Microsoft Study Takes Navigational Sitelinks a Step Further

Google’s sitelink feature provides searchers with shortcuts to in-domain pages “based on user behavior and possibly site structure” to bring searchers one step closer to a destination that they may be aiming at in a search that they had performed.

A study and paper from Microsoft explores a similar type of teleportation, but to a destination that may be a few steps further along a search query path, based upon “exploiting a combination of past searching and browsing user behavior” using information gathered through browser plugins and proxy server logs.

The paper is one being presented at SIGIR’07 in July at Amsterdam, Studying the Use of Popular Destinations to Enhance Web Search Interaction (pdf). There, they tell us:

In this paper, we present a user study of a technique that exploits the searching and browsing behavior of many users to suggest popular Web pages, referred to as destinations henceforth, in addition to the regular search results.

The destinations may not be among the top ranked results, may not contain the queried terms, or may not even be indexed by the search engine. Instead, they are pages at which other users end up frequently after submitting same or similar queries and then browsing away from initially clicked search results.

We conjecture that destinations popular across a large number of users can capture the collective user experience for information needs, and our results support this hypothesis.

The paper details a set of experiments that the researchers performed to find ways to identify different destinations or query refinements. The experiments only used 36 subjects, but it’s imaginable that further research could easily use larger numbers. There’s a suggestion that may be a step taken in the future. Some interesting results detailed in the conclusion:

Results of our study revealed that:

(i) systems suggesting query refinements were preferred for known-item tasks,

(ii) systems offering popular destinations were preferred for exploratory search tasks, and

(iii) destinations should be mined from the end of query trails, not session trails.

The paper looks like it may be presented at SIGIR’07 as part of the First Workshop on Web Information-Seeking and Interaction, which focuses upon “the interaction of users with Web-based content and applications during information-seeking activities.”

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