Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Xmarks the Spot? Kapor Says Start-Up Can Find Buried Treasure in Bookmarks for Advertisers.

Social bookmarking start-up Xmarks, which has been growing its user base and bookmarked Web addresses strongly, launched a new advertising product today called SearchBoost, which it hopes will finally give it a viable business model.

Using a tool that displays user ranking and review information from the free synching service, Xmarks Chairman Mitch Kapor said in an interview with BoomTown that the ad offering essentially “decorates” a paid search ad, thereby boosting click-through rates by 15 percent.

Xmarks, which was founded in 2006 and offers a browser widget to record bookmarking information, will also give advertisers additional analytics about their ads, as well as organic search results.

With detailed usage data on over one billion bookmarks rated and reviewed by users, this information will be attached to the end of search results from both Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) Bing on Mozilla’s Firefox and soon, on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome browsers.

Xmarks said the service will cost from $29 to $99 a month for advertisers and that it will also offer more elaborate plans.

In the interview, Kapor said the company is simply enabling the addition of existing and valuable information already gleaned from its millions of users and giving advertisers the ability to show it off.

Different colors–which you can see below, with orange for paid and blue for organic results–is used to distinguish between them.

“These reviews show up where they show up and advertisers can’t buy a ranking or a rating,” said Kapor. “If advertisers want to decorate their ads to increase their conversions by showing what users think, that’s a good thing.”

Added Xmarks CEO James Joaquin: “We are allowing advertisers a tool that is already reflecting what the user base is saying is valuable…the real benefit is for brands that already have a high rank to declare that.”

Launching its business model, Kapor added, after growing its user base to four million active users, is the next logical step for Xmarks.

“This is the effort to move from that category to the category of sustainable enterprises,” he said. “And that is certainly a good thing.”

Here is Joaquin’s entire blog post on the move:

Today’s a big day at Xmarks. We’ve launched a new service for search marketers called SearchBoost, designed to increase the performance of paid search ads by displaying relevant Xmarks ratings and reviews next to sponsored links on Google and Bing search result pages. SearchBoost is a premium service with pricing starting at $29 per month.

SearchBoost is the primary business model for Xmarks, allowing us to keep our browser synchronization service completely free. While we obviously devote resources to this business, we’ve also recently launched Xmarks for Chrome and a new Tab Sync feature for Firefox. You can count on us to continue innovating and improving our sync products.

SearchBoost is also a natural extension of our vision for Smarter Search: displaying crowd-sourced ratings and reviews to help users identify the highest quality results on their search page. A small but vocal minority have told us (and may tell us again on this blog ;-) that they’re not interested in this feature. That’s OK with us: we’ve made it very simple to turn the Smarter Search feature off in Xmarks Settings. Many other users have sent us kudos for this important enhancement to web search.

We hope you’ll find ratings and reviews on ads as useful as they are on organic search results. It’s important to note that Xmarks ratings and reviews are completely crowd-sourced from our users. Advertisers cannot pay $ to improve ratings or alter reviews.

Finally, quick shout-outs to our chairman & co-founder Mitch Kapor who has kept us focused on his orginal vision of aggregating bookmarks to improve web search, and Xmarks advisor Eric Ries who helped us think through the early concept stage of what is now SearchBoost.

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