By Dan Thies

SES NYC: Does Barry Diller Get Search?

By Dan Thies

The Search Engine Strategies conference kicked off this morning with Danny Sullivan’s interview with Barry Diller of IAC/Interactive, about the rebranding and future direction of the Ask.com search portal.

First of all, let me say something nice about Barry Diller – he understands positioning. He gets branding. He understands that users will decide whether the search engine under his care survives, thrives, or remains just a little irrelevant. He’s persuasive. He got me fired up about trying the new Ask.com search – which I can report to you has the cleanest interface and best set of tools that I’ve seen on a search portal so far.

What I have to ask about Barry Diller, and indeed the entire organization at Ask and IAC, is do they understand search? The reason that I use Google as my search engine of choice is not a cool user interface, it’s the quality of the organic search results that Google delivers. The reason why I fall back on Yahoo and MSN if Google lets me down, is again, that they are likely to deliver good search results.

Ask’s organic search results are powered by Teoma. Teoma/Ask reps have been coming to SES for years, talking about their cutting edge technology, their advanced algorithm, and telling us (as Barry Diller did today) to give Ask a try.

Unfortunately, every time I give them a try, I am left with the same feeling, that no matter how cool the interface is, the search results don’t measure up to the standard set by Google, Yahoo, and MSN. It looks to me like the problem isn’t their algorithm, it’s that they aren’t crawling enough of the web often enough. What I find on Google, especially when it comes to longer search queries, is simply better than what I find on Ask.

With general searches (hotels, flowers…) all of the “major” search engines usually give you decent results. Of course, sometimes the results are bad at Google too… if I search for “flights” I get the same collection of UK-only websites (I am in the USA) on Google and Ask. MSN and Yahoo do better, and though I suspect they may be hand-adjusting the results at these engines for very popular searches, I don’t really care because they show me what I want.

Anyway, Mr. Diller… I love the interface. I love the tools. I hate the search results. If you want your search engine to become a contender, they have to do a better job of crawling the web. Google has you beaten hands down when it comes to the amount of information they can access, and the freshness of their index.

For readers who are in New York for the show, I am speaking on Search Term Research this afternoon at 1pm, and I’ll be bumping around the show until about 3pm Tuesday. If you see me, I hope you’ll say hello.

  • Thanks for the report Dan.

    Regarding freshness, I was just thinking the other day that Google’s results were so stale, because it often takes them 24 hours or more to index stuff. ;)

  • quality of (organic) search results is such a subjective thing (aside from the glaring spam) for most people. I like Yahoo’s SERPS better than Google’s, but not all of the time and not for all searches.

    The average person doesn’t compare SERPS anyway, they just use what’s in front of them, or what they have become familiar with. This is what I’m sure Barry Diller understands. Do you think if Ask’s SERPS were better than Google’s it would really help them? I’m sure a little, but probably not by much. How much better could they be anyways? Eventually, you have to find other ways to compete. But, Google understands this too – why do you think they fork out that much money to AOL? It’s not because they are sitting idly by and saying our SERPS are the best.

  • Do you think if Ask’s SERPS were better than Google’s it would really help them?

    Yes, I do… but it’s something they apparently aren’t prepared to try.

  • It’s not that it wouldn’t help, I’m sure it would…some.

    But, how many people do you think go to Ask and perform a search and say to themselves “Hey, I think Google’s SERPS are so much better that I’m not going to use Ask again.” Sure there are some, they are called geeks… The average person uses what’s in front of them, typically Google via AOL, Netscape, Comcast, Earthlink ect. ect. ect.

    Besides Ask SERPS aren’t that far off IMO, like I said, it’s all subjective.

  • href=”http://burber.white.prohosting.com”>Piter

    This will take a long times for someone who has started their work. But yes it will definately help in a long run.

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