How do others use Google these days?

Bing. Yahoo. DuckDuckGo. Ecosia. WolframAlpha. Blekko.

Some of these are familiar and others you may have never heard of, but we promise you, they exist. They’re all search engines that try to take market share away from Google.

Ah, Google: Like all search engines, it is a portal to worlds unknown and the keeper of the answers to all your questions (if you type in the right keywords, that is). But it also lays claim as the processor of nearly 75,000 searches per second. That’s a lot of Q&A going on!

Google has far surpassed its modest beginnings in the late 1990s. Just a few short decades later, we can shop through Google; watch video snippets right in the results feed; get suggested, curated content on our phone or on the browser. One search offers more knowledge than we could ever want, all bundled and pleasantly organized on our screen. It is the de facto  “homepage” of the Internet.

As content marketers, we are tasked with juggling our everyday work while also keeping abreast of the changes Google makes (not to mention the industry, the tools that we use, our audiences, and so on). We do it because we have to; we need to be able to understand Google’s changes and make revisions on our end, as necessary, to stay successful and competitive—nearly as soon as Google unveils such changes. We often worry about how we are going to handle what is to come, but we do not often, if ever, stop to think about how our audience will handle these changes.

We need to learn how to adapt our website, content, processes, etcetera to stay compliant, competitive, profitable, and so on, but our audience also needs to learn how to navigate all the changes Google throws their way.

That’s why we loved coming across the article “We Surveyed 1,400 Searchers About Google – Here’s What We Learned” submitted to Moz, because it forced us to think about the people we serve and how they are impacted as searchers. What insight can this data offer us, and how can we use it to improve?

Survey Overview

You can read the survey write up in its entirety on Moz’s website, but here are the highlights we thought were key:

  • Survey Sponsor: Path Interactive conducted the survey. They are an SEO, PPC, social media marketing, and digital media agency based out of New York City, New York, United States. They’ve been around for 10 years, and the clients they work with include B2B, B2C, emergent brands, and local/regional. Services include SEO, paid search, display and digital media, social media, creative design and strategy, analytics, and training.
  • Demographics: The demographics of the 1,400 respondents were:
      • 72% United States; 8% India, 10% Europe/United Kingdom
      • 60.2% identified as “somewhat tech savvy” and 7.6% as “not tech savvy”
      • The largest age group to participate was 21 to 30 year olds (36%), followed by 30 to 40 year olds (30%), 40 to 50 year olds (15%), and 50+ year olds (19%).
  • Statistical Findings
    • Only 23% reported that they searched on Google less than three times per day.
    • In terms of organic results versus sponsored results (ads), 42% indicated they rarely click on the sponsored results; but the survey found that individuals over 60 are 200% more likely to not favor one over the other and instead choose the result that answers their query.
    • When it comes to search results, 93% of individuals stick to the first page of results.
    • Some of the data related to opinions on featured snippets and the Knowledge Panel suggests that younger searchers (18 years of age and younger) prioritize getting a quick answer to their question whereas older searchers (70+ years) spend more time analyzing the search results.
    • Of the respondents, 68% feel that Google has improved in terms of the quality of results it delivers.
  • Other Insights
    • As for this “rich results” that Google offers, the survey shows that, at least for the time being, marketers do not have to worry about losing out on web traffic to these. But based on the results from the younger generation, we could see a shift. As the younger generation ages up and new generations follow, it can be assumed that they will also rely on the information presented in this rich snippets. Therefore, we could potentially seem some decline in web traffic. But as we know, Google is always changing!
    • The respondents’ main concerns with Google focus on issues with user privacy, quantity of ads, and content prioritization (content from small businesses are prioritized under large corporations).

Hopefully, Path Interactive will conduct the same study again to include the next generation* when they finally reach the 13 to 18 age range. There is also significant value in conducting this survey again in a decade to see if search habits are generational or change with age (Will the younger generation now take more time vetting search results when they are in their late 20s/early 30s?).

We are more interested in the results that Path Interactive would get if they conducted the same survey a year from now. Google is perpetually making updates in an effort to deliver the most accurate results. How different will Google be in a year, and how drastically (if at all) will searcher opinion change?

We also want to point out that the majority of the survey respondents (72%, or 1,008 individuals) are from the United States. How significantly, if at all, would the results change if India and Europe/United Kingdom were more evenly represented? Google has the largest market share in both of those countries in terms of search engines.

*The current youngest generation is Generation Z. Definitions vary, but Generation Z is typically defined as having been born mid-1990s (specifically, 1996) to early 2000s. There is currently no set birth year that marks the “end” of this generation.

Three Survey Takeaways

Data that gives us insight into our audience’s typical behavior (even if it doesn’t directly involve our efforts) is a gold mine because, among other benefits, helps us better align our marketing strategies.

Here are three of our main takeaways from the survey results:

Know Your Audience

This survey just reinforces something that we have always known, something that is a core principle of Marketing 101: You have to know your audience. And we are not talking about some “ideal” consumer or “buyer profile” that you generate based on who you would like your audience to be. Instead, we mean knowing who they actually are based on the data that you collect.

Getting on Page One is Still a Priority

With only 7% of searchers going past the first page to find a result that answers their query, it is an absolute necessity that your website and as much of its content lands on page one. Staying mindful of the latest best practices when it comes to search engine optimization and keeping an eye on Google’s blog to stay abreast of changes is crucial to success. And of course, there is still the need for great content.

Spend Your (Ad) Money Wisely

The survey shows that the majority of searchers (72%) always or nearly always click on the organic search results and completely ignore the ads. So is it really worth spending your time and money? It depends. The survey indicated that older searchers do not discriminate between organic results and ads; therefore, if your audience consists of individuals from an older generation, there is likely still value in paying for such ads.

Regardless, you should always periodically re-evaluate any marketing strategy. If you see that your search engine ads are not giving you the best return on investment, it may be something you want to reconsider.

Final Thoughts

In an effort to always provide the best, most accurate results to searchers” queries, Google is always looking for ways to change or improve its algorithm regularly (nearly daily). What started off as a modest effort in 2009 at about 400 “changes” avalanched to 3,234 improvements last year. That equates to one improvement every hour of a typical 8 am to 5 pm work day.

Sometimes it seems as if we are almost catching up to Google at the finish line, but they have already started the next run. And if it is a race for us to catch up to them, our audience likely feels the same way.