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Refereed Papers

Track: Search: Query Analysis

Paper Title:
Spatial Variation in Search Engine Queries


  • Lars Backstrom(Cornell University)
  • Jon Kleinberg(Cornell University)
  • Ravi Kumar(Yahoo! Research)
  • Jasmine Novak(Yahoo! Research)

Local aspects of Web search --- associating Web content and queries with geography --- is a topic of growing interest. However, the underlying question of how spatial variation is manifested in search queries is still not well understood. Here we develop a probabilistic framework for quantifying such spatial variation; on complete Yahoo! query logs, we find that our model is able to localize large classes of queries to within a few miles of their natural centers based only on the distribution of activity for the query. Our model provides not only an estimate of a query's geographic center, but also a measure of its spatial dispersion, indicating whether it has highly local interest or broader regional or national appeal. We also show how variations on our model can track geographically shifting topics over time, annotate a map with each location's "distinctive queries," and delineate the "spheres of influence" for competing queries in the same general domain.

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