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

Adan Ortiz-Cordova, Yanwu Yang, Bernard J. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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 (US)
Pages (from-to)718-736
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Processing and Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 4 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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