SEO Effekt

The effect of search engine optimization on the search results of web search engines (SEO Effekt)

The overall goal of the project is to describe and explain the role of search engine optimization from the perspective of the participating stakeholder groups by analysing search results/search result pages for optimized content as well as quantitative and qualitative surveys of search engine users, search engine optimizers and content providers. Thus the external influence on the results of commercial search engines can be described and quantified for the first time. The project contributes to theory building in information science by extending existing information-seeking models by a component of external influence on the search results.

Insights

The project focuses on informative content; it examines how documents that play a role in answering information-oriented search queries can be influenced externally.

Methods

We combine methods from computer science (screen scraping, data analysis, machine learning) and the social sciences (experiments, surveys, qualitative interviews).

Classification

In the documents, we identified more than 40 indicators for search engine optimization (SEO) that we use in our analyses, resulting in a reliable classification.

Software and datasets

We develop open source software for collecting and analysing results from commercial search engines. We make different datasets with SEO results available.

The project focuses on informative content; it examines how documents that play a role in answering information-oriented search queries can be influenced externally. This sets the project apart from pure questions of online marketing, where the focus is on the optimization itself and not on the consequences for the compilation of result sets.

To measure the effect of search engine optimization, we develop software that can automatically query search engines and analyze the returned results. The results from these analyses are combined with findings from the survey and further investigations of search engine users, search engine optimisers and content providers in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the influence of search engine optimisation. Methodologically, the project is characterized by a triangulation of methods of data analysis from computer science and social science methods. The interdisciplinary basis of the analysis is unique and will significantly advance the understanding of search engines in general and the influence search engine optimization has in particular.

Publications

Lewandowski, D.; Sünkler, S.; Yagci, N.: The Influence of search engine optimization on Google’s results: A multidimensional approach for detecting SEO. 13th ACM Web Science Conference, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1145/3447535.3462479
Schultheiß, S.; Lewandowski, D.: Misplaced trust? The relationship between trust, ability to identify commercially influenced results, and search engine preference. Journal of Information Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/01655515211014157
Schultheiß, S., & Lewandowski, D. (2021). “Outside the industry, nobody knows what we do” SEO as seen by search engine optimizers and content providers. Journal of Documentation 77(2), 542-557. https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JD-07-2020-0127
Schultheiß, S., & Lewandowski, D. (2021). (Un)bekannte Akteure auf der Suchergebnisseite? Ein Vergleich zwischen selbst eingeschätzter und tatsächlich vorhandener Suchmaschinenkompetenz deutscher InternetnutzerInnen. In T. Schmidt & C. Wolff (Eds.), Information between Data and Knowledge. Information Science and Its Neighbors from Data Science to Digital Humanities. Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium of Information Science (ISI 2021), Regensburg, Germany, 8th—10th March 2021, 218–246. https://doi.org/10.5283/epub.44946
Sünkler, S., & Lewandowski, D. (2021a). Den Einfluss der Suchmaschinenoptimierung messbar machen: Ein halb-automatisierter Ansatz zur Bestimmung von optimierten Ergebnissen auf Googles Suchergebnisseiten. In T. Schmidt & C. Wolff (Eds.), Information between Data and Knowledge. Information Science and Its Neighbors from Data Science to Digital Humanities. Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium of Information Science (ISI 2021), Regensburg, Germany, 8th—10th March 2021, 273–298. https://doi.org/10.5283/epub.44946
Sünkler, S., & Lewandowski, D. (2021b). Ist die Webseite suchmaschinenoptimiert? Vorstellung eines Online-Tools zur Analyse der Wahrscheinlichkeit der Suchmaschinenoptimierung auf einer Webseite. In T. Schmidt & C. Wolff (Eds.), Information between Data and Knowledge. Information Science and Its Neighbors from Data Science to Digital Humanities. Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium of Information Science (ISI 2021), Regensburg, Germany, 8th—10th March 2021, 299–306. https://doi.org/10.5283/epub.44949

Research data and software

All research data, software and the working papers detailing methods and implementation can be found in the OSF repository, https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/JYV9Ra. A demo tool is available at http://5.189.155.20:5000.

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), grant number 417552432.
Funding period: 05/2019 - 07/2021