Search Engine Users

The PEW Internet & American Life Project released its “Search Engine Users” Report January 23rd, 2005. I’ve printed it and given it a quick read today.


  • The average user spends about 43 minutes a month doing 34 searches, viewing 2 pages per search (I search way more than that)
  • 92% of searchers feel “confident” in their searching abilities. Only 27% of them actually find what they’re looking for every time. Is that a mistake of finding something, not the thing?
  • 44% of searchers stick to a single search engine. Only 7% use more than 3 search engines – they tend to be the most confident of finding things, take their searching more importantly than others, and search multiple engines deliberately, knowing some engines are better at different tasks than others (I’m squarely in this group).
  • That single-engine 44% sticks with (usually Google) because it’s usable to them, without them necessarily knowing so. Stated reasons include speed/accuracy/comprehensive results. They don’t know better. Or they might suspect, but don’t care.
  • “92% of users demonstrated that if they were unsatisfied with results from a search, they would rather launch another search at the same engine than switch to another search engine[.]” This suggests a willingness to accept responsibility for not finding something at an engine due to “not asking the question correctly” instead of considering first, “the answer may not be here”. Trust or Laziness?
  • 68% of users think search engines are “fair and unbiased”. 60% of users (in a different study?) didn’t know some listings in search results are paid ads. Only 1 in 6 users can tell an ad from a result. 54% of those users who recognize ads click on them anyway. So go ahead and advertise in the biggest search engines. The users just assume it’s really what they’re looking for.