Web Use Surges as College, Search Engine Traffic Rises

Worldwide Internet usage is increasing, especially among university students and for search engines, according to studies from comScore Networks and Jupiter Media Metrix .

Based on Reston, Va.-based comScore’s research, global Internet usage grew about 1 percent from March month to 323.7 million in April. That also represents a 10 percent increase since last year.

Domestically, the number of Internet users increased 1.5 percent since March, though overall time spent online decreased across most demographics globally — the one exception being U.S. college and university students.

Instead, students in higher education spent 6 percent more time online than in March, according to comScore. Beneficiaries of this increased traffic included society and community sites, which saw a 10 percent increase in minutes per visitor. Publishers of career sites and finance and onvesting portals also enjoyed a 7 percent increase in users’ time, while home and living and automotive sites saw an average 3 percent increase.

That trend — likely corresponding to students’ efforts to plan for after graduation and for the coming summer break — could prove profitable for marketers eager to reach the college-aged market. That could hold especially true in the highly competitive arena of career sites, which saw an increase in college-aged traffic despite a decrease in worldwide traffic of 2 percent. Traffic to the five most popular career sites increased an average of almost 50 percent.

Meanwhile, New York-based Jupiter said its Media Metrix unit had uncovered rapid growth among the search engine leaders. During the past six months, search engine traffic grew 11 percent to 92.3 million visitors.

The leaders in the search space saw even more dramatic growth: Yahoo! Search grew 20 percent to 38.4 million; Microsoft’s MSN Search saw a traffic increase of 16 percent, to 42.4 million, according to Media Metrix.

Google, which syndicates its results to other sites — including Yahoo! — increased its traffic figures 54 percent, to 34.2 million, the researcher said.

That trend bodes well for search engine marketers. Both Yahoo! and MSN sell banner advertising and keyword-based listings in their search engine results; Google sells listings and keyword-based ads on its site, which it also syndicates to partners including AOL Time Warner and EarthLink .

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