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Let's take the 3 big SE's and have a look at their Search Suggestions:

Bing, Google and Yahoo!.

When you begin typing in the search box on the homepage of each search engine, a suggestion list appears. The more you type, the more the suggestions change (or get added to).

Are these search suggestions based on the most popular searches performed by others, or are these search suggestions based on relevance (what it may "think" you're going to type next)?

So basically, it is popularity or relevance? Or is it a smart combination of both? And if possible, can you please back your answers up with any supporting documentation?

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I can't be completely sure of that, but on Google, the autocompletion must be a mix of the relevance (personalized results) and of the popularity, of course I think that the more they know you, the more It will be based on relevance. I think that it might be about the same thing on the other search engines.

And I haven't any documentation, all that I tell you is based on my personal experience, since I saw some suggestions directly linked to what I like, and some other one linked to some subjects that an important amount of people are searching on Google, but that aren't interesting me at all !

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Google incorporates all of the following criteria (among others) into their autocomplete functionality:

  • Searches you've done in the past
  • Google+ Profiles
  • Searches done by other users on the web (and popularity of those searches)
  • Spell Checking Suggestions
  • Locale

https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/106230

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