AskCity Drives To Local Search
Local search just became a little more competitive as IACI's Ask.com now has a dedicated product, called AskCity, available with mobile friendliness, walking directions, and multi-step route construction for its users.
Ask decided to mark the opening day of SES Chicago with a major product announcement. AskCity debuted in beta, tightly packed with integration with other IAC properties as well as some new features.
Director of online information resources Gary Price walked us through the new Ask City ahead of the conference, to point out some of the new site's points of interest. The first new visual element many people should notice will be the Snapshots and drawing tools below the map window.
Those features help make AskCity a more customizable experience. The various tools allow the visitor to "pin" an address to the map, and to draw various shapes and lines to personalize the map for the viewer.
After that personalization has been finished, the person can take a snapshot of the property with a single mouse click. AskCity can hold up to ten maps, and these can be deleted and saved as new maps as needed.
When searching for a business, Ask delves into resources within and outside of IAC. A query for our publisher turned up the relevant entry from InfoUSA.com, and gave me a handful of options. I could pin it to the map, get directions to the location, email the location to someone, or send the location to a phone.
The phone option delivers the address via SMS to your recipient's mobile handset, along with a short message you may have included with it.
Local searches can be performed by zip code or by neighborhood in AskCity. Adding a new location after searching for one automatically generates driving directions from one place to the next. The Walking directions feature seen on other Ask map products appears in AskCity, and that's much more useful in urban areas.
Users of the service can search for Events or Movies as well as the more common map, direction, and business queries people make. Price said both Event and Movie search had been options requested by users of the search engine.
For many cities, business or event options may lead to a direct online contact, where the searcher can buy an event ticket, make a restaurant reservation, or perform another commerce activity. This is part of Ask's "information at one's fingertips" philosophy. If a person searches for information on something like a holiday performance of The Nutcracker, it makes sense that the person should have a quick option to pick up tickets to it.
When searching for businesses, ranking is determined by relevant factors and not advertising, Price said. Indeed, this initial release of AskCity arrived commercial-free. While there is not a current timetable for integrating ads with local search, it's certainly something we expect to see Ask offer its advertising clients in the future.
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