New information released by Nielson/Net Ratings shows that search engine usage is now growing at a faster rate than the number of new Internet users. This really isn't a big surprise, as eventually Internet usage has to hit a saturation point and adoption rates will slow down.

That said, the data continues to support the idea that search engines are playing an increasingly stronger role in the online arena. European use of search engines has grown 11% over the past year - up to 88 million users as opposed to the 79 million users in 2004. During that same time period, the number of Internet users in Europe jumped just 4%.

France and The United Kingdom top the list when it comes to percentage of users that search. 81% of French surfers and 80% of UK surfers turn to search engines, topping the 79% usage in the United States. Spain (77%), Italy (74%), Germany (74%) and Switzerland (73%) also show high rates of search engine usage.

Hitwise data shows that Google is still tops in the UK, taking 69% of the market share. Surprisingly, MSN and Ask Jeeves tie for second place (8.4%) while Yahoo!, at 8%, comes in fourth.

The data supports the steady growth of search engine marketing not just in the United States, but throughout Europe and the rest of the world. With adoption rates rising and search engine usage becoming a common part of the online experience, companies throughout the world are focusing on increasing their presence in the search engines.

Small business owners looking to expand their offerings overseas need to take the time to learn how to properly market their sites in European engines and to look beyond Google, Yahoo! and MSN. For instance, in France, the second most popular search engine is Viola. Thus, American businesses that focus only on American search engines shut themselves out of the market for a large portion of French users. Native language engines are also popular in most other European and Asian markets.

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June 3, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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