So I printed out three papers suggested by Gary Price in this post. I read the third one first, and didn’t find it earth shattering, though there were a few interesting tidbits. The paper is titled: “U.S. Versus European Web Searching Trends” by Amanda Spink and Bernard Jansen (Penn St. Univ) and Seda Ozmutlu & Huseyin C. Ozmutlu (Uludag University). Basic conclusions: US searchers tend to use fewer words in queries, and tended to have shorter search sessions overall. Also, European users tend to look at more query results, compared with US searchers, who were vieweing fewer results per query. (This buttresses the stereotype that US citizens are more impatient and less deliberative than their European counterparts).
Also consistent with stereotype was a comparison of general topic categories searched for by each group. For US searchers, the #1 topic, with nearly 25% of the overall searches, was “Commerce, travel, employment, or economy.” That category was # 3 for European searchers, with only 12.3% of the searches. European’s #1 category was “People Places and Things.” Also, it seems that Europe (recall this was in 2001) was still on a learning curve for tech, as the #2 search category was “Computers or the Internet.” That term was #4 for the US during the same period. Also telling: European searchers were more than 4 times more likley to look for for “Performing or Fine Arts” than US users, and not surprisingly, “Sex or Pornography” was two places higher on the European list, coming in at #4.
The study goes on to conclude, though not very forcefully, that there are noticeable differences between US and European searchers, but the authors don’t claim it’s necessarily a cultural thing, it may well be the distinction in the engines themselves, as much as anything. This study left me wanting more, and happy they have continued this kind of work. (I’ll be reviewing this latest find soon.)