Ask Jeeves drops a paid inclusion program

Ask Jeeves has decided to cancel one of its programs that allowed companies to pay to have hard-to-index information on their Web sites updated frequently and included in the Ask Jeeves search engine index, a company official said Wednesday.

The program in question is called Index Express and is designed for companies whose Web sites have a lot of so-called dynamic content that is hard for Web crawlers to index, said Paul Gardi, Ask Jeeves' senior vice president of operations and strategic planning.

For example, online stores, such as travel sites and bookstores, have a lot of dynamic content that is formatted in their Web pages depending on choices their visitors make, he said. The Ask Jeeves Web crawler can't properly find and categorize this type of information, he said. Ask Jeeves created Index Express to gain access to this information.

Index Express allows these companies to place a static template of their Web sites in the Ask Jeeves index and to send information via XML (Extensible Markup Language) feeds, which made it possible for Ask Jeeves to properly capture and index this content, he said. However, the technology behind Index Express never lived up to Ask Jeeves' expectations, because it interfered with the relevance ranking of these Web sites as calculated by Ask Jeeves' search algorithms, Gardi said.

"The relevance coming out of Index Express wasn't as good as we would have liked," he said. "Our number one priority is the relevance of our results." Index Express distorted relevance by improving the rankings of some Web sites and degrading those of others, he said.

Ask Jeeves has been looking for a third-party technology to perform this type of "deep content" search, but hasn't found anything it considers acceptable, he said. "The problem is still there," he said. Ask Jeeves is dismantling the program gradually by not renewing clients' contracts when they expire, he said.

Discontinuing Index Express will not have a material impact on the company's revenue, according to a statement sent via e-mail by an Ask Jeeves representative.

Ask Jeeves is continuing with its other paid-inclusion program called Site Submit, which allows companies to pay a fee to make sure their Web sites are included in the Ask Jeeves index and that the information is refreshed regularly. It doesn't concern itself with the problematic issue of dynamic content, he said.

Ask Jeeves normally wouldn't be talking about the discontinuation of a program, but is doing so as a result of multiple press calls in recent days to inquire about its paid inclusion programs in light of a related announcement from Yahoo Inc. on Tuesday, Gardi said.

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