Some 84% of adult internet users, about 108 million Americans, have used search engines to help them find information on the Web. Only the act of sending and receiving email, with about 120 million users, eclipses searching in popularity as an internet activity.
On an average day, about 68 million Americans, or about 53% of internet users, will go online. More than half of them, over 38 million people, will use a search engine. Again, second in popularity only to sending or receiving email, searching is becoming a daily habit for about a third of all internet users.
American internet users pose about 4 billion queries per month. Many of these include popular queries like “Britney Spears” or “The Bible,” and many others include unique search terms reflecting a user’s personal interest or need.
Popular search engines retrieve and index only a fraction of the countless tens of billions of pages on the Web. Google, the leader in sheer numbers, recently announced the company had doubled the number of their indexed pages to 8 billion; Microsoft indexes 5 billion; Yahoo is estimated to index about 4 billion, and AskJeeves about 2.3 billion pages.1 Promises of more and more searchable data seem to emerge regularly, from searching local listings to searching inside books. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of search engines in the world, although just a few capture a high proportion of the audience. Users can search in a multitude of languages.
While searchers vary dramatically in their habits, the average user spends a total of about 43 minutes a month conducting some 34 searches, viewing on average 1.9 pages per search.2 The term “average user” belies the wide variety of styles among searchers: slightly more than one third of adults polled here, 35%, will conduct a search at least once a day, with the most enthusiastic of them, about two thirds of that group, searching at least several times a day. Roughly another third, 36%, searches less than daily but at least weekly. And just under a third, 29%, searches every few weeks or less.