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What does Google recommend when you want to compare insurance offerings? A study investigating source distribution in Google’s top search results

Dirk Lewandowski (Department of Information, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany)
Sebastian Sünkler (Department of Information, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 13 June 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe a new method to improve the analysis of search engine results by considering the provider level as well as the domain level. This approach is tested by conducting a study using queries on the topic of insurance comparisons.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted an empirical study that analyses the results of search queries aimed at comparing insurance companies. The authors used a self-developed software system that automatically queries commercial search engines and automatically extracts the content of the returned result pages for further data analysis. The data analysis was carried out using the KNIME Analytics Platform.

Findings

Google’s top search results are served by only a few providers that frequently appear in these results. The authors show that some providers operate several domains on the same topic and that these domains appear for the same queries in the result lists.

Research limitations/implications

The authors demonstrate the feasibility of this approach and draw conclusions for further investigations from the empirical study. However, the study is a limited use case based on a limited number of search queries.

Originality/value

The proposed method allows large-scale analysis of the composition of the top results from commercial search engines. It allows using valid empirical data to determine what users actually see on the search engine result pages.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Dirk Lewandowski, being Editor-in Chief of Aslib Journal of Information Management, was uninvolved in the review process, which was handled entirely by Joachim Griesbaum and Isabella Peters, the other guest editors of this special issue.

Citation

Lewandowski, D. and Sünkler, S. (2019), "What does Google recommend when you want to compare insurance offerings? A study investigating source distribution in Google’s top search results", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 71 No. 3, pp. 310-324. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-07-2018-0172

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited