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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ask.com's Traffic Strategy

Ever notice Ask.com advertisements when you're searching for something on Google?  Most people I know who don't work in the online world generally say that they don't notice Google's search ads--much less admit to navigating to Ask.com directly from Google. IAC, the parent company of Ask.com, however is one of the largest advertisers on Google, according to Kantar Media.  How can that be?

It's likely that a significant portion of their budget is going into driving Google search users directly to relevant search pages on Ask.com. This accomplishes two key goals for Ask.com: 1) These ads drive new users into the Ask.com ecosystem, some of which are likely retained and use Ask.com services over the long run 2) This traffic is also likely quickly monetized by Ask as they serve relevant ads as a Google Search Partner.  This is interesting because it reflects the economics of search traffic for certain keywords--in this case it looks like Ask.com is able to profit from buying search traffic from Google and in some cases selling it right back to them.  I have no direct insight into whether this hypothesis is correct--I'm only speculating.

The screenshot below shows a Google search query for "free iphone 5," a product that so far doesn't exist.  Notice the Ask.com advertisement on the right hand side.

The screenshot below shows the landing page for this advertisement--the user arrives at Ask.com where she can take a number of actions including creating an Ask.com account, visiting one of the organic results, or even click one of the Google Search Partner ads located at the top of the page.

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