November 20, 2005

Search engine use shoots up in the past year and edges towards email as the primary internet application

Washington — Search engines have become an increasingly important part of the online experience of American internet users. The most recent findings from Pew Internet & American Life tracking surveys and consumer behavior trends from the comScore Media Metrix consumer panel show that about 60 million American adults are using search engines on a typical day. These results from September 2005 represent a sharp increase from mid-2004. Pew Internet Project data from June 2004 show that use of search engines on a typical day has risen from 30% of the internet population to 41%. This means that the number of those using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million in June 2004 to about 59 million in September 2005 – an increase of about 55%. comScore data show that from September 2004 to September 2005 the average daily use of search engines jumped from 49.3 million users to 60.7 million users – an increase of 23%. This means that the use of search engines is edging up on email as a primary internet activity on any given day. The Pew Internet Project data show that on a typical day, email use is still the top internet activity. On any given day, about 52% of American internet users are sending and receiving email. These findings have considerable consequences for the way people gather and use information online and the way e-commerce is conducted. “Most people think of the internet as a vast library and they increasingly depend on search engines to help them find everything from information about the people who interest them, to transactions they want to conduct, organizations they need to deal with, and interesting factoids that help them settle bar bets and backyard arguments,” said Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet Project. “The evolution of search engines as everyday consumer Web tools has made them a vital resource for marketers,” said James Lamberti, vice president of comScore Networks. “Search engines are obviously a critical vehicle in reaching consumers during the buy cycle, but they also offer a rich source for consumer profiling, segmentation, and measurement of product demand. To-date, we have only witnessed the preliminary impact of search engines on e-commerce.” The latest data from comScore show that Google was the most heavily used search engine in October 2005 with 89.8 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo! Search (68 million unique visitors), MSN Search (49.7 million unique visitors), Ask Jeeves (43.7 million unique visitors), and AOL Search (36.1 million unique visitors). The Pew Internet Project findings cited in this report come from a nationally representative telephone survey of 2,251 American adults (age 18 and older), including 1,577 internet users, between September 13-October 14, 2005. The margin of error on the internet user portion of the survey is plus or minus 3%. The comScore data cited in this report come from comScore Media Metrix, an internet audience measurement service that uses a massive cross-section of more than 1.5 million U.S. consumers who have given comScore explicit permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing.