External to internal search: Associating searching on search engines with searching on sites

Adan Ortiz-Cordova, Yanwu Yang, Bernard Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)


We analyze the transitions from external search, searching on web search engines, to internal search, searching on websites. We categorize 295,571 search episodes composed of a query submitted to web search engines and the subsequent queries submitted to a single website search by the same users. There are a total of 1,136,390 queries from all searches, of which 295,571 are external search queries and 840,819 are internal search queries. We algorithmically classify queries into states and then use n-grams to categorize search patterns. We cluster the searching episodes into major patterns and identify the most commonly occurring, which are: (1) Explorers (43% of all patterns) with a broad external search query and then broad internal search queries, (2) Navigators (15%) with an external search query containing a URL component and then specific internal search queries, and (3) Shifters (15%) with a different, seemingly unrelated, query types when transitioning from external to internal search. The implications of this research are that external search and internal search sessions are part of a single search episode and that online businesses can leverage these search episodes to more effectively target potential customers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718-736
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Processing and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2015



  • Ecommerce searching
  • Information searching
  • Music queries
  • Music searching
  • Web searching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Media Technology
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Management Science and Operations Research

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