One of the relevance feedback techniques used in search engines is providing a link to similar documents for each retrieved document in a results page. The purpose of this paper is to assess whether the “similar pages” relevance feedback feature of Google is truly effective in retrieving documents relevant to the information needs of users.
The effectiveness of the “similar pages” feature of Google was investigated using 30 paired searches conducted by 30 users with real information needs. The precision ratio of the results of the initial searches and of the searches conducted by clicking the “similar pages” links of the four most relevant results of each initial search were compared. The time spent and the overlapped results of the two kinds of searches were also compared.
The mean values for precision of and time spent on the “similar pages” searches were significantly less than those for the initial searches. Although, the number of overlapping documents in the “similar pages” searches was higher than that for the initial searches, the difference was not statistically significant.
The findings of this research would be useful for search engine designers as well as the numerous users of common search engines, especially Google, to decide if “similar pages” features truly enhance the quality of information retrieval on the web.
The experimental evidence provided in this paper relates to system design of information retrieval systems on the web.
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