Ask launches Ask Deals for bargain hunters

Ask isn't giving up on efforts to expand its niche in the search market, this time hoping that coupon clippers will make it their search destination of choice.

Ask Deals is expected to launch Tuesday, blending links to coupons from a plethora of online coupon aggregation sites alongside search results for certain types of queries, such as "cheap jeans" or "plasma TV deals," said Scott Garell, president of Ask Networks. There will also be a link to a Deals page off the home page, which will have a "deal of the day" type promotion as well as links to other opportunities for savings.

The company had noticed that searches for coupons on Ask increased 50 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, likely a result of the state of the economy, Garell said. But it thought it could do a better job organizing and presenting those coupons than the dozens of coupon sites have done to this point, with the added benefit of having additional information about the product come up within search results.

Ask's index is drawing from about 40 coupon sites, crawling some sites and partnering with others to bring the coupons to the service. It is also overseeing the coupon aggregation with a team of employees tasked with sorting out coupon quality.

It's safe to say that even with signs of an economic recovery surfacing, as long as the unemployment rate remains high there will be a fair amount of people interested in scoring a deal. It's less clear whether that will motivate those people to give Ask a try as their primary shopping search engine.

Despite a very public ad campaign with Nascar this year, Ask lags Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft by a wide margin according to ComScore's latest figures on the search market. And its share has actually dropped since last year, from 4.5 percent of the search market in July 2008 to 3.9 percent in August 2009.

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