Google’s onslaught has been handled differently by its competitors. Yahoo! have scrambled around like a headless chicken with their half-baked Panama system, Microsoft rebranded their search function, launched Live and lost market share, and now Ask have made some bold moves by trying to improve their technology.
The concept of “Universal Search” was first introduced by Google last month, when they started incorporating video, news and image search results within regular search results. While Google’s Universal Search offering was weak, at best, Ask have made some very nice changes that will definitely win them some cookie points.
A look at the search results for “Madonna” shows the full extent of these changes:
The first page of results includes a #1 listing from Who2, followed by sponsored results, and then the organic search results. The right hand column, though, is where things get really interesting. Visitors can preview images, news, videos, feeds, blogs, an encyclopedia and even audio search results where applicable.
Quality of the search results, though is still not as good as Google. For instance, the singer’s official website ranks 5th in the organic results, which shouldn’t be the case. The same applies to all other sorts of searches. The results delivered by Ask are consistenly poorer than Google, MSN/Live and Yahoo!
A great user interface might be favoured by people looking for entertainment and different media formats. However, unless Ask does something about improving the quality of their results, they probably will miss the boat once again. Another thing they need to do is spend a lot more money driving people to their search engine, because without the numbers no one will ever know about their shiny new interface!