What We Search For

The Pew Internet Project has released a fascinating report detailing just how important search engines are to web users, with some interesting statistics about the most common kinds of information people search for.

The report, based on extensive research, surveys, and analysis, says that more than eight in ten American internet users have gone to search engines to find information on the Web. Further, more than one in four, or about 33 million adults, use a search engine on a daily basis.

Fully 85% of American internet users have used an online search engine to find information on the Web. Only sending or reading email outranks search-engine queries as an online activity.

The study also examined individual differences and search engine use. Some of the key findings:

- Men are more likely than women to use a search engine on a typical day (33%, compared to 25% of women).

- College graduates are also more likely to use a search engine on a typical day (39%, compared to 20% of high school graduates).

- Internet users who have been online for three or more years are also heavy search engine users (39% on a typical day, compared to 14% of those who got access in the last six months).

Have you ever searched for information about yourself? If so, you're not alone. About one in four Internet users has typed their own names into a search engine to see what information about them is on the Web. About half found what they expected, but 24% of vanity searchers were surprised by how much information they found about themselves online, and 16% were surprised by how little information they found.

The report also examined how people search for health, government and religious information. There's a lot of good information here, especially about the quality of information and satisfaction with online resources.

SearchDay readers likely won't be surprised by many of the findings in the report, though it's nice to see some hard data from a reputable source like the Pew Internet Project.

Search Engines: A Pew Internet Project Data Memo
The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a nonpartisan, independent research organization funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to study the impact of the Internet on families, communities, health care, education, civic and political life, and the work place.

Daily Internet Activities
A chart detailing the percentage of 64 million U.S. based internet users who do a specific online activity on any given day.

Internet Activities
Another chart detailing the percentage of Internet Users who have ever done a particular online activity. Using a search engine is the second most common activity, just behind email in popularity.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Online search engines news
BT LookSmart buys UK Plus...
The Register Jul 25 2002 12:03PM GMT
Domain name news
ICANN moves against VeriSign retired domain land grab...
The Register Jul 25 2002 8:39AM GMT
XML and metadata news
Your World, Online: Setting Up a Weblog...
New York Times Jul 25 2002 3:18AM GMT
Online search engines news
Net Users Try to Elude the Google Grasp...
New York Times Jul 25 2002 2:22AM GMT
Inktomi To Acquire Quiver, Inc...
EContent Jul 25 2002 2:20AM GMT
Search Engine Gigablast Enters Beta...
Research Buzz Jul 24 2002 6:36PM GMT
Top internet stories
The New Napsters...
Fortune Jul 24 2002 6:22PM GMT
Technology features
Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley: 'This Is War'...
Fortune Jul 24 2002 6:22PM GMT
Top internet stories
Is this the web's finest hour?...
Silicon.com Jul 24 2002 1:33PM GMT
Online search engines news
LookSmart Unveils Reporting Center...
SiliconValley.Internet.com Jul 24 2002 4:06AM GMT
Domain name news
Cybersquatter ordered to give up domain names...
Pioneer Planet Jul 24 2002 1:24AM GMT
Online search engines news
Start-up asking for Jeeves customers...
CNET Jul 23 2002 8:02PM GMT
Online portals news
AOL investors may have to wait for new CEO's plan...
CNET Jul 23 2002 5:06PM GMT
powered by Moreover.com

About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.