According to data released this month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 92% of adults use search engines, with 59% using one on a typical day. But what's most compelling is that, despite the significant growth in social media usage over the past several years, search and email are still on top as the most popular online activities.

search engine use graph

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 using social networks has really boomed since 2004, when only 11% were using social networks. 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 ages 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, which is roughly double the 38% of those without a high school diploma.

Marketing Takeaway

With search and email still topping the list of the most popular online activities, marketers must be sure not neglect these important channels just to take advantage of the rise in popularity of social media. Remember, successful internet marketing strategies leverage various tactics, channels, and platforms, including social media, email marketing, and SEO. Make sure your marketing strategy has a healthy mix of multiple channels and isn't relying too much on just one strategy.

Are you leveraging your long-tail keywords and your in-house email lists to maximize the results of your inbound marketing program?


Originally published Aug 11, 2011 8:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016

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SEO