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Equal representation by search engines? A comparison of websites across countries and domains

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Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

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The study examined search engine coverage of websites across countries and domains. Websites in four domains (commercial, educational, governmental, and organizational) from four countries (U.S., China, Singapore, and Taiwan) were randomly sampled by custom-built computer programs and then manually filtered for their suitability for the study. Representation of the 1,664 sampled sites in four major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Yahoo! China) was examined in terms of whether the site was covered and the number of pages indexed by the search engines. The study found that U.S. sites received higher coverage rates than their counterparts in other countries. The language of a site did not affect the site's chance of being indexed by search engines. Sites that were more visible had a higher chance of being indexed, but this factor did not seem to explain the differentiated coverage across countries. Yahoo! China provided better coverage of sites from China and surrounding regions than its global counterpart, Yahoo!. The poor coverage of Chinese commercial and governmental sites is noted and the implications are discussed in light of the tremendous development of the Web in China. © 2007 International Communication Association.

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