Real time search on the web: Queries, topics, and economic value

Bernard J. Jansen, Zhe Liu, Courtney Weaver, Gerry Campbell, Matthew Gregg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Real time search is an increasingly important area of information seeking on the Web. In this research, we analyze 1,005,296 user interactions with a real time search engine over a 190 day period. Using query log analysis, we investigate searching behavior, categorize search topics, and measure the economic value of this real time search stream. We examine aggregate usage of the search engine, including number of users, queries, and terms. We then classify queries into subject categories using the Google Directory topical hierarchy. We next estimate the economic value of the real time search traffic using the Google AdWords keyword advertising platform. Results shows that 30% of the queries were unique (used only once in the entire dataset), which is low compared to traditional Web searching. Also, 60% of the search traffic comes from the search engine's application program interface, indicating that real time search is heavily leveraged by other applications. There are many repeated queries over time via these application program interfaces, perhaps indicating both long term interest in a topic and the polling nature of real time queries. Concerning search topics, the most used terms dealt with technology, entertainment, and politics, reflecting both the temporal nature of the queries and, perhaps, an early adopter user-based. However, 36% of the queries indicate some geographical affinity, pointing to a location-based aspect to real time search. In terms of economic value, we calculate this real time search stream to be worth approximately US $33,000,000 (US $33 M) on the online advertising market at the time of the study. We discuss the implications for search engines and content providers as real time content increasingly enters the main stream as an information source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-506
Number of pages16
JournalInformation Processing and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Media Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Library and Information Sciences


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