What Do Gen Z’s (And Younger) Search Habits Mean for the Future of Search

Oct 3, 2023 | Digital Marketing, SEO |

As the younger generation, particularly Gen Z, reaches adulthood and enters the global market with increasing purchasing power, businesses strive to find more efficient ways to interact with them. There are many differences between each generation, and Gen Z is no exception. One key characteristic that sets this age group apart from others is their level of connectivity with the Internet.

Most savvy marketers now recognise that Gen Z’s technological competence and constant hyperconnectivity have changed the perspective of marketing, content creation, and search optimisation. Still, the question is how to adapt brands to the needs of a younger audience.

Let’s take an example. Improving the customer experience has been the focus of traditional marketing. For Gen Z, a different approach may be needed. The younger generation often prefers practicality and does not really believe in brand loyalty without economic calculation.

They are also active on many social media platforms and prefer smartphones over other devices or video content over other types of content. It’s no wonder that their research habits and content preferences are pretty unique. 

In this blog post, we will review some of the repeating patterns of Gen Z’s online search behaviour and how they differ from the previous generation of customers. We also see how marketers and content strategists can equip their teams with this new knowledge and effectively meet Gen Z’s search expectations.

What Is Generation Z?

Generation Z (also called Gen Z, Zoomers, or iGeneration) is the demographic cohort that follows Millennials and precedes Generation Alpha. If you’re not sure where you stand in this category, here’s a little help: anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial. Anyone born between 1997 and 2012 is part of Generation Z.

Throughout history, there’s often no stark contrast between a generation and its successor or predecessor. However, technological innovations and sweeping lifestyle changes have made the younger generation far more complicated and different from previous ones. Generation Z also tends to be well-educated and have higher expectations.

This generation has grown up in a globalised, tech-driven world. They know and evaluate their environment primarily through the Internet. This means that social media, which were used as messaging and news media, now serve as huge databases that inform and influence purchasing decisions.

Generation Z’s Online Habits

It’s not easy to generalise the online habits of millions of people with different tastes, needs, and preferences. But here are four online characteristics of Gen Z:

Long-Tail Keywords

For a long time, the unspoken search principle was to use as few keywords as possible to achieve more accurate results. Gen Z is saying goodbye to that principle. Long-tail keywords are gaining popularity among the younger generation. A recent study shows that the average person’s search contains four words, while Gen Z often uses five or more.

Take a look at your customer demographics. Chances are Millennials and Gen Z are the majority there. Even if your products are not targeted at Gen Z, you should still try to optimise your website and content for long-tail search terms. Millennials aren’t that different.

The mobile-first mentality has some implications here as well. Generation Z and Millennials use voice assistants and smart interactive devices for online searches. When a person asks an AI assistant questions or gives full commands, it’s usually a full sentence, not a few keywords.

AI would have to adjust search algorithms to understand long-tail phrases and perform search queries. You should optimise the discoverability of your content in the same direction. You can even argue that this generational shift will dominate other age groups sooner or later. Therefore, optimising your content for Gen Z search queries will help you attract visitors of all ages.

Common Phrases Accompanying Search Queries

Another study found that more than half of Gen Z is likely to search using the words “top” or “best.” In contrast, only 30% to 32% of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers use these terms when searching online. This fact suggests that Gen Z is more interested in having the best user experience and the highest quality product, even if it may be more expensive.

Two other terms help us better understand Gen Z’s online behaviour: “cheap” and “how to.” The widespread use of these terms shows that the younger generation tends to be frugal and will do anything to avoid unnecessary costs. The popularity of “how-to” and “DIY” tactics stems from a similar inclination.

Sustainable shopping

With environmental degradation and climate change on the rise, the younger generation is increasingly concerned about the problem of sustainability. They value eco-friendly products that reduce carbon emissions and single-use plastic to protect their Mother Earth.

This concern for the well-being of the planet has a significant impact on their purchasing decisions. They are willing to spend more on high-quality, eco-friendly, and sustainable products than well-known luxury brands. In addition, Gen Z’s shopping culture is very familiar with reselling new or used products they have owned before.

