The reading level for this article is Novice

Ask Jeeves, has been gaining popularity as of late. Commercials on T.V. featuring a butler following various characters in different settings have been amusing. For me, the shocker has been our web stats – and how much traffic our site has gotten lately from Ask Jeeves.

And I’m going to show you how I accomplished this…

First of all, it should be known that Ask Jeeves is classified as a “meta search engine”. Meaning, it doesn’t have it’s own database, rather, it gathers information from other search engines and spits it out in it’s own format based on the criteria of Ask Jeeves.

How Ask Jeeves Works
You type in a question, and Ask Jeeves goes out to several other engines, including AltaVista, Excite, DirectHit, WebCrawler and AskJeeves also stores the data on millions of questions, which is why often the return of your query is fast.

Ask Jeeves’ “natural language engine” allows you to input actual questions instead of keywords or Boolean strings to find the information you need. Basically, it has a four-step process:

  1. Ask Jeeves attempts to understand the precise nature of the question by using a question-processing engine. Using natural language processing technology, Ask Jeeves determines both the meaning of the words in the question (semantic processing) as well as the meaning of the grammar in the question (syntactic processing).
  2. Ask Jeeves’s answer-processing engine provides the question template response—that’s the list of questions that users see after they ask Jeeves a question. When the user clicks on a response, the answer-processing engine retrieves the answer template that contains links to the answer locations.
  3. The Ask Jeeves knowledgebase contains links to more than 7 million answers, which contain information about the most frequently asked questions on the Internet. Smart lists allow one question template to point to many answers (e.g., “What is the population of ?”).
  4. To assure users that they’ll get the best answers to their questions, Ask Jeeves also has partners who provide answers, to supplement those answers Jeeves has found. Ask Jeeves searches these answers as well, to eliminate duplication. This guarantees that the user finds the best answer by including the top ten answers from other leading “search engines.”

Ask Jeeves claims that every link that they have has been reviewed by a human editor. I find this difficult to swallow, due to the amount of URLs they have currently listed.

Click here for more information on Ask Jeeves’ policy.

Traffic from Ask Jeeves
Okay, now that you have a background on how Ask Jeeves works, we will cover some tips which have made Ask Jeeves our best search engine referral … better than Yahoo!, AltaVista and Excite. Like I said, it was a shocker…

First of all, our high traffic was produced by testing that I was doing on another project unrelated to Ask Jeeves. The traffic came, and after analyzing the results and testing on one of our client’s sites, we validated our findings and here are the results:

First of all, you must come up with questions pertaining to your business that people will type on the web. If you don’t have access to a database, it is often a guessing game. My staff can provide questions which are often entered in the search engines for your industry.

For example, if I owned a hotel or a shop in San Francisco that I wanted tourists to know about, I would focus on the following questions on my web site:

“Where can I find tourist information on San Francisco?”
“How can I find hotels in San Francisco?”
“Where can I find a hotel room in San Francisco?”
“Where can I stay in San Francisco?”
“Where can I see a map of San Francisco?”

These are some of the most often asked questions in search engines regarding San Francisco.

This is how you will build the pages, and it is so easy once you have the questions to focus on.

First, the file name. Name the file the name of the question. Let’s take the first one as our example, “Where can I find tourist information on San Francisco?” The file name would be:


Make sure the file is in all lower case, as that is the way 70% of the web surfers type. Separate the words with dashes, leave off the question mark at the end (search engines hate them) and finish it off with the extension of your choice (htm, html, shtml, etc.).

Next is the Title. The Title is the question. Keep it to 72 characters or less, if possible. In your code, it would look like this:

<title>Where can I find tourist information on San Francisco?</title>

Why is “San Francisco” capitalized in the Title when we made sure it was in lower case in the file name? Pure and simple, it is for aesthetics. This is your Title, and having “San Francisco” in lower case would not look right and could affect your “click-thru” rate.

Your description is next. Your description should ANSWER the question. It’s as simple as that. Keep it to 150 characters or less.

<meta name=”description” content=
“All the information you need on San Francisco can be found at Norma’s Gifts – and it’s free. Walk through our rooms of gifts as our walls show you the ‘secrets’ of The City By The Bay that most tourists never see.”>

Meta Tag Keywords? Forget about them. They are overrated and will not help your cause according to our testing.

The body of your document. This is key. Okay, you will repeat the question in a Heading Tag, like this:

<H1>Where can I find tourist information on San Francisco?</H1>

You will then use about 300-500 words of text to answer the question, discuss your business and give compelling information with a link back to your Home Page or another page with additional information.

This is how you make your site successful on the web. Give quality, free information on topics related to your business and what people search the web for. If your information is good and compeling, the visitor is sure to visit other pages on your site, and thus their confidence in your business increases.

More buyer confidence always equals more sales.

Make sure the page matches the overall theme of your site, so the visitor doesn’t think they are at another site when they go to your home page.

Now, sit back, wait a few weeks and check your log files. You should have a boost in traffic via Ask Jeeves!

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This Web Marketing article was written by Jerry West on 3/21/2005

Jerry West is the Director of Marketing for WebMarketingNow. Visit Web Marketing Now for the latest in marketing tips that are tested and proven.