Web Browser Add On Aims To Improve Paid-Search Click-Throughs By 15%


Tapping into the need for consumers to following ratings and reviews, Xmarks plans to introduce an advertising service Thursday that adds ranking data and comments to paid-search ads.

The service, dubbed SearchBoost, aims to give search ads a boost of credibility by showing the ratings and rankings from others who have downloaded the Web browser add-on, too. Xmarks counts more than four million active add-ons in use by people who have downloaded the Xmarks browser add-on. Those users do about 450 million searches monthly.

Xmarks Chief Executive Officer James Joaquin says the technology analyzes the returned links on searches from engines like Google. Each link sends a signal to the Xmarks server asking for information on the Web site. The Xmarks server returns the metadata, so the Xmarks Web browser can display it on the search page.

A one-month test with 200,000 users measured the click-through rates on ads. On average, the paid search click-through rates increased by 15% for ads that showed SearchBoost data. For example, when a REI.com paid-search ad serves up for an Xmark user on a Google or Bing search page, the overlay will display rating stars and other metadata, which should make the consumer seeing the search ad more confident about clicking on the ad. The company has also run tests with 1800Flowers, RitzCamera.com, TheFind.com.

Advertisers get a 30-day free trial for ads and reports. There's no credit card required to test the service. The pricing is tiered, depending on the number of ads.

SearchBoost advertisers can enter any URL to view the top search terms for that site and sort results by impressions, clicks, and click-through rates. The tool also provides insights into the performance of organic search results. There are privacy filters to suppress search terms that may contain personally identifiable information (PII). Data is available at launch for searches performed on Google. Additional data for Bing searches becomed available in 30 days.

Mitch Kapor, who also founded Lotus, also had a hand in creating Xmarks. He based the company on the theory that if technology could crowdsource and aggregate bookmarks at significant size and scale, it should also have the ability to pull out a signal from the data to improve Web searches. "People's bookmarks are like votes," Joaquin says. "They only bookmark something worth saving."

The Web browser add-on aggregates data for those computers hooked into the Internet, pulling the information from the millions of computers that have it installed. The ratings and review tool for organic searches, which launched last year, allows people searching for a keyword in an engine's query box to not only see normal search engine results, but also identify the ranking of the search term or Web site based on bookmarks of others who use the browser add-on.

Smarter Search takes the bookmark rankings, along with Web site reviews from users, and displays them as an overlay in the browser on results from engines.

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