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We’re seeing no shortage of commentary throughout the blogosphere on the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, which shows Yahoo! beating out Google in overall customer satisfaction for its online network of products. But another notable data point many have ignored is that had the largest increase in its score over the previous year (data chart).

Ask is indeed doing lots of interesting things with its search interface and results pages, with the thought that this type of differentiation is the only shot it has to close the massive gap in market share that lies between it and market share leader Google. Doing the same old thing (10 blue links and a map) won’t get it anywhere, it seems to think.

This is behind its experimental Ask X and its move to stray from the common formula of search engine local product branding (i.e., “______ Local”) by going with “Ask City.” Ask City has also been the most progressive with new mapping features and was the first to roll out multi-point directions and map drawing tools. And the company’s most recent move was launching the nicely designed Ask 3D search interface.

In the meantime, Ask has had some questionable advertising with its “algorithm” campaign and its “chicks with swords” ad. But it has recently shifted to a less enigmatic and quirky approach as shown in its new ad (found via Gary Price).

Look for the company to keep doing things differently in a call for attention in the search world, where there is a great deal of competition for eyeballs and advertisers. Its differentiation strategy has indeed been the most stark, but a correlation to a rise in consumer satisfaction in the ACSI study can be drawn.

Right now, however, Ask has the biggest disconnect between customer satisfaction rankings and market share, which is still in the single digits, according to comScore. This gap could close if the satisfaction figures are correct, and if Ask continues to innovate and do things differently (and gets a little better at marketing). We’ll see.

Related TKG Reports:, Positioning Itself for a New Search Environment.

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