Commentary

Daily Search Engine Users Closing in On Email Users

Daily Search Engine Users Closing in On Email Users

According to a recently released PEW Internet study, the percentage of internet users who use search engines on a typical day has been steadily rising from about one-third of all users in 2002, to a new high of 49%. The number of those using a search engine on a typical day is pulling ever closer to the 60% of internet users who use email on a typical day.

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Underscoring the dramatic increase over time, the percentage of internet users who search on a typical day grew 69% from 2002 to May 2008. During the same six-year time period, the use of email on a typical day rose from 52% to 60%, for a growth rate of just 15%.

These new figures propel search further out of the pack, well ahead of other popular internet activities. This chart shows the percentage of internet users who did these activities "yesterday," which in a tracking survey like this one yields a picture of the "typical day" online (30% of internet users are offline on a typical day).

Daily Internet Activities (% Internet users who do this on a typical day) 

Activity

% of Search Users

Email

60%

Online search

49%

Check news

39%

Check weather

30%

Research hobby

29%

Surf web for fun

28%

Visit social Networking site

13%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

Internet users with higher levels of education are more likely to use search on a typical day, with those having at least some college education significantly more likely to do so than those with less education:

Education

% of Search Users

College graduate

+ 66% 

Some college

49%

High school graduate or less

32%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

Internet users living in higher-income households are more likely to use search on a typical day, with those having an income higher than $50,000 per year being significantly more likely than those with lower incomes:

Income

% Search Users

$75,000

+ 62%

$50,000 - 74,999

56%

$30,000 - 49,999

34%

<$30,000

36%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

Those who use broadband connections at home are significantly more likely than those who use dial-up to have ever tried using search engines at all, by 94% to 80%. They are dramatically more likely to search on a typical day:

Connection

% Search Users

Broadband at home

58%

Dial-up at home

26%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

Younger internet users have been consistently more likely to search on a typical day over the last five years of survey research.

Age

% Search Users

18 - 29 years

55%

30 - 49 years

54%

50 - 64 years

40%

65 years and older

27%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

While just about equal numbers of men (91%) and women (88%) report having ever used search engines at all, men who use the internet have consistently been more likely than women to integrate search into their daily lives:

Gender

% Search Users 

Men

53%

Women

45%

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

While the number of internet users who search on a typical day has been steadily rising, this is the second time since the Pew Internet Project began tracking search engine use that we have seen a demonstrable leap in the numbers. The first came in late 2005, when percentage of users searching on a typical day rose from about 30% from June 2004 to about 40% in September 2005, attributed to media coverage and search engine buzz.

Currently, the percentage of users searching on a typical day has risen again, from about 40% to 49%. This rapid increase PEW attributes to:

  • Expectation to find a high-performing, site-specific search engine on just about every content-rich website that has value
  • A growing mass of web content from blogs, news sites, image and video archives, personal websites, allows internet users to turn not only to the major search engines, but also to search engines on individual sites
  • The fact that fully 55% of American homes have a high speed internet connection, which has the strongest relationship with a user's propensity to use a search engine on a typical day
  • Finally, search engine sites have become so useful and well tuned that people turn to them for an increasingly broad range of questions 

Use of Online Search to Find Current Information(% of responding Internet users)

Response Date

Total Have Ever Done This

Did Yesterday

Have Not Done This

Don't Know/ Refused

   Current (5/19/08)

89%

49%

10%

*

   December 2006

91

41

9

1

   August 2006

88

42

11

*

   Nov/Dec 2005

91

38

9

1

   September 2005

90

41

9

*

   May/June 2004

84

30

16

*

   June 2003

89

31

10

1

   Jan 2002

85

29

14

1

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, August, 2008

For more information about the Pew Internet & American Life Project, please visit here for the PDF file.

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