Web searches for religious topics on the rise

Dec 07, 2009

Religion is not just for churches, synagogues or mosques anymore -- it's a topic that is being actively searched for online, according to researchers at Penn State.

The researchers examined how people use search engines to locate religious information online. They analyzed more than 5.5 million searches collected from three Web search engines between 1997 and 2005 to investigate attributes of religious searching on the Web.

The religious landscape within the United States has been described as increasingly secularized and factionalized. However, Jim Jansen, associate professor, information sciences and technology and his colleagues, Andrea Tapia, assistant professor, information sciences and technology and Amanda Spink, professor, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, found from looking at religious Web searching behaviors that no evidence of secularization exists, and that religious and religious-related interests held steady and were generally mainstream.

They also found that the results dispelled the stereotype that religious people are not as accustomed to technology as non-religious people.

"Our results showed that people searching for these religious topics were just as tactically skilled as the general Web population," said Jansen. "This actually fits well with the historical use of technology by religious groups and organizations."

There was a general increase in religious searching over time, which may be due to the advancement in technology, increased availability of religious content online and a change in the Web population.

"In the days of the earlier data sets, there were limited topics online," Jansen said. "As the Internet and Web became more main stream, a cornucopia of topics emerged -- religion was one."

Jansen also evaluated how well search engines delivered relevant content in response to religious queries, finding that the search engines preformed poorly.

"I don't believe it is an intentional bias on the part of the search engines," he said. "It is probably due to the localized nature of many religious sites. Small businesses face similar issues in trying to get ranked within the search engines."

Source: Pennsylvania State University (news : web)

Explore further: Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers classify Web searches

Apr 10, 2008

Although millions of people use Web search engines, researchers show that – by using relatively simple methods – most queries submitted can be classified into one of three categories.

If at first you don't succeed, let the search engine try

Jun 05, 2009

No matter how good a search engine is, it is sometimes necessary to change the search terms to get the information you need. But what if you did not have to change the search terms yourself? What if the search engine could ...

Recommended for you

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

18 hours ago

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

Jul 23, 2014

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

Jul 23, 2014

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2009
Not everybody searching for an item which can be related to religion is necessarily interested in religion.
The topic of interest could as well be history, language, or literature.
not rated yet Dec 09, 2009
Hopefully the reason is examine and ridicule the myths and silly customs of ALL religions - only thru humour may we jam the genie back in the bottle and get on with being human and not servile worshippers of foolish godheads.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 11, 2009
Hopefully the reason is examine and ridicule the myths and silly customs of ALL religions
Why not the myths and silly customs which aren't related to any religion, too?
not rated yet Jan 11, 2010
I imagine the majority of searches are being made by atheists and non-Christans. They are looking up scripture to see where it says that Christians should use the Bible as a weapon. They are probably tired of being told they are swine, dogs and worse. Those loving Christians have twisted scripture beyond recognition to satisfy their carnal needs. Their egos have surpassed their heads capacity to contain them. All in the name of Jesus. Some are a disgrace to their religion and are the major cause for so many people turning away from Christ. They are full of self. The exact opposite of Christs message. So that is why there is so much interest in searching religious topics. We have learned to fight fire with fire. They conveniently pick and choose which scripture they are going to live by. The gate is narrow and many of them will never see the other side of it.