2012 London Olympics: How the World Was Searching

london-olympics-torch-and-rings-newThe Olympics always produces great stories and gut wrenching drama. From the early questions regarding Michael Phelps’ legacy (not an issue) to Usain Bolt’s dominance in sprinting (quite dominant) we are rarely at a loss for discussion topics when it comes to the Olympics. The entire world participates, and every country has its own story to tell at the end of each day’s competition.

Although people’s online search behavior isn’t nearly as exciting as the Olympics itself, it nevertheless parallels the fact that everyone participates, every country has its own story to tell, and that every country’s story is different.

Search Continues Worldwide Growth

Evaluating search growth centers around two primary metrics:

  • Number of searchers 
  • Total searches conducted

From these numbers, we can then derive a variety of consumption metrics such as searches per searcher, searcher conversion, and the like. For this analysis, I used comScore’s qSearch tool, which is based on a 2 million desktop/PC based searcher panel covering more than 170 countries (disclosure: I work for comScore).

In June 2012, 1.47 billion searchers conducted 173 billion searches (with year over year increases of 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively), making for 117 searches for every searcher on the planet. If you were to add in the number of searches now performed on mobile devices and tablets, the numbers would be even more staggering.

Social media may get most of the news clippings lately, but search activity is still one of the most popular activities on the Internet.

Search Utilization by Country

Search is a relatively mature online activity that will not continue to experience double digit growth in new searchers forever, so the ongoing growth opportunity would appear to be in the number of searches each person conducts. But 117 searches per searcher worldwide already seems like a lot, doesn’t it? However, when you break this number down by different regions and countries, you begin to get a better sense of where the search growth will come from in succeeding years.

While Europe and Asia Pac have the highest number of searchers and generate the highest overall volume of search queries, the search utilization by region shows a different story with Latin America taking the gold:

  • Latin America: 162
  • Europe: 135
  • North America: 129
  • Asia Pacific: 97
  • Middle East-Africa: 92

Latin America’s 162 searchers per searcher is nearly 40 percent greater than the worldwide average. Within Latin America, Peru is a surprising leader with 217 searches per searcher. Even Brazil, with the lowest search intensity in the region still saw an average of 145 searchers per searcher.

On the other hand, Asia Pacific is 20% below the worldwide average. Japan leads the region with 147 searches per searcher, but China – still very much a developing market in this regard – drags down the regional average with just 68 searches per searcher.

Turkey Takes Search Gold in 2012

But the heaviest search market of all is Turkey, with 217 searches per searcher.

Just as every Olympic country has areas of strength and weakness, every region and country around the world differs in their use of search. The reasons vary greatly — from differences in culture to levels of broadband Internet penetration to device preference — but each country will continue to reach higher as it pursues search gold.

While Turkey walks away with the gold medal this year, there’s no telling what the global search market will look like four years from now. But one thing is clear: it’s anyone’s medal to take.

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