Search for Stocks on Ask’s experimental search page and you’ll get 13 advertisements and just 9 actual search results on the first page. Same for Mortgages, Cars, and thousands of other terms. For these searches, the first actual search result is 1,000 pixels down the page. Some queries, like Dogs, are a little more reasonable, with just four advertisements on the first page.
All of the major search engines are increasing the number of ads they serve on a page. But at least Google moves most of them over to the right side. Ask puts them above normal search results, so you have to actually scroll down (a lot) just to see the first search result. And Ask pulls other tricks as well, like making the entire horizontal space next to an advertisement clickable on the ad, which makes mistaken clicks happen quite easily as you are trying to scroll down.
If their goal is to destroy search market share, then they’ve got a great strategy.
Update: Note from Ask.com: “This is not a search experience you’d ever find by going directly to Ask.com. As you may know, we’ve actually recently decreased the number of ads on Ask.com and have fewer ads than even Google. It seems that you’ve found an edge case, where a syndication partner may have asked us to increase the number of ads for their traffic to meet their business needs – something other search engines do, as well.”