free html hit counter How We Search - John Battelle's Search Blog

How We Search

By - July 12, 2005

SEW has a good summary of how Americans search, from a Harris Interactive study.

What are people searching for? Most people (88%)said they were researching specific topics—specifically, information about hobbies. And women (61%) were more likely to search for health and medical information than men (35%). Surprisingly few people researching specific topics are looking for job or career information (28%).

Other common things people use search for include:

* Getting directions/maps – 75%

* Looking for news – 64%

* Shopping – 51%

* Looking for entertainment web sites – 47%

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6 thoughts on “How We Search

  1. Please take these numbers with a grain of salt: they seem to be based on a survey. In other words, asking people to self-report, based on memory, what they think they did.

    What people say and what they do are two different things, and the only way to know people’s actual behavior is to watch them, not ask them.

    In particular, there seems to be much confusion between “searching” and “researching”, and many less-technical users are bound to mis-remember what they did last week in terms of more detailed classifications.

  2. yunasville says:

    I am pretty surprised to see there are only 13% loyal Google searchers. Haven’t we turned “Google” into a verb recently? “Let’s google this… let’s google that… ”
    According to the Nielsen/NetRatings study back in 2003, the total search hours at each site during a month period are: : 18,700,000 hours 15,500,500 hours 7,100,000 hours 5,400,000 hours 2,300,000 hours
    Although the data is almost 2 years ago, but it gives you a pretty good idea…

  3. Connie says:

    Fascinating study. Thanks for posting info about it! I’m new here — love your site, John — found it from the recent New York Times article in which you were mentioned. (

    Like Yunasville, I’m completely startled that Google isn’t more popular! Can this be accurate? I wonder. It seems like people are always talking about doing Google searches — not Yahoo or MSN searches!

    I’m also very heartened by the stats that women (61%) were more likely to search for health and medical information than men (35%). (I’m mentioning this on my blog — can you guess — it’s a health blog!)

    By the way, I wish I’d found your blog earlier! I’m intrigued by the fact that you posted on your blog while writing your book, as The New York Times article noted. I just finished writing my first book (but only recently started my blog). Thanks for the idea! That would have been wonderful to post blog entries all the while! (I did, however, run a Yahoo support group the entire time so I was in constant contact with my audience.)

    I’m looking forward to reading your book!


  4. Depending on the accuracy of that survey it could prove to be useful in website design decisions. Do you have any more info on it?

  5. Helen says:

    I usually search for information about things I do not know. Not news just explanation of whatever. E.g. how to do snowboard tricks or what is the difference between merger and take-over.

  6. dave mac says:

    In the UK the majority of searches are for businesses such as or for adult websites. Saying that we are now finding comparison websites are taking off.