Sizing Web Search & Search Marketing: Key Stats, Forecasts & Metrics

Search engines have become an increasingly important part of the online experience of American internet users. Of the 94 million American adults that use internet on an average day, nearly 60 million people use a search engine, according to PEW Internet and American Life Project.  Americans conducted 6.6 billion searches online in September 2006, up 2% versus August, according to comScore Networks. Some 879 million toolbar searches were conducted in September, accounting for 13% of the total U.S. search market.

To help size up the growing significance of search and search marketing, we have compiled here  a rich compendium of revealing stats, facts, forecasts and metrics.

The total number of web sites has crossed the 100 million milestone, gaining 3.5 million sites last month, according to Netcraft's November survey. 

According to estimates, the existing number of web pages on the Internet as of last year was around 200 billion. Even the search giant Google doesn't cover even half of the web as aims to expand their index size to 100 billion web pages .

Most people seem to prefer 2 word phrases in search engines. Of all the search phrases world wide, 28.9% of the people use 2 word phrases, 27.9% use 3 word phrases and 17.1% use 4 word phrases, according to

Although email is the most popular internet activity tracked in Pew Internet Project work., the use of search engines is growing faster and could edge up on email as a primary internet activity on any given day.

Where Does Search Begin? - By Region

Total Respondents

Singapore India


United Kingdom

United States

Search engine












Topic-specific Web sites






E-mail information subscriptions






Online news






Instant messaging/online chat






Online bookstore






Online database






Library Web site






Source: Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, OCLC, 2005


Paid search has outperformed other online marketing tactics in click-through and conversion rates, according to a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa.

A study by iCrossing reveals that most adults who buy online rely on search engines to research their purchases.

  • 88% of adults who purchase items online conduct some sort of online research at least sometimes prior to completing their purchase.4
  • 67% of U.S. adults who research online before making a purchase decision use search engines as a research tool.4
  • 40% of those conducting online research go to search engines first. Nearly equal percentages of respondents who use search engines to research products online use them to find a web site from which to buy (54%) or investigate where to purchase their desired product (53%).4

Another research by iProspect further explores user behavior, revealing that:

  • 62% of search engine users click on a search result within the first page of results, and 
  • 90% of search engine users click on a result within the first three pages of search results. 

An October 2004 MarketingSherpa study of b-to-b buyers reports that nearly 64% of b-to-b businesspeople said search engines are the first place they look when they are online researching a major purchase.

Over 70% of all job seekers reported using newspapers and online ads to look for employment, but most job offers of 38.2% are attributed to the Internet search, according to a recent research from  The Conference Board.

A recent Compete’s study (commissioned by Google!) found that in the second quarter of 2006, search generated 58% more referrals than automotive portals in aggregate to , up from 20% in the first quarter. 

New Study by comScore Networks Sponsored by Google Reveals 63% of Search-Related Purchases Occur in Offline Retail Stores, while 25% of searchers purchased an item directly related to their query, and out of those buyers, 37% completed their purchase online.  

The study, sponsored by Google, entitled “The Role of Search in Consumer Buying” examined the impact of Web search (excluding comparison shopping sites) on consumers’ holiday-related purchases completed online and offline during November and December 2005, across 11 product categories. 

Paid search has a slight 9% edge in conversion rates over organic search, according to the WebSideStory Index, a compilation of e-commerce, site search and global Internet user trends.

Search engine marketing was a $5.75 billion industry in 2005 and it will nearly double to $11.1 billion in 2010, according to SEMPO's (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) latest industry survey. In 2006, search marketing spending will total about $7.2 billion and increase by 15.3% to $8.3 billion in 2007.

The SEMPO survey found that the bulk of the SEM spending was spent in 2005 on paid placement, accounting for 83% or $4.7 billion. While 4 out of 5 advertisers report they engage in organic search engine optimization (SEO), organic SEO accounted for approximately 11% of overall spending; paid inclusion accounted for just 4% of overall spending; and SEM technologies, including leasing, agency solutions and in-house development, accounted for less than 2% of overall spending.

