Search Engine Use Explodes in December

People were doing a whole lot more online searching last month, and they were still largely using the Google engine to do it.

A comScore, Inc. study released late last week showed that 46% more online searches were made worldwide last month than in December, 2008. In all, the Web tracking firm said, people 15 and older conducted 131 billion searches just in December, or an average of 4 billion searches a day, 175 million per hour, and 29 million per minute.

"The global search market continues to grow at an extraordinary rate, with both highly developed and emerging markets contributing to the strong growth worldwide," said Jack Flanagan, comScore executive vice president, in a statement. "Search is clearly becoming a more ubiquitous behavior among Internet users that drives navigation not only directly from search engines but also within sites and across networks."

ComScore also noted that the online users in the United States conduct more searches than people anywhere else in the world. Americans accounted for 22.7 billion searches, or approximately 17% of all worldwide searches, last month.

"Forty-six percent year-to-year growth in search is certainly a big number, but not a shockingly big number," said Dan Olds, an analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group. "We know that search is the most heavily used Web mechanism and, with people conducting more and more of their personal business on the Web, it's natural that Web search is growing at a high rate. Factor in the search growth in countries where consumers are just now getting wide access to both computing and broadband, and it's easier to see how search grew at a nearly 50% clip from 2008 to 2009."

Search giant Google lived up to its reputation in 2009, accounting for 66.8%, or 87.8 billion, of all searches last month, according to comScore. Of the 131 billion searches conducted last month, 87.8 billion of them were done on Google's site. The Web tracker also noted that Google sites achieved a 58% increase in search query volume over the past year.

Yahoo came in second with 9.4 billion searches, which was an increase of 13%. Chinese search engine Baidu accounted for 8.5 billion searches, up 7% over the year-earlier period.

Microsoft's Bing , though, showed great gains. According to comScore, eight-month-old Bing was used for 4.1 billion searches, or 70% more than its predecessor LiveSearch was used for last December.

"Microsoft's Bing grew at a 70% rate, but that's from a pretty small base," said Olds. "According to the research, Microsoft search sites are creeping up on Google, but are still far behind in total use. Yahoo fares better, but had a lower growth rate. Of course, coupling Yahoo's larger user base with the Microsoft search growth rate in order to take on Google is the goal of the Yahoo/MS partnership."

Yandex, a Russian search engine, showed the largest gains in the markets, growing by 91% to 1.9 billion searches.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld . Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , send e-mail to sgaudin@computerworld.com or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

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