our competitors--he cited CitySearch's paid inclusion deal with Yahoo as an example--and that in fact we work best with our fellow IAC-ites when we're utilizing their data. "that's why AskCity works so well," he continued, "We're under no (corporate) mandate to favoritize our partners...we use them when they're the best sources of data."

Privacy vs. Personalization

And of course, Chris brought up that most recent hot-button issue, data privacy and our recent announcement of Ask Eraser. "I think it's been a slow news summer, in that it got that much publicity as it did," Jim mused, suggesting that the actual amount of people who are concerned about the issue has been exaggerated. He pointed out the popularity of personal search applications, like our own MyStuff, launched back in 2004, as evidence of this. "But for the people for whom that's important, we'll have Ask Eraser."

On the subject of personalized search, Chris pointed out the similarities between eTour, Jim's old company that was acquired by Ask almost ten years ago, and social search apps like StumbleUpon. "Just because it's new to you, doesn't mean it's new," he quipped.

(Ok, this synopsis is getting as long as the actual Q & A; let's gloss a little:)

The conversation shifted back to Ask3D, which Jim called "the next generation of search," and pointed out that people are continuing to embrace non traditional search results. He also mentioned that as much as 50% of an Ask3D page contains images, video, news--everything but traditional search results. People are finding images without doing an image search, video without doing a video search, etc.--all of which means traditional reporting won't tell our whole story.

"If we were worried about market share," he said, "We certainly wouldn't have done 3D."

Ad Networks and Network Ads

They then turned to The Ask ad network, where Jim laid out a few of its advantages (e.g. 71 million users, 10% of all searches in the US).

Not wholly unrelated, Chris asked Jim how well he thought big brands are handling SEO.

Jim remarked that they're still trying to catch up. He noticed a lot of the big brands recognize this--and are snapping up a lot of the SEM firms as a reaction. "More important," he said, the major ad agencies still have a lot to learn about online, and they're going to need the expertise of everybody in this room to help them."

They covered a few other subjects, including vertical search, mobile, and the future of personalization for Ask. He finished up by giving the audience a sneak peek at the next round of Ask.com TV ads--no monkeys, dogs, swords or Katos in these!


Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager

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August 20, 2007

SES San Jose LIVE / Day 1: Wise Men, Hookahs, & SEO Magic

Update: now with photos!

Welcome to the grand experiment: the Ask.com liveblogging of SES San Jose.

Photos, and more thorough proofreading, will come soon. For now, strap in, 'cause here we go...


The Search Landscape

The quarterly Search Engine Strategies Conference landed in San Jose today and hit the ground running with a welcome from conference programmer and search guru Danny Sullivan. Favorite quote: "Good content is something you want to look at for more than 30 seconds." He kicked off the day with a thorough overview, rattling off answers to audience questions at the end like Ted Williams at the batting cages.

Up next: our own Erik Collier as part of the Universal & Blended Search panel.


Universal & Blended Search

(Quick rant: isn't calling the panel "Universal search," when that's the brand name of our competitor's product, a bit like shopping at the "Campbell's Soup and Grocery Store?" Fortunately, Commerce360's Bill Slawski noticed it as well and retitled his presentation "Universal 3D Search" to help balance things out.)

We heard from Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR, who called blended search "the biggest change since the Florida Update" and pointed out the PR dangers of the related images that inevitably show up in blended search. To accentuate his point, he showed a blended search on Hillary Clinton that featured three very unflattering photos of Hil as sample image results. Republican stealth gaming? Who can say?

Another interesting point of Greg's: Apparently the New York Times trains their journalists to optimize their articles to get to the top of a News Search page.

Reps from Google, Yahoo, and our own Ask.com said their pieces as well. Google's David Bailey talked largely of simplicity, in a folksy, accessible way. Yahoo's Tim Meyer strung his preso across Yahoo's four pillars (ranking, comprehensiveness, freshness, and presentation) and showed how they leverage their in-house content (music, video) in their blended search results.

As for Erik, he started his Ask3D preso with "I'm Erik Collier, and I'm from the scrappy innovator of search, Ask.com." Damn right. Erik gave the crowd a tour of Ask 3D and showed how we blend multimedia search results into our Smart Answers, right-rail content, binoculars application, etc.

My favorite bit of the panel was during the Q & A; when asked for their top tips to optimize videos for search, David and Tim gave the standard reliable ones: write description text, put the keyword in the file name, etc.

When the mic was passed to Erik, he agreed with all the tips, but added one more: "Make a kickass video." Thus making his the only Q & A answer to draw applause from the crowd.


...But will it sell more hookahs?

One site owner I met today intends to take Erik's video advice to heart: Ronnie Roman,  President & Hooka Master of Hookah and Shisha Central, one of the leading online retailers of hookahs and shisha (the tobacco used in hookahs). (Caveat: they may be THE leading online retailer, I can't find it in my notes).

Ronnie started the business as a one-man operation in 2000 and the company has gone to a 20 employee company with three separate retail sites, a 2000-item catalogue, and a thriving wholesale and distribution business. Clearly, not every town can have a local head sh--um, hookah retailer, so Ronnie credits much of his success to Search. His conversion rates from search engines are something like 2 or 3 times higher than from referral sites.

