I believe (as do others) there to be four major players in the search landscape;
Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask - and in that order. Of those four, only one
(Google) has a successful affiliate network. I know, I know... only one?
Unbelievable. The rest are either in an exclusive and perpetual beta (Yahoo's
YPN), are rolling programs out in the near future (Microsoft)
or simply don't have a program for the wider webmaster community (Ask.com). In
order to compete in the search landscape, which (let's be honest) is driven at
least in part by webmasters or those responsible for Web success in online
marketers, you absolutely, positively must set a financial reward in front of
this vital public and give them simple tools to attain what most are looking for
- website profits.
I think Ask.com has rolled out a tremendous search product. It's my personal
opinion that it schools the search results from both Google and Yahoo and is a
serious threat in terms of quality to Microsoft's
Live.com (which I've had the opportunity to test at length). Ask.com faces
several challenges however, several very serious challenges. They don't have the
popularity and loyal user base of Google (despite the kitschy ads), they don't
control the default access points of users as do Microsoft (through the IE
browser) or Yahoo (thanks to a deal with SBC or its massive email clientele).
So how can Ask.com compete against these
players? Easy... start catering exclusively and directly to the aforementioned
community - websites. If Ask were to release a contextual advertising and
affiliate program, or a search functionality for websites (possibly akin to
Swicki from Eurekster) only then will
they be able to seriously compete. If you can control the serving of content
(and advertising), provide helpful tools to websites to help attracts users
along with financial reward - then you can become a contender.