Investigating query bursts in a web search engine

Ilija Subašić, Carlos Castillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Internet has become for many the most important medium for staying informed about current news events. Some events cause heightened interest on a topic, which in turn yields a higher frequency of the search queries related to it. These queries are going through a 'query burst'. In this paper we examine the behavior of search engine users during a query burst, compared to before and after the burst. We are interested in how this behavior changes, and how it affects other stake-holders in web search. We analyze one year of web-search and news-search logs, looking at query bursts from multiple perspectives. First, we adopt the perspective of search engine users, describing changes in their effort and interest while searching. Second, we adopt the perspective of news providers by comparing web search and news search query bursts. Third, we look at the burst from the perspective of content providers. We study the conditions under which content providers can 'ride' a wave of increased interest on a topic, and obtain a share of the user's increased attention. We do so by identifying the class of queries that can be considered as an opportunity for content providers that are 'late-comers' for a query, in the sense of not being among the first to write about its topic. We also present a simple model for predicting the click share content providers could obtain if they decide to provide content about these queries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-124
Number of pages18
JournalWeb Intelligence and Agent Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2013



  • Query log analysis
  • burstiness
  • news analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence

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