Currently the #3 result on both Ask.com and Google searches for "hookah," Ronnie leverages white-hat SEO techniques to put his company even higher in the search rankings: keywords in the page content, making sure his site's being indexed properly, redoing dynamically-generated product URLs so that they have the product names in them, etc.

Certainly as a result of the info he's gleaning at SES this year, he's looking into creating a company blog, creating more of a presence on social networks-probably a lot of cool factor to having a hookah store as your MySpace friend-and he's thinking of making "hookah videos" for the site and YouTube. He didn't elaborate on what kind of videos they would be, but any chance they would look like these?


Personalization, User Data & Search

The next panel I made it to, Personalization, User Data & Search, touched more on the money part of SEO than I expected, but I still came away with valuable info. Gordon Hotchkiss hypothesized that Search Optimization will happen around themes, rather than keywords, taking advantage of long tail searchers. For this reason, he sees a rapid buildup of sites devoted to awareness of products, rather than purchase, and advised that companies focus on recommendation tools, mash-ups, widgets and other devices that push for awareness and interaction with the brand.

Sepandar Kamvar of Google reiterated this as well, by suggesting that companies "build useful gadgets" and "design & optimize for the user, not just the keyword."


Searcher Behavior Research Update

I caught a few choice nuggets at the Searcher Behavior Research Update panel as well, specifically in terms of some research findings regarding Local search. In terms of Local search, claimed Stuart McKelvey of TMP Directional Marketing, it's an offline world.

I'll spare you all the statistics, but he summed up his preso with these points:

  • The primary conversion action from local search is an offline purchase
  • Many consumers use the Internet for researching, not buying
  • Online drives a significant amount of walk-in and phone traffic
  • Printed Yellow Pages are still relevant-and in fact are surprisingly valuable

Gordon Hotchkiss, this time as a panel moderator, talked for a bit about a multi-panel "Portal" approach to search, giving some props to Ask3D in the process. He called it the search engine that has gone most aggressively to the multi-column layout, hinting that this sort of layout is very much on Google's mind right now.


A friendly warning...

...to the guy in the green shirt who sat next to me at the second panel and ate roasted almonds for 20 minutes. Next time, choose a snack with no aroma or I will turn that shirt red. Thanks!


Good times and good learning, all in all. Tomorrow's a big Ask.com day, starting with Jim Lanzone's keynote speech! I'll be there.


Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager

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August 17, 2007

Search For: A Great Day Out

Wednesday was a hugely fun day for the Ask.com Oakland and Campbell offices, spent at the IAC Search and Media Summer Event. Held at Angel Island, a state park in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, it was a day of sun, sports, scenery, dogs, burgers, and general good times far outside the office.

The day started around 9-ish, as Askickers boarded ferries in San Francisco and Almeda to take them to the island. The SF ferry offered clear views of Alcatraz island, and, once we'd traveled far enough, the city itself. Once we hit land, the Island was ours to explore.

Some rented bikes (radical!) and toured the perimeter of the island for stunning views of the San Francisco Bay. Others got involved in pickup football and volleyball games. Some passed around baseballs and Frisbees. Still others simply relaxed in the sun and chatted about anything but work. Yet others gathered on the grass for a series of relay races in which it seemed that the only rules were to cheat blatantly and laugh until you fell down. And of course everyone sat together for a group lunch, served buffet-style and eaten on picnic tables with bright red tablecloths.

Need I say that a great time was had by all? I think these pictures, courtesy of Ask's Akemi Tom, Eze Vidra, and Sean X. Cummings, tell the story.

--The Ask.com Team

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The King: Dead and Well on Ask.com

Yesterday marked the 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and while we don't normally commemorate the anniversary of someone's death…well, he's the king. If you want to remember him today from your desk, here's a little help courtesy of Ask 3D:

Elvis Images

There's no shortage of Elvis images online, and Ask.com Image search lets you choose from a variety of criteria. Our left-rail content lets you go deeper than just the standard publicity and news photos: you get album covers, Graceland interiors, movie posters and a lot more.

Elvis News Search

Meanwhile, our news search is finding stories on those who are remembering the king from Dayton to Jerusalem. Our News Images search surfaced a great AP story about Mississippi and Tennessee getting a serious economic boost from increased memorabilia purchases and pilgrimages Elvis's places of birth and death (respectively).

Elvis & Health

Elvis was no stranger to health problems: glaucoma, pleurisy, hypertension, insomnia, and the one he apparently died from, cardiac arrhythmia. We have Smart Answers and right-rail "morph" content that give you info on those conditions and more. And if you want to know more about his infamous prescription drugs, like Dexedrine and Codeine, Ask.com has you covered there as well.

Elvis on Video

We'll finish up with a few great example of how Elvis lives on in Ask.com Video Search. Here's a few hits our Video Search picked up:

A classic from his 1970 TV special:

Elvis Presley - That's All Right

A clip I had no idea existed: Elvis duets with Frank Sinatra. Mind the screaming girls, and Joey Bishop.

Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley Sing Together

And here's arguably the best Elvis impersonator, Andy Kaufman, doing the King on no less than The Johnny Cash show.

--The Ask.com Team

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Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not of IAC Search & Media and may not have been reviewed in advance.

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