Retrieval performance of Google, Yahoo and Bing for navigational queries in the field of “life science and biomedicine”

Date06 May 2020
Publication Date06 May 2020
AuthorSumeer Gul,Sabha Ali,Aabid Hussain
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Information behaviour & retrieval,Metadata,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Retrieval performance of Google,
Yahoo and Bing for navigational
queries in the field of life science
and biomedicine
Sumeer Gul and Sabha Ali
Department of Library and Information Science, University of Kashmir,
Srinagar, India, and
Aabid Hussain
Information Department of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu, India
Purpose The purpose of this study is to assess the retrieval performance of three search engines, i.e. Google,
Yahoo and Bing for navigational queries using two important retrieval measures, i.e. precision and relative
recall in the field of life science and biomedicine.
Design/methodology/approach Top three search engines namely Google, Yahoo and Bing were selected
on the basis of their ranking as per Alexa, an analytical tool that provides ranking of global websites.
Furthermore, the scope of study was confined to those search engines having interface in English. Clarivate
AnalyticsWeb of Science was used for the extraction of navigational queries in the field of life science and
biomedicine. Navigational queries (classified as one-word, two-word and three-word queries) were extracted
from the keywords of the papers representing the top 100 contributing authors in the select field. Keywords
were also checked for the duplication. Two important evaluation parameters, i.e. precision and relative recall
were used to calculate the performance of search engines on the navigational queries.
Findings The mean precision for Google scores high (2.30) followed by Yahoo (2.29) and Bing (1.68),
while mean relative recall also scores high for Google (0.36) followed by Yahoo (0.33) and Bing (0.31)
Research limitations/implications The study is of great help to the researchers and academia in
determining the retrieval efficiency of Google, Yahoo and Bing in terms of navigational queryexecution in the
field of life science and biomedicine. The study can help users to focus on various search processes and the
query structuring and its execution across the select search engines for achieving desired result list in a
professional search environment. The study can also act as a ready reference source for exploring navigational
queriesand how these queries can be managed in the context of information retrieval process. It will also help to
showcase the retrieval efficiency of various search engines on the basis of subject diversity (life science and
biomedicine) highlighting the same in terms of query intention.
Originality/valueThough many studies have been conducted highlighting the retrieval efficiency of search
engines the current work isthe first of its kind to study the retrieval effectiveness of Google, Yahoo and Bing on
navigational queries in the field of life science and biomedicine. The study will help in understanding various
methods and approaches to be adopted by the users for the navigational query execution across a professional
search environment, i.e. life science and biomedicine
Keywords Search engines, Precision, Recall, Relative recall, Retrieval effectiveness, Retrieval efficiency,
Navigational Queries, Google, Yahoo, Bing
Paper type Research paper
The Web is enormously dynamic because every day a large number of web pages are published
and some irrelevant orold pages are eradicatedfrom it, while sometimes the content of mostof
the web pages is modified. Hence, search engines in this context are able to handle these dynami c
changes (Bar-Ilan,2002) because they are considered as the most significant tools available for
resource discovery on the Web and are growing in popularity since long to fulfil the information
needs of people (Hassan and Zhang, 2001;Zhu, et al., 2011). The description of each search engine
The retrieval
performance of
search engines
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 29 May 2019
Revised 20 November 2019
Accepted 19 December 2019
Data Technologies and
Vol. 54 No. 2, 2020
pp. 133-150
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/DTA-05-2019-0083
influences their performance which reveals that their widespread use creates the need for their
evaluation so that they can improve their p erformance by implicating numerous latest features
(Garoufallou, 2012). As the amount of information is growing rapidly, search engines are not able
to provide the relevant results to their users and the research conducted on search engines
reveals that even a search engine with a dominant competence cannot search and retrieve
systematically all the resources available on the Web (Moghaddam and Parirokh, 2006). It is seen
that almost all search engines have reached the same stage of quality and the queries given by
the users have also become difficult to identify which makes it necessary to evaluate these search
engines in order to fulfil the requirements of the user queries (Dudek, et al.,2007). Moreover,
queriesare considered as theprimary means throughwhich users articulate theirrequirements
because they usually express their information needs in the form of a query where they either
look for some textual data or some visual data (Pu, 2005). Park and Lee (2013) are of the opinion
that a string of terms which are presented and thus submitted by a user while performing his/her
search over search engine can be considered as a query. Therefore, frequent web search query
reformulation can help users to interpret such queries correctly and thus are considered as a
fundamental part of information retrieval process (Barr, et al.,2008). Queries are classified in to
navigational, informationalor transactional (Ali and Gul, 2016;Broder, 2002;Jansen et al., 2008;
Kang and Kim, 2003). With informationalqueries having a characteristicof targeting a certain
topicorastaticwebpage(Broder, 2002;Lewandowski, 2006;Lewandowski, 2011 p. 356), the
results of transactional queries are websites in which a further interaction is necessary. A
transaction can be the download of a program or file, the purchase of a product or a further search
in a database(Lewandowski,2011 p. 356). On the other hand, Lewandowski (2011) puts forward
a clear statement that the concept of navigational query is established on identified key-terms or
keywords which are available on web databases. According to Slawski (2012) navigational
query is the one that appears to be looking for a specific page in response to that query, and a
navigational resource is the specific page being looked for. However, for navigational queries
Hawking and Craswell (2005, p. 219) clearly pu ts it in a simpler way, the judging criterion is, is
thisthe page I wanted?- that is, the homepageof the entityI was thinkingof or the page I named?
Searchingis one of the importantmechanismsthrough whichusers can get onlineinformation
in a simple and easy way. However, search engine like Google provides relevant information to
its users because of its easy search interface as compared to any other search engine (Kaur, et al.,
2011). Search engines retrieve a number of results, and the language of a document in which it is
accessible is very much important because it decides whether it could be understood by a user or
not. Therefore, when ranking results, search engines consider language as an important factor
(Lewandowski, 2006;Efthimiadis et al.,2008), and the results available in English langu agear e
displayed first for the user whose desire is to retrieve the documents available in English
language only. Hence, the results that are available in a language different from the language of
search engine interface obtain a lower ranking which reveals that if a result set for some
particular query is same in English as well as in German version of Google search engine, its
ranking will be d ifferent (Lewandowski, 2008a). The use of search engines is the most widely
used means of information foraging on the World Wide Web(Garoufallou, 2012 p. 182) and it
becomes essential to research these miraculous retrieval tools over the Web to consider their
relevancein terms of retrieving thedesired and useful information.
Web search engines have gained much popularity throughoutthe world as nowadays more
and more research is being carried out in the field of search engines. However, search
engines have entered an arena of explosive information growth. So, it becomes imperative
to identify the trends and techniques used by these search engines for the process of
retrieval. The main problem witnessed by the users of search engines today is the quality of
results which they get back from them because the results provided at times are time

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