Generational Attitudes About Websites

bed browsing

Bed browsing – Image by Sincerely Media

One place you can see a generation gap is in attitudes towards websites, especially personal websites and having a web presence.

A study by website building/hosting company Squarespace partnering with The Harris Poll surveyed over 2,000 US adults and found marked differences in attitudes based on age.

The youngest group is of particular interest since they grew up with the Internet, smart devices, etc. Members of Gen Z are those born between 1997 and 2015. This puts the age group in the range of 6-24 years old in 2021.

A summary of some findings:

  • One stat that certainly increased during the pandemic is that 57% of all the Americans surveyed across generations believe that a well-designed online store or website is more important for a business to have than a brick-and-mortar location.
  • Americans browse an average of over 3,000 websites a year. That is 8.4 websites per day.
  • 49% of the Americans surveyed can remember the color of a website better than someone’s eye color. That number is 71% for Millennials and 58% for Gen Zs.
  • Around 60% of Gen Z and 62% of Millennials believe that how you present yourself online is more important than how you present yourself in person.
  • The vast majority (92%) of Gen Z would start their own business. It is 86% of Millennials, 74% of Gen X and 50% of Baby Boomers.
  • Gen Z is more likely to remember off the top of their head the last website they visited (43%) than their partner’s birthday (38%) or their social security number (31%).
  • 44% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials say they make a better impression online than in person It is only 21% of Gen X and 8% of Baby Boomers who feel that way.
  • Entrepreneurship: Gen Z is the most ambitious generation with 92% saying they would start their own business. Still strong at 86% are Millennials, 74% of Gen X but only 50% of Baby Boomers.
  • What type of business they would start on their own? Top response was offering a service (e.g. teaching a class, offering advice, tutoring) beating out selling a physical product.
  • Broadly, 66% of Americans say that travel is the activity that online research is most important for.
  • But 92% of Gen Z multitask with other activities while browsing websites online. What is diverting their attention? food (59%), listening to music (59%), talking on the phone (45%, dancing (28%), watching TV (59%).
  • Focusing on Gen Z, where are they when they are online? They say while in bed (65%), followed by while on the toilet (43%).
  • Across generations, those surveyed admitted that they spend more time browsing websites than working out (43%) or having sex (42%), in a given week.
  • Who are we looking for online? People they went to school with gets 41%. (That is also the top group who Americans think are looking them up online at 33%.) But 20% of us are looking up exes online in a week and 32% look up their current romantic partner. More specifically, that jumps to over half of Gen Z (51%) and Millennials (55%) looking up their current romantic partner online at least once a week. Finally, 86% of Gen Z and 79% of Millennials look people up online before meeting them for the first time, compared to 65% of Gen X and only 44% of Baby Boomers.
  • And it’s not just people we’re checking up on – 62% of Americans overall (76% of Millennials and 64% of Gen Zers, specifically) always look up a business’ website before shopping, visiting, or eating there. It drops to 65% of Gen X and 49% of Baby Boomers.

Search Engine Optimization

Of course, you want your website should be the first result that pops up when someone types in your name to find you or your company when they use Google, Bing or any search engine. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a business service on its own and is often packaged with web design services.

It’s not that I don’t see it as very important, but I certainly don’t see it as important as some clients, especially ones new to having a website. I very rarely recommend using an SEO service. Search engines like Google send out bots and spiders to crawl the web all the time and they will find your pages. It might take a month or more but hey will find it.

Now, getting to he top of the search results is a different thing. If you think your photography site will be the first thing searchers see when they type in “photographer,” you will be disappointed for a long time. 

Optimization can be both technical and content-based. On the websites back-end improvements designers can include particular header tags, metadata keywords, alt-tags on photos, and smart use of hyperlinking. Though I use those things, I focus on front-end, content-based factors which I feel are more effective in boosting SEO.

Search results depend on a number of factors and algorithms. Here are some of those front-end and use approaches that I try to describe to clients.

Make your content unique. If someone searches your name + photographer, the results are more likely to be your site. Add other keywords such as a city, state or type of photography (weddings, portraits etc.) and the results improve. One of my clients was very pleased that after a few months a search on Google for “ellen denuto photographer” showed her site at the top. She/we did no special SEO but we did follow these suggestions. 

Keep adding new content. Blogging is a great way to keep content fresh and draw traffic to your website. Blog features on websites using what were originally blogging services (such as WordPress) can be redesigned to be an event, news or updates feature rather than the traditional blog. Setting a regular schedule to post new content – once a week or at least once a month – is a way you can boost your rankings.

Get other sites to link to you.  Google uses PageRank to order search results. Other people linking to your site helps you move up in searches. But it also is guided by the rank of those linking to you. If I link to yur site it will help, but if The New York Times links to your site it will help a lot more. Still, asking friends and colleagudes with websites to mention your URL helps. Put that link in your email signature, use it for online bios or any time someone writes an article about you.

Use social media.  I have a lot of clients who were not interested in being on social media, and honestly, if you don’t plan to keep up t it regularly it won’t help your SEO. It might even hurt. If I see a link on a site to Twitter and follow it and they haven’t posted in the last six months I feel like they are “out of business.” Social media is so important to search results that I know several publishers that include a clause in contracts compelling authors to engage with followers on one or more platforms. Again, active engagement and new content feeds search engines with lots of fuel for their algorithms. If similar sites and competitors are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. then you should be there too competing for eyes and clicks.

Maintaining a social media presence, like updating your website, requires time and scheduling. I have several web clients who also use me for social media maintenance. But you can do both yourself if you’re willing to learn how and commit time to it. If you are starting out, choose one or two. Twitter and Instagram are very easy to use, especially on a mobile device. Depth of engagement on one site is better than infrequent use on three sites.

Consider using video.   Video on your site and on social media is much easier than it was a decade or two ago. Remember that YouTube is owned by Google, so video there will give your search engine results a boost.