In the past, production came at environmental costs. Brands cared little about how their business impacted our planet. But Gen Z is different. They pay close attention to issues like the recyclability of all materials in the final product and supply chain, investing in plastic-free packaging, and improving transportability. Taking these requirements into account is a huge plus for any brand.

This may not have a direct impact on website discoverability. But there’s little doubt that as search algorithms increasingly integrate user preferences, search engines will make brands that do not match users’ interests less discoverable.

Mobile-First Approach

It’s no surprise that Gen Z’s famous reliance on smartphones would change the perspective of content optimisation. They do most online searches on mobile devices and expect websites and apps to be mobile-friendly, whether reading an article, watching a video, or looking to buy a product.

Although even before Gen Z, we knew the significance of mobile searches with millennials, it seems to be the dominant trend today. Marketers have no choice but to ensure content is optimised for multiple devices. Google will also have a mobile-first mindset built into its search algorithms. Thus, a responsive or mobile-optimised website will rank higher on the SERPs.

In addition to optimising search algorithms, Google has introduced the Google Discover feature in its app, which greatly impacts the efficiency of user interaction. The Google Discover feature uses your search history to suggest a mobile feed of photos, videos, and articles that match your needs and interests.

Social Media fascination (or Addiction?)

Generation Z is tech-savvy and pretty much always online. Social media takes up a large part of their daily routine. They spend most of their free time scrolling on social media platforms. Every stage of the customer journey, from brand and product research to shopping and sharing user experiences with friends, takes place on social media platforms.

One survey found that nearly 30 percent of Gen Z in the U.S. purchased a product after watching YouTube videos, and 26 per cent based on Instagram posts. We are also aware of the influence of Facebook ads on Gen Z (41 per cent ) and Millennials (44 per cent ).

While social commerce was a promising trend before the emergence of Gen Z, this generation has facilitated the transition to different types of social media marketing. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest offer an incredible opportunity for brands to connect with Gen Z with personalised recommendations and live streams.

How To Reach Out to Gen Z?

Gen Z is not an entirely new group of people. Content optimisation for this age group incorporates many of the earlier tactics and strategies we used for previous generations. They still need search engine optimization, social media, and content marketing. Your attention and investment in each aspect may differ, but you cannot afford to leave them all behind.

That said, reaching Gen Z and building effective communication requires some additional effort. For example, video content should make up a larger share of future content production. Text-based content alone doesn’t attract as much attention as it did a few decades ago.

You might also want to increase your presence on social media channels like TikTok, Instagram Stories, Reddit, or Snapchat. Most of these platforms either only allow video-based content or videos make up a significant portion of their overall content share. And make sure your video content is optimised for multiple devices, especially smartphones.

These tactics all have a similar goal: to increase your visibility and increase the chances of Generation Z discovering your brand on various search engines or social media platforms. However, a closer look at one of Gen Z’s most popular platforms can help illustrate their online behaviour:

TikTok: Gen Z’s platform of choice

By mid-2023, TikTok had a total of 1.677 billion users. That is insanely fast popularity which does not seem to be slowing down. Recently, Google announced that nearly 40% of Gen Z would search on TikTok and Instagram rather than Google Search and Maps.

Setting these milestones is certainly intriguing, but all of this begs the question: Will Google be replaced? Will younger generations create, prefer, and consume content in a very different way? Are search engines ceding their place to social media platforms?

Some people argue that search engines and social media channels are not interchangeable. Facebook, much like TikTok, gained popularity in universities and schools. It never replaced Google. But we are increasingly seeing a growing similarity between search engines and social media platforms. Two notable examples are Google stores and highly improved neural language processing in social media platforms.

Bottom Line

We should always keep an eye on marketing trends and changes. Some of them may not impact your business, but others require integrating new insights into your marketing strategy. Things that seem like threats can turn into opportunities only if you understand them well enough and have a skilled and updated team around you.

At BroadWeb, we can help you turn every change into a growth opportunity while maintaining the credibility and reliability of your brand. From search engine optimisation to web and app design, marketing, maintenance, and more, we cover it all! Contact us today.

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