The paid search industry, which generated an estimated $10 billion globally in 2005, is expected to grow 41% in 2006 and generate more than $14 billion globally, with Google growing its net revenues by more than 58% during the year, according to two research notes released this week by Safa Rashtchy, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray (Analyst Report via ClickZ). 

Over the next five years, Piper Jaffray estimates the paid search industry will grow at a 37% CAGR to more than $33 billion in 2010

In a surprising finding, the SEMPO study found that the majority of search marketers (62%) said branding was the primary objective of search marketing campaigns. Nearly as many, however (60%), said that selling products was a key objective of search marketing. 

comScore qSearch:  U.S. Search Engine Rankings based on its qSearch analysis of activity across competitive search engines. 

Share of Online Searches in U.S. – September 2006





Pt. Chg vs. Previous Month*

Google Sites.





Yahoo! Sites





Microsoft Sites





Ask Network





Time Warner Network





Source: comScore qSearch

Nielsen//NetRatings: Top U.S. search providers, ranked by total searches, according to Nielsen//NetRatings reports. Searches represent the total number of queries conducted at the provider.

Top 10 Search Providers in U.S. - September 2006



Searches (000)

Y/Y Growth

Share of Searches


Google Search





Yahoo! Search





MSN/Live Search





AOL Search




5. Search





My Way Search





EarthLink Search





BellSouth Search





iWon Search




      10. Search




Source: Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Search, October 2006

HitwiseThe top 4 leading search engines based on US Internet usage, ranked by volume of searches for the 4 weeks ending September 30, 2006.

US - Leading Search Engines - September, 2006
Rank Search Engine Volume
1. 60.93%
2. 22.29%
3. 10.84%
4. 4.28%
Source: Hitwise, Sept. 2006 - based on volume of searches.

According to a local search market study, 63% of U.S. Internet users (or approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July, a 43% increase versus July of 2005, reports comScore Networks.  Google Sites (30%) and Yahoo! Sites (29%) garnered the largest share of local searches in July.  Microsoft Sites captured 12% of local searches, followed by the Time Warner Network with 7%.  

Local search is experiencing strong growth as approximately 849 million local searches were conducted by Americans in July. Local search is defined as searches conducted by consumers on the local or directory (Yellow Pages) sections of leading search sites, and other searches identified as having local intent. 

Share of Local Searches by Site July 2006
Total U.S. Home, Work and University Locations

 Web Property

Total Local Searches

Google Sites


Yahoo! Sites


Microsoft Sites


Time Warner Network


Verizon Communications



Ask Network



InfoSpace Network



All Other


Source: comScore qSearch

The search engines are taking on local media, offering a new form of targeted advertising for real estate, automotive, legal and other advertisers. Local online advertising will grow to a $7.7 billion category in 2007, reflecting 31.6% growth over 2006, according to Borrell Associates. Local paid search is approaching $1 billion this year and will jump 86% in 2007 to reach $1.8 billion. Local online ad spending will continue to migrate toward more targeted forms of online advertising such as e-mail and paid search as local paid search category reaches some $4.0 billion in 2010 as the overall local online ad spending surpasses $9 billion mark. 

  • An estimated 68 million U.S. Internet users performed an Internet Yellow Pages search online in July, according to comScore Networks analysis. 
  • The global Yellow Pages industry employed more than 73,000 people worldwide in 2004, and generated revenue of US$28.9 billion with the industry market valuation in excess of US$100 billion, according to The Kelsey Group.
  • Global local search revenues (Internet Yellow Pages, local search and wireless) will increase 30.5% from $3.4 billion in 2005 to $13 billion in 2010, according to The Kelsey Group.


Worldwide spend on mobile advertising is forecast to rise to $11.35 billion by 2011, up from $871 million this year, according to Informa Telecoms & Media report "Mobile Advertising Services: generating revenue through subsidised content". Infroma forecasts that search-related mobile ad revenue will climb to $1.5 billion in 2011, up from just $3 million this year.

