The comparative effectiveness of sponsored and nonsponsored links for Web e-commerce queries

Bernard J. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The predominant business model for Web search engines is sponsored search, which generates billions in yearly revenue. But are sponsored links providing online consumers with relevant choices for products and services? We address this and related issues by investigating the relevance of sponsored and nonsponsored links for e-commerce queries on the major search engines. The results show that average relevance ratings for sponsored and nonsponsored links are practically the same, although the relevance ratings for sponsored links are statistically higher. We used 108 ecommerce queries and 8,256 retrieved links for these queries from three major Web search engines: Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. In addition to relevance measures, we qualitatively analyzed the e-commerce queries, deriving five categorizations of underlying information needs. Product-specific queries are the most prevalent (48%). Title (62%) and summary (33%) are the primary basis for evaluating sponsored links with URL a distant third (2%). To gauge the effectiveness of sponsored search campaigns, we analyzed the sponsored links from various viewpoints. It appears that links from organizations with large sponsored search campaigns are more relevant than the average sponsored link. We discuss the implications for Web search engines and sponsored search as a long-term business model and as a mechanism for finding relevant information for searchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalACM Transactions on the Web
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications


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