[Air-l] Re: counting google hits

Mike Thelwall m.thelwall at blueyonder.co.uk
Sun Mar 6 15:42:56 PST 2005

Re: "folks realize that using the "number of hits returned on google" is a
hilarious bad way to prove a point -- right?"

A couple of points for the debate from the webometrics research field...

The research field of webometrics uses search engines quite a lot for raw
data such as hit counts and link counts, and the findings indicate that
whilst there are individual anomalies, on average, hit counts tend to
reflect underlying real differences. This research is summarized in two
recent review chapters:
Bar-Ilan, J. (2004). The Use of Web Search Engines in Information Science
Research. In: Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 38
Thelwall, M., Vaughan, L. & Björneborn, L. (2005). Webometrics. In: Annual
Review of Information Science and Technology 39, 81-135.

However, you would probably guess that commercial search engines like Google
have a significant international bias, which should be taken in to account
when counting hits. But this bias is not deliberately manufactured or due to
language factors, it stems from the history of the web and the way in which
links are used in web crawling.
See: Vaughan, L. & Thelwall, M. (2004). Search engine coverage bias:
evidence and possible causes, Information Processing & Management, 40(4),

Mike Thelwall
Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group

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