The effect of search engine optimisation on the search results of web search engines: model development, empirical testing and triangulation with user and expert assessments (SEO effect)

The overall goal of the project is to describe and explain the role of search engine optimisation from the perspective of the participating stakeholder groups by analysing search results/search result pages for optimised content as well as quantitative and qualitative surveys of search engine users, search engine optimisers and content providers. Thus the external influence on the results of commercial search engines can be described and quantified for the first time. The project contributes to theory building in information science by extending existing information-seeking models with a component of external influence on the search results.The project focuses on informative content; it examines how documents that play a role in answering information-oriented search queries can be influenced externally. This sets the project apart from pure questions of online marketing, where the focus is on the optimisation itself and not on the consequences for the compilation of result sets. To measure the effect of search engine optimisation, a software will be developed that can automatically query search engines and analyse the results returned. The results of the search result analyses carried out using it are combined with findings from the survey and further investigations of search engine users, search engine optimisers and content providers in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the influence of search engine optimisation. Methodologically, the project is characterised by a triangulation of methods of data analysis from computer science and social science methods. The interdisciplinary basis of the analysis is unique and will significantly advance the understanding of search engines in general and the influence search engine optimisation has in particular. With search engine optimisation, the project addresses a highly relevant topic for information seeking in society, which takes place to a considerable extent via commercial search engines. The expected empirical and theoretical results will contribute to a better understanding of information seeking in the context of modern web infrastructures. At the level of transfer into practice, the results will be relevant to issues such as consumer protection.


Working papers

Research data
The research data of all project parts is available from the OSF database via DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/JYV9R.

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German Research Foundation
Faculty of Design, Media and Information