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Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Search Is Second Most Popular Online Activity

Approximately 38 million Americans use search engines each day, making search second only to e-mail as the most popular online activity according to a new report.

The report, "Data Memo On Search Engines," is the result of a nationwide telephone survey of almost 1,399 Internet users conducted between May 14 and June 17 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and comScore Networks.

Of online Americans, 107 million, or 84 percent, use search engines. More than half of those online use search engines on any given day and two-thirds use search engines several times each week. Approximately 64 million American adults are online each day, 38 million of them using search engines.

Although search ranks behind only e-mail as the most popular online activity, when major news stories break usage of online news often spikes in popularity, eclipsing search engines.

Improvement in search technology and increased skill at searching prompted survey respondents to say they locate the information they are seeking 87 percent of the time when using a search engine. In a show of bravado, 92 percent of searchers surveys expressed confidence in their search skills, claiming they can find what they want when searching online.

Search has become a venue for seeking vital information, with 44 percent indicating they use search engines to locate information they consider critical.

Survey respondents expressed preferences for different search engines: 47 percent named Google as their first choice for search followed by 26 percent for Yahoo. Loyalty to particular search engines is strong with 44 percent claiming they use one search engine exclusively and 48 percent using two or three different search engines.

Research conducted by comScore in February 2004, found that users of Google performed 56 percent of the searches at Google. Yahoo users visited Yahoo for 43 percent of their searches and MSN users went to MSN for 26 percent of their searching.

Tracking of Internet usage among the top 25 search engines conducted by comScore Networks revealed that:

In June 2004, Americans carried out 3.9 billion searches. Of those searches, 49 percent originated from work-based computers, 44 percent from home-based computers, and seven percent from university-based computers. During an average search-engine session, users performed 4.4 searches.

Users typically scroll through 1.8 pages of search results. In June 2004, the average user performed 33 searches and spent 41 minutes at search engines sites. In March 2004, approximately seven percent of searches included a local modifier. Examples of local modifiers include city and state names, phone numbers, and the words "map" or "directions." Approximately seven percent of searches carried out in June 2004 originated from browser toolbars. According to comScore estimates, between 40 and 45 percent of searches generate sponsored results. The non-profit Pew Internet and American Life Project produces original reports that examine how the Internet affects American families, communities, work places, homes, education, health care, and daily and public life. The project is based in Washington, D.C.

Headquartered in Reston, Va., comScore Networks is a consumer behavior consultancy and provider of solutions for marketing, sales, and trading strategies.

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