Nearly all searchers consider themselves successful in their searching. Some 87% of searchers say they have successful search experiences: some 17% of users say they always find the information they’re looking for, and an additional 70% say they find the information they’re looking for most of the time.
A look at those searching for health-related information online demonstrates this expression of success. Some 66% of internet users, over 53 million people, have looked for health information online. In a 2002 Pew Internet Project report, about 80% of health seekers reported that in their most recent search they found what they were looking for. Of the 20% who said they were not successful in their search, some 14% said they ran out of time and 6% gave up their search. Of those who were successful, 61% said the information was very easy to find; 33% somewhat easy to find.
In another study, an independent observer evaluated searchers’ success in finding information online. Fifty-four searchers were tasked with looking for five different types of information, ranging from finding tax forms to finding a site that compares various presidential candidates’ views on abortion. Respondents were observed and graded on the success of their searches. The findings were similarly positive. In 4 of the 5 assigned searches, the success rate ranged from 85% to 94%. In the remaining search, 61% of respondents were successful.
While a sense of success is widespread among all searchers, the 17% of searchers who say they always find their answers are more serious and positive about their searching.
For the most successful searchers, the act of searching online is more ingrained into their everyday lives: 37% search several times a day, compared to 22% of the usually successful and 9% of the least successful searchers. These searchers are more serious about and invested in the searching they do than others. Some 47% say they couldn’t live without search engines, compared to 32% of those who are mostly successful, and 18% of those who are rarely successful.
While over half of all kinds of searchers will strike a balance of searching in earnest and searching for fun, those searchers who say they’re mostly successful are a bit more serious in their searches. About 30% of those who describe themselves as successful searchers look for mostly important information, compared to 14% of the less successful searchers, who tend to look more often for more trivial information.
Successful searchers are confident searchers. Some 78% of those who always get positive search results are very confident searchers, compared to 46% of those who get results most of the time and only 17% of those who are rarely successful in their searches.
Searchers seem to take to searching very quickly, considering themselves successful even if they aren’t as confident as veteran searchers. Searchers who are new to the internet generally consider themselves as successful at their searching as those who have been online for a long time.
There is a notion in some circles that searching on the internet is so easy and the sense of “successful” searching is so attainable that legitimate standards of research have been lost or compromised. The recent Wellesley study looked at how students conducted internet searches, and showed that students would largely stop researching at the first answer they found, than persist by looking at multiple sources.