Ask Jeeves Expands into Product Searches

The company promises to return more than just shopping results as it tackles an increasingly popular segment of the search-engine market.

Ask Jeeves Inc. on Tuesday became the latest search engine to embrace product searches as it unveiled a new search tool for its site.

With its product search, Ask Jeeves is trying to position its approach as more intuitive than approaches from top competitors Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. Yahoo in recent months relaunched its product search, and Google has a long running beta site for its Froogle product search.

Ask Jeeves, of Emeryville, Calif., attempts to spot product searchers directly from their search entries rather than requiring them to enter a separate site or click on a product search link or tab, said Cathie Smithers, senior product manager for The product search tool also tries to decipher whether a searcher is seeking product reviews, product information, comparative prices or stores for making a purchase and then provide different results accordingly.

"People use search engines to search for products a lot, but they didnt feel search engines fit all areas of the buying cycle," Smithers said. "We started from address all parts of the buying process."

Ask Jeeves product search is the latest in a series of topic-specific search tools that the company has introduced since launching its Smart Search service in April. Ask Jeeves already provides search results at tailored to users searching for pictures, weather, news, stocks, conversions such as measurements and direct answers to common questions,.

For its product search, Ask Jeeves uses a combination of its Teoma search technology, its natural language processing algorithms and content from a third-party deal with comparison shopping site LLC. The deal with includes a revenue-sharing arrangement whereby Ask Jeeves would receive a portion of the revenue when a searcher purchases a product, Smithers said.

Tuesdays launch of the product search covers the most commonly-searched categories of products, including computers, electronics, photography and video games, Smithers said. Ask Jeeves plans to add another five to 10 popular categories over the next few months. These will include apparel, jewelry, home and garden and babies and kids, Smithers said.

The announcement of the new product search comes one day after Ask Jeeves announced that President Steve Berkowitz will be taking over as chief executive officer as of Jan. 1 He will succeed CEO A. George "Skip" Battle, who joined Ask Jeeves in 2001.

Battle will become the executive chairman of Ask Jeeves board of directors, replacing co-founder Garrett Gruener. Gruener will continue to be an active board member, the company said.

In the increasingly competitive Web search field, Ask Jeeves falls well behind search sites from Google, Yahoo, America Online and MSN in market share. Ask Jeeves held a 2.3 percent share of U.S. Web searches in August compared to a 31.5 percent share for search leader Google, according to comScore Network Inc.s qSearch service.

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