More people than ever before are spending part of their day searching online. The latest research from the Pew Internet group has revealed that apart from email, it’s the most common thing we do online. Almost half of all people who go online each day engage in search.

At first sight this might sound like it’s great new for Google. But it isn’t – look inside the report of this study and you discover that the reason for the dramatic increase in search is not taking place in search engines. Instead we are using a variety of other search tools, such as site-specific search or search within social networking sites. In other words, we know broadly where to go to get the information we want – we then use specialised and localised search facilities to narrow down our hunt.

Also, crucial to the increase in search activity is the availability of broadband and home wireless networks. It seems that we don’t do much searching if we don’t have good Internet connections; instead we just go straight to what we want.

This implies that much of the search behaviour is non productive – we do it because we can, rather than because we need to. But it also means something else for anyone running a web site or an online business. Search is now so central to our online activities that if your web site does not have its own search facility you are failing to meet what growing numbers of web users want.