With $14 Million More Q&A Site ChaCha Soldiers On

chacha-logoQ&A is a great idea that really hasn’t worked. Although Yahoo Answers and a few others are still around — and Ask returned to Q&A as a way to differentiate from Google and general search — the segment is littered with dead bodies, including Facebook’s Q&A offering. The outlook for Quora in its current form isn’t particularly good, either.

While human-powered Q&A should deliver better information in many instances than search, Q&A has largely failed to live up to that promise. Panda-related updates have also killed much of the traffic coming to these sites through SEO. Against that backdrop, it’s somewhat surprising that ChaCha has not only survived but today announced a new $14 million investment round (number 7).

ChaCha began in 2006 as a form of “assisted search.” It later migrated into mobile, using SMS as the primary tool to ask and answer questions. Then it expanded to the mobile web and smartphone apps. Today, roughly 70 percent of questions and answers are coming via mobile according to founder and CEO Scott Jones.

ChaCha iPhone app

Over the past 18 months, ChaCha has seen two billion questions and organized 129 million Q&A pairs. Where it doesn’t have an existing answer it will route questions to a human.

To that end, ChaCha still has paid “guides” but is evolving into a peer-driven network. The company watches who asks what types of questions and the quality of answers provided and decides how to route queries. Most people are happy to answer questions if asked, observes Jones.

Jones believes that he’s very close to finding the formula that will enable the site to become self-sustaining and profitable. He also wants to “let brands in on the conversation” and enable them to answer questions in appropriate circumstances.

Almost seven years later, it’s somewhat remarkable that ChaCha is still around. It’s testimony to Jones’ personal stature and track record as well as raw tenacity.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Search Engines: Help Engines | Search Engines: Mobile Search Engines


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://twitter.com/SEOCUBED SEO SEO SEO

    Quite surprising to hear the author feels that recent algo updates has killed SEO traffic for sites like Quora and Yahoo answers. And that Q&A hasnt really worked?? I had imagined that these UGC content power houses get most of their new visits from SEO and still do! I firmly believe that Q&A and any UGC in the hands of a good SEO strategy can and is still an awesome SEO tool. While I was at Realtor.com I closely monitored TRULIA SEO team make giant strides forward with their SEO due to their Trulia Voices Platform. Kudo’s to them, Cha cha, and any one else that is building out UGC, Q&A with SEO in mind!!

  • http://twitter.com/Kevin_Lee_QED Kevin Lee

    Don’t forget that LinkedIn is shuttering it’s Answers section this month. It was pretty big but never reached full potential.

  • http://www.mojo40.com/ Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

    Bummers. I really liked it. And lots of folks whom I know, used it as a lead gen tool for their biz!

  • http://twitter.com/gsterling Greg Sterling

    Yep. Forgot that one

  • http://twitter.com/gsterling Greg Sterling

    One of the objectives of the original “farmer”/Panda update was to demote content farms. Most of the Answer sites offer low-quality content. Answers.com for example sold quickly after Panda. Yahoo Answers is a neglected product that has mostly low quality information. It’s appearance on Page 1 of Google is pretty rare these days. Quora’s problems are not tied to SEO but rather it’s ability to mainstream.

    In a vertical context (e.g., real estate) Q&A can be a big value add and of high quality. In those case you can see Q&A entries highly ranked because they may be detailed and specific.

  • http://www.facebook.com/drdadman Dan Roberts

    As somebody who ran SEO for a sizable Q&A site, I can attest to the Panda smack down that reverberated across the industry – with the notable exception of Yahoo Answers, we all took a beating. It was a long road back, but the site I worked with recovered better than 75% of lost traffic within 12 months. Monetizing will always be a challenge in that space – but I’ll tell you the dirty little secret that anyone who has spent any time in that space know…there is a hulluva lot of long-tail traffic potential. Yes the number of unique queries is decreasing, but at the same time, semantic search is on the rise. One of the reasons people are increasingly comfortable asking natural language queries, is becasue Google is doing a bang-up job of finding where those exact questions have been asked previously online…and in some instances, the result they feature even has an answer!

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