Ask Jeeves expands its search options

Ask Jeeves has refined its search technologies to provide an enhanced version of related links to particular searches. It has introduced two new tools ‘Zoom’ and ‘Web Answers’, which are available now.

Zoom appears on the right hand side of the search results. Its aim is to offer suggestions of ways in which a visitor can narrow or expand their search criteria. The feature will provide visitors with a tool that can either narrow their search by helping them focus on what they are really after or to provide search suggestions they may not necessarily have thought of.

For example typing in ‘Mars Rover’ will provide a number of suggestions to narrow a search, such as Mars Rover 2003 or Visiting Mars. Although this might seem like an expansion, the idea is that Mars Rover 2003 will supply only 118,000 results instead of 312,000. On the other hand, the searcher can decide to go the opposite direction and follow the expand option to say Water On Mars and get 1.7 million results.

Alongside the narrow/expand search options are ‘related names’. Thus typing ‘Andy Warhol’ will bring up a list of contemporary artists.

One problem with the Zoom option is that it takes up the space on the right hand side of the page that forces the company to put its ‘sponsored results’ above the organic listings. In extreme cases, this has the effect of pushing the organic results below the fold.

Ask Jeeves says that the ‘Zoom’ functionality takes advantage the clustering ability of the company’s Teoma search technology, which breaks the Web into topic communities. Zoom examines the relationships between these communities to identify and present conceptually related topics to the searcher.

Ask Jeeves’ Web Answers works rather like the ‘Encarta’ option on MSN Search. For example asking ‘What is the capital of Uruguay?’ will provide the answer highlighted at the top of the results. Ask Jeeves said that user testing showed that Web Answers improved the click-through rate on the top search result by over 200 per cent.

Finally, Jeeves may be out of a job. Recently, the company’s new owner Barry Diller suggested that the search engine might change its name. The smart money is that the name will simply become ‘Ask’.

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