What’s The Big Deal About Ask.com’s Information Revolution?

The problem with Ask’s campaign is that they don’t clearly state that they, Ask,com, a Google competitor, is the one behind it. Kinda sketchy. And now they’re taking a lot of slack for it, including today’s very public hand slap from the Wall Street Journal. You can’t blame users for reacting the way they have. It’s natural that when they discovered what they thought was a natural forming, underground campaign based around information is actually a cleverly disguised attempt to promote Ask.com, they’re going to be less than impressed. Ask has made them feel tricked, deceived, and lots of other non-warm-and-fuzzy things, probably not the aftertaste Ask was hoping to leave.

The problem with this article by Lisa Barone is that it doesn’t do service to the truth or justice. Ask doesn’t have to clearly state that they are behind this promotion. The promotion is the Information-Revolution.org website that has been targeting UK searchers in an attempt to get them to use other search engines besides Google. The problem is people are getting ticked of at Ask for not putting up a website that says, “We’re Ask.com and we’d like you to use us instead of Google.” Except that they’ve already got such a website. It’s at Ask.com.

Ask puts its logo in the bottom right corner of the Information Revolution website. What more evidence do you need that the fourth largest website is behind this marketing plan? There’s an obvious reason Ask isn’t promoting itself blatantly in this promotion. Because it’s not about Ask.com. It’s about alternatives. That’s the message that Ask.com is delivering and that’s the message that Information Revolution is getting across. They’re not trying to deceive people into believing that Ask.com is not behind the promotion. If they were, they wouldn’t have their logo on the page at all.

Here are a few tips for analyzing a web page:

  • Look for the central message. It’s in the text. Usually near the top of the page. A well-written page will have it in the first paragraph. Information Revolution’s web page isn’t well written. You have to read to the third paragraph to get to the meat of the message:
    Did you know that more than 75% of people in the UK use just one search engine to find information? The same search engine. The largest search engine. The most popular search engine.
  • What do the graphics say? Good graphics enhance your message. Bad graphics make you say, “What?” The one lone photo on this page is a link that, when clicked, takes me to this website’s blog. So what?
  • Where do the eyes go? On IRs website, my eye naturally falls on the search box in the center of the page – right where the page designers want it to go. When I examine the search box I notice a couple of things. First, I have options. The first option – Ask.com – is clearly the one the page designers want me to pick because it’s already selected for me. However, if I do not want to choose that option I have three others. One of them is Google.
  • Testimonials. They sell. That’s why web designers use them. This page has one. It’s from Ask.com’s search creator Apostolos Gerasoulis. Bad choice. It isn’t third party. It’s a pat on the back. Not good for selling or adding credibility. A better choice would have been a user of Ask.com’s search.
  • Finally, footers and “low-key” or downplayed elements. The Ask.com logo in the bottom right corner. Hello! Ask.com is clearly behind this website. Downplayed perhaps but not hidden.

The clear message of Information Revolution is don’t be a blind follower of Google, who is attempting to control the Internet and your mind. Exercise another choice – we hope you choose Ask.com. The message isn’t deceptive. Neither is the power behind the voice. It is a message with which I partially disagree, however. Google is not Orwellian – at least not in the sense that they are trying to control your mind by controlling all the world’s information. Searchers do have choices. Anyone can type Ask.com, Yahoo.com or MSN.com into their Internet’s browser at any time. The fact that 75% of UK searchers use Google only illustrates that Google delivers enough quality for those people to keep using their services. Until that changes, no amount of guerrilla marketing or other practices – deceptive or not – will change their minds.

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