This article was amended at 6:25 p.m., Oct. 29.

The adage "Ask, and it will be given to you" was not followed in Ask Jeeves' (NASDAQ:ASKJ) third-quarter conference call yesterday. Investors probably wished that Ask Jeeves' executives were more forthcoming with quantitative measures. Citing competitive reasons, they didn't give the metrics for reach (market share) and frequency (how often users access the site). The number of proprietary queries for the third quarter (i.e., independent of the acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings) was also unavailable.

Some of the numbers the firm did release were not too hot either, and investors showed their displeasure today by sending shares down nearly 25%. Search queries were down 14% from the second quarter, and the key RPQ (revenue per thousand queries) metric was forecast to decline in the fourth quarter versus the prior fourth quarter. The company cited seasonality as the reason for this, emphasizing that search queries were up 41% year over year (including the Interactive Search Holdings acquisition). The industry typically sees a 5% to 10% increase in RPQ quarter over quarter, so that's a concern here. It remains to be seen whether these declines reflect a cyclical business or point to a loss of market share.

Another unappealing number was the percentage of revenue from the relationship with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Such a deal is unhealthy in the long run. I definitely see the short-term necessity for it -- the deal provided 69% of Ask Jeeves' revenue for the third quarter. However, its use of Google's sponsored advertising links is an endorsement for a direct competitor and further cements Google's market leader status. When asked in the conference call if revenue concentration from Google would change, management responded that it does not see any change in 2005. The deal runs through the end of 2007, and there is a big question about whether the company can be more self-sufficient by that time.

Paid search is booming, and Ask Jeeves has shown excellent growth, with 2004 revenue and EPS growth projected at 145% and 160%, respectively. The company certainly has a wealth of technology, but this is easily said of competitors as well. While its valuation may be attractive compared with Google's astronomical valuation, prospects of slowing growth or maybe even market share loss mean it may not be such a bargain after all. Those interested should listen to the Q&A portion of the conference call and see if they are satisfied with the answers -- today's tumbling in price shows that many investors are not.

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Fool contributor Tim Goh does not own any stake in the companies mentioned.