Baynote Launches ‘Content Guidance’ Service

Site search technology provider Baynote has unveiled its “content guidance” service, which aims to tap visitor behavior to improve site search results and navigation. It also allows Web site owners to organize their users into “clubs” that can be used to target ads and identify cross-sell opportunities.

“The way we find things in the real world is fundamentally different than the way we find things online,” Jack Jia, Baynote’s CEO, told ClickZ. “In the real world, we ask experts and our peers for recommendations, and then act. That hasn’t happened online. We bring a social element back to the online world.”

The service has three parts: Social Search, Guide and Insights. Baynote Social Search works on top of a site’s existing search engine to improve the relevancy of results using visitor behavior. Baynote Guide does the same for site navigation, identifying popular content and similar paths taken by other users. Baynote Insights provides reports to site owners to identify their visitors’ interests and trends.

Baynote observes visitor behavior to gain insight into what paths through a site or which search results are most useful for a given objective. It does not ask users to provide any extra information, since that would add a layer of complexity that many users would ignore, skewing the results, Jia said.

The problem with most site search is that relevant pages do not always appear in the top few results, and users are conditioned by Web search engines to expect to find what they are looking for there or move on, according to Jia.

“Our patience is getting very short. No one goes to the library and spends the day researching a topic anymore,” Jia said.

Site searches that use keyword matching will often return hundreds or thousands of results, with no bearing on whether the content is useful, according to Jia. To add an element of “usefulness” to the algorithm, Baynote applies aggregated visitor behavior to create a metric it calls “UseRank,” in much the same way Google applies PageRank to its search results.

An indication of a page’s UseRank can be seen next to each result, where it displays the number of visitors who found the result “on target” out of the total number of visitors who clicked the link. A user can mouse over the link for more detailed information.

Baynote Guide improves site navigation by adding a drop-down menu to each page with links to “pages like this,” “recommended next steps,” and other tasks based on behavior of other users who successfully navigated the site.

Baynote Insights is a reporting tool for site owners that uses the aggregated user behavior to identify gaps in the site’s content, such as unanswered searches or abandoned visits. Users can also be categorized into “clubs,” or behavioral segments that describe a site’s various types of visitors. Those clubs can be used to target advertising, identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, or create new areas of content, Jia said.

“If you look at the tools marketers have — A/B testing, analytics, heat maps — they tell you what’s popular, or how people reach a goal. Marketers don’t have a way to discern whether the content on the page is satisfying user needs,” said Mike Svatek, director of marketing and product management at Baynote.

Baynote Social Search commonly improves the efficiency of site search by a factor of 20, and Baynote Guide can reduce the number of clicks required to find useful content from 6 clicks to one click in most cases, Svatek said.

“Too many business Web sites are stumbling because their reliance on first-generation search technology and static interaction design has become a huge liability,” Dan Keldsen, senior analyst at Delphi Group, said in a statement. “Baynote is offering a fresh approach to the knotty problem of how to help users accomplish what they need to on the site. By hooking into the social and behavioral evidence of successful site experiences, the software offers site managers a new source of intelligence about what works.”

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