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How are we searching the World Wide Web? A comparisonof nine search engine transaction logs

The Web and especially major Web search engines are essential tools in the quest to locate online information for many people. This paper reports results from research that examines characteristics and changes in Web searching from nine studies of five Web search engines based in the US and Europe. We compare interactions occurring between users and Web search engines from the perspectives of session length, query length, query complexity, and content viewed among the Web search engines.

The results of our research shows (1) users are viewing fewer result pages, (2) searchers on US-based Web search engines use more query operators than searchers on European-based search engines, (3) there are statistically significant differences in the use of Boolean operators and result pages viewed, and (4) one cannot necessary apply results from studies of one particular Web search engine to another Web search engine. The wide spread use of Web search engines, employment of simple queries, and decreased viewing of result pages may have resulted from algorithmic enhancements by Web search engine companies. We discuss the implications of the findings for the development of Web search engines and design of online content. 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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