How Important Is Search to Users?: eMarketer

Lisa E. Phillips, Senior Analyst

JANUARY 27, 2009 – The percentage of Internet users who are searching online varies by study, but its popularity is undeniable. According to the TNS �Digital World, Digital Life� report, 81% of Internet users worldwide used search engines in 2008�which raises the question, what are the other 19% doing?

In the US, 89% of all Internet users searched in April�May 2008. However, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found usage actually varied by access technology and location. Fewer dial-up users conducted searches than did people with a broadband connection at home, at 80% versus 94%. Internet users at home and at work used search in the same proportions�95% of each group.

Interestingly, the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future found that 21% of respondents used a search engine as their homepage in 2007�more than double the response in 2005. Internet portals such as Yahoo!, AOL and MSN declined in popularity as homepages between the two years.

Another indication that search is a necessary function for many Internet users is their willingness to pay for the privilege of using a Website. In October 2008, Rubicon Consulting polled 3,036 Internet users over the age of 12 about which sites they would pay to use if the fee were a nominal $2 per month. More than one-half (52%) said they would pay to use Google, with Yahoo! a distant second at 22% of respondents. Access to social media sites�YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook�was considered more imperative than to retail, auction and classified sites such as Amazon, eBay and craigslist.

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