Visits to search engines in the UK increased to 2.3bn in January 2012 compared to 2.2bn in the same period in 2011, according to data from Experian Hitwise.

The additional 100m visits equates to a yearly increase of 4.5%.

Google still dominates the market with 90.64% of all UK searches conducted in January, slightly down on December’s tally of 91.75% but up 0.27% annually.

Microsoft and Yahoo sites saw their market share drop by 0.21% and 0.54% year-on-year.

However, thanks to Bing, Microsoft sites retained second place overall with 4.16% of search engine traffic.

Experian Hitwise market research analyst James Murray said search is one of the most crucial elements of online marketing and is clearly an expanding industry.

As search continues to grow marketers need the right tools at their fingertips to understand how they can maximise their search campaigns, to get traffic delivered to their website.”

Yet despite Google’s dominance of search, one of its employees suggested this week that SEO is bad for the internet.

Googler Jon Rockway posted comments to Hacker News stating: “It’s a bug that you could rank highly in Google without buying ads, and Google is trying to fix the bug.”

He quickly tried to play down his comments, but it does raise interesting questions about how Google feels about companies trying to manipulate search rankings. You can read the expert view on Rockway’s comments here.