NEW YORK—The major search engines are looking beyond the Web to find, display and make money from search results.
At the Search Engines Strategies 2005 Conference & Expo here this week, search-engine executives offered a peek into a future wherein general search will increasingly tap sources outside the Web and in which users will access search from mobile devices and emerging applications.
“If we were able to take search forward five years, you can then answer, discover, recall and publish information anywhere, anytime,” said Oshoma Momoh, general manager of Microsoft Corp.s MSN Search, during a panel discussion. “Search begins to fade in the background a little bit, [and] search becomes a bit more of an ingredient rather than something thats front and center.”
Executives from such search leaders as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. sounded a similar tune, noting such trends as search moving “outside the paradigm of the box.”
In the more immediate future, Ask Jeeves Inc. and America Online Inc. are preparing new services to provide search and search-based advertising outside the Web.
Ask Jeeves plans to offer a targeted mobile search service in the second quarter of the year, while America Online Inc. wants to start running search ads in early April that connect users to phone numbers rather than Web links.
Ask Jeeves will release a mobile search service targeted at the Blackberry and Treo devices, said Jim Lanzone, Ask Jeeves senior vice president of search properties. Rather than providing Web links, Ask Jeeves wants to return more specific answers to queries from mobile devices.
The service will be called “mobile smart answers,” referring the name of an Ask Jeeves Web search feature that highlights structured results such as movie times and weather in a box above traditional search results.
“Smart answers is the right way to deliver information for a mobile phone [because] a user does not want to click links or wait for page to download,” Lanzone said.
Ask Jeeves began offering “smart answers” in late 2002 and now has about two dozen broad categories of them that compile information from the Web, Ask Jeeves portal properties such as My Way and partners.
Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have expanded their mobile search offerings in recent months. Yahoo has launched both a mobile browser and SMS (Short Messaging Service) feature for its local listings, while Google has focused on sending queries and targeted results through SMS.
Ask Jeeves also is investigating the use of SMS for mobile search in the future, but Lanzone said the company instead decided to begin with targeted answers on larger-screen devices.
“People on Blackberries and Treos are more likely to utilize our services,” Lanzone said. “People with more robust devices are ready for this.”
AOLs plans take shape
AOL, which since the new year has revamped the features of its Web search and entered local search, next plans to incorporate what are called pay-per-call ads alongside its search results as early as the first week in April, said Gerry Campbell, vice president and general manager of AOL Search and Navigation.
The Dulles, Va., company earlier had announced a partnership with startup Ingenio Inc.
San Francisco-based Ingenio provides a service for running sponsored links that link to a phone number for reaching an advertiser rather than to a Web site.
Advertisers then pay based on the number of phone calls they receive from consumers.
While pay-per-click has been touted as a way to attract more local advertisers to search advertising, AOL is planning to display the ads throughout its search offerings.
The initial launch will integrate pay-per-call ads on results from general Web searches, and soon after, they will be added within AOLs local search site, he said.
Campbell called pay-per-call a “natural extension” of typical search ads where advertisers pay based on clicks and said they promise to provide advertisers with more qualified leads and a way to reach consumers who prefer phone interactions.
AOL is still determining exactly how and where to features the new ads on results pages, he said.
“But we will feature the ads so they are visible in the experience,” Campbell said. “This is such a green field, and were trying to just jump in there with both feet.”
AOL partners with Google to power its general Web results and for running traditional sponsored links.