Studying Trailfinding Algorithms for Enhanced Web Search

Proceedings of SIGIR |

Search engines return ranked lists of Web pages in response to queries. These pages are starting points for post-query navigation, but may be insufficient for search tasks involving multiple steps. Search trails mined from toolbar logs start with a query and contain pages visited by one user during post-query navigation. Implicit endorsements from many trails can enhance result ranking. Rather than using trails solely to improve ranking, it may also be worth providing trail information directly to users. In this paper, we quantify the benefit that users currently obtain from trail following and compare different methods for finding the best trail for a given query and each top-ranked result. We compare the relevance, topic coverage, topic diversity, and utility of trails selected using different methods, and break out findings by factors such as query type and origin relevance. Our findings demonstrate value in trails, highlight interesting differences in the performance of trail finding algorithms, and show we can find best-trails for a query that outperform the trails most users follow. Findings have implications for enhancing Web information seeking using trails.