Ad system that can spot an online shopper

FOR an online advert to have an impact, it helps if the audience is interested. A new tool examines the cursor behaviour of search-engine users to decide if they are shopping or merely surfing.

Sites like Google commonly display sponsored results above the actual ones, which can be annoying for someone who’s not shopping, say Eugene Agichtein and Qi Guo at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

People often use cursor moves to help them pick their way through a screen of text, so the pair wondered if these could be analysed to discern if a person was reading the sponsored ad or not, and so infer their intention.

They created a web browser add-on that tracks the cursor, and found that the data could help to distinguish between a “browsing” and “shopping” search session over 96 per cent of the time.

Users often reword their query several times in a search session, so working out intention can help to determine whether or not it is appropriate to display ads in later searches, Agichtein says. “As the session progresses, our system would be able to make increasingly accurate predictions of intent.”

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