  • In September Verizon Wireless debuted its free Get It Now search service, using technology from search startup Medio Systems while Cingular is reportedly working with another mobile search startup, JumpTap, reports IBD. Other startups active in mobile search include 4Info, Promptu and V-Enable. Several startups are also developing voice-based mobile search. 
  • Portal-backed wireless voice search will reach 1.45 billion queries in 2010, according to The Kelsey Group, representing 18% of total DA call volume in the U.S.
  • In the latest sign of growing interest in mobile search, upstart 4Info is expected to announce a $7.5 million funding round from U.S. Ventures
  • According to Piper Jaffray, the global mobile search market will generate $11 billion of revenue by 2008. V-ENABLE will be hoping that this technology will put them at the forefront of that market as users and service providers look for new ways to deal with the explosion of content that is now available.


Recently, there's been an increased interest in vertical search engines that are designed around a specific business type or sector. Vertical engines attract people looking for a specific genre of information, unlike traditional search engines that count both consumers and businesspeople among their users.

As the paid search market more than doubles from $2.6 billion in 2004 to $5.5 billion in 2009, that growth will be driven by the "four horsemen" of vertical search, according to a new study by JupiterResearch. The study finds that paid search is densely concentrated within primary categories, or verticals: retail, financial services, travel, and media and entertainment. These "four horsemen" accounted for 79% of $2.6 billion spent on paid search in the U.S. in 2004.  

Outsell projects that B2B vertical search revenue will reach $1.0 billion by 2009 as vertical search delivers what big general search engines miss. The market opportunity stems in part from dissatisfaction with horizontal search dominated by Google, Yahoo! and MSN. The average Internet search failure rate is 31.9%. Market trends such as RSS feeds and Web 2.0 Web services are reshaping vertical search.


Information research firm Outline identifies enterprise search players into three categories: pure or augmented enterprise search (Google, Endeca, Vivisimo, Entopia), search suites (Autonomy, Verity, Convera), and search development platforms (FAST, Intelliseek). 

Enterprise search is a different animal from Web search. That's a big reason market trackers say search king Google isn't top dog in enterprise search, though Google sells a enterprise search hardware appliance. IBM sells an enterprise search product called OmniFind as part of its WebSphere middleware suite. Oracle released its Secure Enterprise Search 10g product in March. 

  • IDC estimates the market for enterprise unstructured data management (UDM) to be close to $5.4 billion and growing at 30%, whereas OVUM estimates an $8.8 billion market growing at 33%. Another interesting statistic from IDC is that the top 500 companies spend a whopping $31 billion to search unstructured information. (July 2004)
  • Sales of enterprise search systems are expected to rise 25% a year, from nearly $1 billion last year to $2.6 billion in 2010, says Sue Feldman, an analyst with research firm IDC. 
  • IDC says the clear leader in enterprise search is Autonomy which bought rival Verity for $500 million late last year. Fast Search & Transfer of Norway is next, followed by IBM, Google and privately held Endeca, says IDC. Other prominent names in enterprise search include Inxight Software and Vivisimo. 

  • Enterprise search consultant Avi Rappoport estimates more than 100 vendors  are involved in enterprise search. 

  • Microsoft's Steve Ballmer said the enterprise search market represents more than $13 billion, and that the software maker has signed up 35 partners to focus on that area. 

  • Coveo Solutions, a Canada based enterprise search start-up has secured $6 million venture capital financing this month. 



In "The Search", John Battelle suggests that in the future, search will become even more intuitive and personalized, pointing as an example to GlobalSpec’s Engineering Web, which by focusing upon a single domain can already produce stronger, more specific results than Google. He believes there is more innovation to come: “As every engineer in the search field loves to tell you, search is at best 5% solved—we’re not even into the double digits of its potential.” 


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