Real estate agents who use paid search as an advertising vehicle should be interested to learn that search engines have become increasingly important to American Internet users, according to a new study.

On an average day, nearly 60 million people use search engines, according to a study released in late November by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

There has been a sharp increase in search activity over the last year, the study said. From June 2004 to September 2005 the use of search engines on a typical day rose from 30 percent to 41 percent of the internet-using population, which itself has grown in the past year, according to the study.

At the same time, the total number of people using search engines on an average day jumped from roughly 38 million to about 59 million — an increase of roughly 55 percent, the study said. In either case, it is clear that the use of search engines is edging up on e-mail as the primary Internet activity on any given day, according to Pew.

However, the Pew data shows that on a typical day, e-mail use is still the most popular Internet activity. On any given day, about 52 percent of US Internet users send and receive e-mail, up from 45 percent in June of 2004, the study said.

Overall, there is little difference between the sizes of the e-mailing population and the search-engine using population, according to the study. Pew data shows that 91 percent of all Internet users have at one time sent or receive e-mail, compared to 90 percent of Internet users have used search engines.

According to the latest comScore data, Google is the most heavily used search engine. In October 2005 the site had 89.8 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo! Search with 68 million unique visitors, a reported by comScore.

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