Nine in 10 (92%) of online adults use search engines to find information on the web, including 59% who do so on a typical day, according to [pdf] data released in August 2011 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew research indicates 92% of adults also use email, with 61% using it on a typical day.
The rates of online adults performing most common online activities have remained fairly stable since 2002, with email use increasing 8% from 85% that year. Getting news online and buying products online have also moderately increased since 2002.
However, the rate of online adults performing social networking has boomed since 11% were initially tracked using social networks in 2004. That figure has more than sextupled to 69% in 2011.
Young, Educated, Wealthy Most Apt to Use Search
There are no significant differences in search use by gender or ethnic background. However, search is most popular among the youngest adult internet users (those age 18-29), 96% of whom use search engines to find information online. But even among the oldest internet users (age 65+), 87% are search engine users.
In addition, adults who have attended college (96%) and the highest income adults (98%) make more use of search engines to gather information online when compared with other adults. The widest discrepancy exists between college educated adults and adults with some high school education (81%), who are about 16% less likely to use search engines.
These same groups: young adults, the college-educated, and higher income adults, are also the most likely to use search engines daily. Discrepancies in daily search are much greater than discrepancies in overall search. For example, 75% of college graduates perform daily search, about 2.6 times the 29% of those with less than a high school diploma; and 78% of the wealthiest online adults use search engines daily, roughly double the 38% of those without a high school diploma.
Email Results Similar to Search Results
Email is similar to search (and many other online activities) in that the youngest online adults, the college-educated, and those in the highest income categories are more likely than others to engage in the activity.
However, discrepancies in overall use by income are much less pronounced, although similar discrepancies exist when comparing daily email use rates.
Pew data shows that email is also similar to search in that while some of these demographic differences were present in 2002, some were not. In 2002, college graduates were the most likely to use email, as were adults with household incomes of $75,000 or more. However, 2002 surveys also showed that overall, women were slightly more likely than men to ever use email, and white online adults were more likely than African-American online adults to ever use email. These two differences are no longer statistically significant.
comScore: 4 of top 5 Search Sites Lose Explicit Queries
Despite the high prevalence of search engine use, four of the top five US search providers saw the total number of explicit core search queries conducted decline between May and June 2011, according to comScore. Google lost 2%, going from 11.15 billion to 10.95 billion, while Yahoo also lost 2%, going from 2.71 billion to 2.65 billion.
Fourth place Ask Network and fifth place AOL, Inc. saw their relatively small totals drop 5% and 6%, respectively, while Microsoft remained essentially flat at about 2.4 billion. There were no significant changes in core search share, with Google maintaining the lead with a flat 65.5% share.
About the Data: The Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed 2,277 national adults, age 18 and older, including 755 cell phone interviews, between April 26 and May 22, 2011.