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How to Optimize Your Site for Ask.com

November 6th, 2007

ask-logo.jpgWhen most of us think about optimizing our web pages for the search engines, we usually think about getting high rankings in Google, Yahoo, or possibly MSN. But there is another search engine that sometimes slips below the SEO radar. With a market share that hovers between four and five percent of the total search volume, Ask.com is still nowhere near as prominent as the almighty Google, but some of its newer features make it worthy of consideration, especially for webmasters with larger sites.

One of the primary differences between Ask and most other search engines is that it has taken the lead on implementing what is often referred to as “universal search” in the SEO world. This means that they have been one of the first sites to move beyond displaying standard text content and have fully incorporated other media such as images, news feeds, blogs, and local business listings into the results.

Ask Images

In order to optimize for Ask image search, it is important to make sure that the alt tags are relevant to your topic and clearly represent the picture. Text content surrounding the image may also include targeted keywords, as should the actual filename of the image for maximum effect.

Ask Blogs and Feeds

In order to maximize exposure for your blogs or feeds, you can use Ask’s Bloglines service to include these in their system. Once registered with Bloglines, you can subscribe to your own feed from within your account there and then claim it by inserting one of their authentication codes within your site’s template and another code within one of your posts.

Ask will rank results of blogs by using a combination of their ExpertRank algorithm and their current database of over 12 million blogs. Because they will initially display the results according to relevance by default, it is a good idea to pay attention to the keywords used in your posts and title tags so that you can rank well for this factor. It is also possible for users to sort blog results by date order (indicated as “most recent”) or by popularity. While we don’t really know for certain exactly what controls the popularity rankings, it is often suggested that gaining more subscriptions to your feed and creating “stickier” post content will make success more likely.

Ask Mobile Search

Ask.com also has a mobile search service that allows users to access websites and search results from their cell phones. This is done through their “Skweezer” technology that compresses large websites into one-column displays for use by mobile devices. Ranking well with the mobile search feature is a good objective for owners of small business sites who need to advertise within their own local area. In order to increase success, you can include the contact information for your business at AskCity and eventually get a listing in their index.

Important Ask Tip: Use A Sitemap

Possibly the biggest disadvantage of Ask is that its spider is notoriously slow and generally takes longer than other major search engines to fully index a site. In order to counteract this problem, you can create an XML sitemap and allow Ask to crawl it by including its address in your robots.txt file. More information about using sitemaps with the Ask crawler can be found at their FAQ page for webmasters.

Other Considerations

Interestingly, Ask does not support the “rel=nofollow” tag for links, which means that all outgoing links on your site will potentially count towards other site’s rankings. Fortunately, this also means that any backlinks you can obtain for your site (for example, from commenting on other blogs) will also count toward your link popularity with Ask even if those links have the nofollow tag applied to them. Another unique feature of Ask is that their results will display a little binocular icon beside them, allowing the searcher to get a glimpse of your site in a preview window that pops up when the mouse hovers over it. For this reason, your site’s appearance and visible page content may be a factor in enticing the searcher to click through to your site.


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