The purpose of this paper is to test major web search engines on their performance on navigational queries, i.e. searches for homepages.
In total, 100 user queries are posed to six search engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask, Seekport, and Exalead). Users described the desired pages, and the results position of these was recorded. Measured success and mean reciprocal rank are calculated.
The performance of the major search engines Google, Yahoo!, and MSN was found to be the best, with around 90 per cent of queries answered correctly. Ask and Exalead performed worse but received good scores as well.
All queries were in German, and the German‐language interfaces of the search engines were used. Therefore, the results are only valid for German queries.
When designing a search engine to compete with the major search engines, care should be taken on the performance on navigational queries. Users can be influenced easily in their quality ratings of search engines based on this performance.
This study systematically compares the major search engines on navigational queries and compares the findings with studies on the retrieval effectiveness of the engines on informational queries.
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