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Search, Search, Search…

Yeah, I’ve been searchin’

A-a searchin’

Oh, yeah, searchin’ every which a-way

Most of today’s online users probably aren’t familiar with the Coaster’s hit of the 60’s, but they know the feeling.

According to a new study just released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Search engines have become an increasingly important part of the online experience of American internet users.” On an average day, nearly 60 million people use search engines.

Over the past year there has been a sharp increase in search activity. From June 2004 to Septemeber 2005 the use of search engines on a typical day rose from 30% to 41% of the internet-using population, which itself has grown in the past year.

At the same time, the total number of people using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million to about 59 million — an increase of roughly 55%.

comScore Media Metrix data, derived from a different methodology, show that from September 2004 to September 2005 the average daily use of search engines jumped from 49.3 million users to 60.7 million — an increase of 23%.

In either case, it is clear that the use of search engines is edging up on e-mail as the primary internet activity on any given day.

However, the Pew data shows that on a typical day, e-mail use is still the most popular internet activity. On any given day, about 52% of US Internet users send and receive e-mail, up from 45% in June of 2004.

Obviously, e-mail continues to be a powerful application accounting for a great part of users’ online time and attention.

Overall, there is little difference between the sizes of the e-mailing population and the search-engine using population. Pew data shows that 91% of all Internet users have at one time sent or receive e-mail, compared to 90% of Internet users have used search engines.

To put e-mail use and search-engine use in perspective, Pew compared them to other Internet activities on an average day.

According to the latest comScore data, Google is the most heavily-used search engine. In October 2005 the site had 89.8 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo! Search with 68 million unique visitors.

For more information on this topic, read eMarketer’s Search Engine Marketing report.