Ask.com Develops New Q&A Search Technology, Aims to Index the Human Source

December 2, 2009

Ask.com is pursuing the real-time and Q&A segments of search with a new strategy and contagious excitement. In a post titled The Next Frontier in Search: Questions & Answers, Ask.com U.S. president Doug Leeds announced that the company was developing technology to better extract existing answers on the Web as well as to better find and index the source of answers not yet published. The latter will be achieved by identifying human subject matter experts that can be called upon to answer questions when they arise. Bruce Clay expresses concern over how Ask.com identifies an expert. What qualifications must be met by experts? How can webmasters and SEOs optimize their odds of being considered expert?

Doug Leeds
Doug Leeds then joins the program to answer those very questions and to explore the need for evolving technology in the question and answer space. Doug looks at the shortcomings of search in delivering answers and the different ways people approach search when looking for an answer and when researching a topic. He explains what people can do to prepare their site for Q&A search and for being considered a subject matter expert by Ask.com. Real-time question and answer capabilities through human editorial and participation is part of the strategy Ask.com is taking to evolve their search results.

While Ask.com will seek to extract answers from Web pages as they are today, Susan Esparza, Michael Terry and Virginia Nussey consider whether or not microformats could help the process. Microformats are conventions used to indicate common types of content on a Web page, such as info on events, companies, products or reviews. If a standard could be agreed upon for Q&A pairs, would search quality be improved? They consider the solution in theory but are aware that the standardization and technical requirements of new microformats aren’t a quick or nimble fix.

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