Gen Z Searches For Online Content Differently: What Marketers Need to Know

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Pamela Bump
Pamela Bump


Gen Z enters adulthood and gains more and more purchasing power, it's apparent that the age group is more hyper-connected to the internet than past generations.

A Gen Z student searches for online content.

At this point, smart marketers have begun to discover how Gen Z's technological influence makes them different from older age groups. They're also noticing key generational behaviors that could change the way brands market to younger audiences.

For example, Gen Z is more frugal than millennials, chooses practicality over customer experience, has less brand loyalty than past generations, and -- oddly enough -- prefers real-life conversation to social media chatter.

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Aside from the differences above, Gen Z also consumes content differently from how older people have. For instance, Gen Z spends more time online each day than millennials. They're also usually logged on to multiple social media channels at once, have a mobile-first mindset, and love video content.

With all these differences in mind, it's not shocking that the way Gen Z searches and discovers content such as videos, blogs, websites, or product listings is also quite unique.

If you're a marketer that has thrived on search engines, it could be helpful to familiarize yourself with how the up-and-coming generation aims to discover new products, events, experiences, or information online. This way, you can improve on your own optimization tactics so that your content gets put on their radar.

In this blog post, I'll highlight a few common ways that Gen Z searches the web, how these behaviors are different from those of past generations, and how marketers can effectively meet Gen Z on the online platforms they're searching the most.

How Gen Z Searches the Web

1. Gen Z searches long-tail keywords more frequently than older age groups.

In the header above, I wrote a full sentence instead of opting for the much simpler headline of "Gen Z and Long-Tail Keywords."

Why did I take the time to make each subhead into a full phrase or sentence? This is because I want to optimize my content for long-tail keywords.

In the past, older generations were more likely to search content with just a keyword, like "demographics." Now, younger age groups -- especially Gen Z -- are more likely to search with a full question or phrase, like, "How do I pick an audience demographic?"

Recent research from Fractl finds that Gen Z searches more long-tail keywords than any other generation. Additionally, while the average person's search includes four words, Gen Z searches often include five or more.

Gen Z search query length


Even if you aren't interested in targeting Gen Z just yet, you should still optimize your website and content for long-tail search keywords. While Gen Z most commonly uses this search tactic, millennials aren't far behind.

Aside from text-based searches, Gen Z and millennials also regularly use voice assistants and smart devices. This means that when a person verbally asks questions or gives full commands to voice assistants, the AI algorithm will recognize the long-tail phrase and perform search queries for them.

At this point, long-tail is getting more and more common across the board. Optimizing your website to cater to Gen Z search queries will only help you gain traffic from all age groups as this search tactic becomes more common throughout age groups.

2. Gen Z often includes "best," "cheap," or "how-to" in search queries.

The Fractl study also found that Gen Zers are most likely to begin searches with the word "best." For example, when asking for results related to the "best restaurants in Boston." While 30% to 32% Baby Boomers and Gen Xers used the term in searches during the experiment, 56% of Gen Z used it.

The commodity of "best" searches could suggest that Gen Z is more interested than other generations in using search platforms to get recommendations or suggestions for the best possible experience.

Other phrases that Gen Z searches more than other generations include "cheap" and "how to."

top search words by generation


The search rates of "best" and "cheap" are definitely in line with other research that shows how Gen Z is more frugal and heavily researches possible purchases to ensure that they get the best experience for their money.

Additionally, while past generations were accustomed to learning how to do things from books, academics, or friends, Gen Z is known for using web searches and videos to quickly find simple how-tos.

3. Most Gen Z searches occur on mobile devices.

Not shockingly, Gen Z, which is infamous for heavy smartphone use, performs most online searches on mobile devices.

While millennials also regularly perform mobile searches, Gen Z's heavier use of mobile search, plus their interest in mobile apps, shows that marketers really need to ensure that they're optimizing content for different devices.

Along with catering well to Gen Z and millennials, mobile content appeases search algorithms. For example, Google -- which has adopted a mobile-first mindset -- now rewards higher search result ranks to websites with a responsive or mobile-optimized design.

Aside from favoring websites that are mobile-optimized, Google has also taken steps to appease mobile young adult audiences with the launch of the Google Discover feature on its app. This feature analyzes your search query history and then shows you a mobile feed of photos, videos, and articles that you might be interested in. To learn more about this feature and how you can leverage it, click here.

4. The age group looks for video over other content types.

While Millennials and older generations will enter general search queries for all sorts of content types, Gen Z more aggressively searches out video content more than past age groups.

According to Think with Google, 85% of teenagers within Gen Z use YouTube to regularly find content while 80% of Gen Z says YouTube videos have successfully taught them about something.

This correlates with data that shows Gen Z prefers to learn about new things or products through video rather than text, native ads, or other content formats.

If you're trying to capture Gen Z audiences, it would be beneficial to develop a video strategy on your website or a Gen Z-friendly social platform -- such as YouTube or Instagram. In this blog post, you can find a step by step guide to creating your first marketing video.

5. Like millennials, the generation also embraces social media site searches.

As mentioned above, Generation Z is heavily connected to social media. Research shows that their favorite platforms include Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

And although search engine optimization is still vital to your overall strategy, having a social media presence will be vital to gaining attention from Gen Z.

One of the main things Gen Z searches for on social media is brand information. In fact, recent research shows that 45% of Gen Z will search for new products on Instagram.

Aside from searching for and discovering new brands, Gen Z is also likely to continue certain aspects of the customer journey on social media platforms. For example, they might also use their favorite platforms to find reviews, unboxings, demos, or video content about a product.

At this point, if you're not on social media, you should be -- especially if you plan to reach new generations. Although a small portion of Gen Z searches might occur here, this generation spends a major amount of time on these platforms each day. Promoting your product on their favorite channels will only increase your chances of younger age groups learning more about it.

To learn more about the top social media platforms, check out this detailed guide.

Reaching Gen Z Where They're Searching for Content

To reach Gen Z, you'll need to continue common marketing techniques like SEO, social media marketing, and content marketing, while more aggressively embracing video content. As you aim to make your strategy more competitive, you might also want to consider experimenting with either niche or video-based social media channels -- like TikTok, Instagram Stories, Reddit, or Snapchat.

To make sure your content ranks for Gen Z and others on search engines, you should also ensure that your site has a responsive design and a smooth mobile user experience.

All of the tactics mentioned above will raise Gen Z's chances of discovering your brand on various search engines or multiple mobile-optimized platforms including Google, YouTube, or other social media platforms.

To learn more about how to cater your campaigns to Gen Z as compared to millennials, check out this comparison piece. You might also like this list of 52 stats about the generation.



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