Fledgling Aussie search engine eyeing growth

With a January total of 270,000 unique visitors for its two search engines MySearch and Ansearch, Australian search engine company Ansearch is on track for its official launch before the end of March.The company needs to meet an initial target of 500,000 unique visitors within the next two months until official launch, in order to remain compliant with the terms of its September 2004 deal acquisition by technology holding company Optum.

With a January total of 270,000 unique visitors for its two search engines MySearch and Ansearch, Australian search engine company Ansearch is on track for its official launch before the end of March.

The company needs to meet an initial target of 500,000 unique visitors within the next two months until official launch, in order to remain compliant with the terms of its September 2004 deal acquisition by technology holding company Optum. Optum said in September that the search engine is "ideally positioned to compete against Sensis, Google and Yahoo for a stake in the Australian search directories market", a market that, according to the Audit Bureau of Verification Services, is worth AU$300 million per year.

Ansearch chief executive officer Dean Jones attributes the growth of the company (the January unique visitor total is 45% bigger than that of December) to simply giving Australian web users what they want.

Speaking with ZDNet Australia&nbsp yesterday afternoon, Jones posited that "a lot of people use Google because it's the only one [search engine] that they know", but that "they've never been particularly happy with the results". Furthermore, Jones said, he has seen data from research company Standard & Poor to the effect that 60 percent of search engine users would go elsewhere if they could.

In this context, according to Jones, his company's initial success has been based upon the fact that users are looking for alternatives to the large search engines. Additionally, Jones is seeing greater general acceptance of search engines in a market that -seems ready to embrace new competition".

Jones said he and his co-founder Damian London built Ansearch and its sister MySearch on the premise that the top search result should be the one that will actually answer a user's query. To implement this theory, Ansearch and MySearch utilise search technology different from the mainstream. Google allocates bigger sites with more links a greater ranking, said Jones, Sensis allocates ranking based on who's advertising in its Yellow and White Pages publications, and Yahoo ranks based on meta search words that can be optimised. However, Ansearch utilises user input to create search queries based on "artificial intelligence".

What this means is that Ansearch will actually monitor whether a user clicks on the second, fifth or eighth entry from the results returned by a search query, and then mark that entry more relevant to the search words used, helping to make future searches more relevant.

Additionally, Ansearch utilises a 'smaller footprint' of searchable data, which Jones claims includes the most relevant sites that users are always searching for. In comparison, Google uses a much larger footprint that -has clutter", according to Jones.

Ansearch marketing manager Louisa Williams, who also spoke to ZDNet Australia , said that the company was mainly interested, at least initially, in providing a search engine that would generate the best results for Australians. "We're mainly interested in Australia, we prefer to focus on Australians and make it the core competency. It seems to me that Google is tailored to the US and the UK, and my experience has been that getting customer service from Yahoo or Google is impossible here," said Williams.

Williams said that Ansearch has been in alpha launch since November, but will look to formally launch by the end of March 2005. At this stage the search engine will begin to accept advertisers as a revenue source, although the exact nature of the advertising is not clear at this point. It will, however, be text-focused in nature and similar to competitors' offerings, according to Williams.

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