Friday, January 27

How Old Are You Now: Search Engine Age Demographics

My post yesterday on the seeming dominance of Google in the younger generation prompted me to do some more thinking and research. It piqued my interest in the demographic breakdown of the major SEs. Is Google really THE choice of the youth or do kids use other search engines as well? My own observations say that Google dominates in the younger generation much more so than in the older generation, but is my hypothesis correct? What I found in my research was surprising, both in its findings and in the dirth of information. Here are three studies that I found which I believe are the most current and relevant:

Search Engine Usage in North America by Enquiro. (April 2004)
Google Gains Overall, Competition Builds Niches by Clickz Network(June 2004)
Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005-2006 by Marketing Sherpa (September 2005)

The first study has an interesting conclusion on SE usage and age:
We expected to see a trend in search engine usage according to age, but this wasn’t the case. High usage of Google was relatively consistent (at about 70%) and showed no specific trends. (Hotchkiss, Garrison, and Jensen, p 53.)
However, I notice that only 4.4% of the 425 participants sampled were under 20 (p23). This is a very small sample. I'm not an expert in statistics, but 18.7 youngsters doesn't seem like a statistically significant sample, at least not enough refute my hypothesis. Although, it does cast a hint of doubt. Does this work for a larger sample?

The second article, on Google Gains, is interesting because it claims that Yahoo has the largest share of the young audience: 48.23% vs. Google's 43.57% for users 18-34. This isn't that surprising, because this group really came onto the Internet at a time when Yahoo was a dominant player. This doesn't isolate the college group (18-22), the "Google Generation" from the pre-Google generation. In short, it doesn't really provide enough data to address the issue.

The last report could prove illuminating if someone has a copy. I would be interested in hearing what it has to say.

To my knowledge no one has studied, or at least not made public, a detailed look at search engine usage, loyalty, etc.. inthe younger generation: 13-23. If they did perhaps we could really validate whether or not this group really is the "Google Generation."

Thursday, January 26

The Google Generation and the future of search

US FirstI had the opportunity to help out at a local high school recently. I was helping-- ok, more like watching, in astonishment as the teens did the work and I bumbled about trying to catch up. They are competing in the US First robotics competition. Very cool competition, with some serious robots -- and some serious controller programming, in C. I never had anything like that in my school. Another thing these kids have that I didn't in high school is Google.

These kids were even more Google obsessed than I was in college -- they used it for everything. The graphics / animation team was playing with Google Earth. They had fun panning around and zooming in on their houses. The team programming controllers were even more manically obsessed. One student was programming and defining hex constants. He fired up google and searched "0xFF - 0x1a". It was their swiss army knife, in their words, "it does everything." These kids, the generation currently in high school and college have been dubbed the Google Generation by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek in USA Today.

Being in the search business, I stood back and took it all in. These kids are the future. There are talented programmers, artists, and leaders who are in love with their high school sweetheart -- Google. My generation was the first to use Google in higher education -- it came of age my freshman and sophmore year. For us it is new, cool, and innovative, for these kids its like breathing air.

If I were at Yahoo or MSN, I would be very very concerned. I would see my kids and their friends coming home from school and doing their homework with Google. It would be frustrating and infuriating! To these kids Yahoo is the "old geezer's" search engine. Today's high schoolers missed the dot com boom. They don't really remember the hype or the Super Bowl commercials. "Do You YAHOOO!!" doesn't mean a thing to them. It is for us old fogies and our elders.

Another illustration of Google's younger demographic is the biggest gainer in Google's search queries in 2005. The big winner is MySpace, the teenage social networking site. Next up are Ares, a p2p file sharing software, Wikipedia, and iTunes. Definitely all hip, cool, and popular with the next gen. Contrast this with the top searches on Yahoo -- MySpace is nowhere to be found. Johnny Carson, Pope John Paul II, and March Madness definitely sound like the young crowd to me, really.

Bill Gates recently announced a media partnerhisp with MTV at CES 2006 to try and capture the young crowd. Yahoo is betting on Flickr and company to regain some street cred. However, I don't think this will be enough, but I could be wrong. If the robotics team is any indication, they've got to do something -- and fast. If they don't, they will be ignored by the next generation of web searchers. One thing is for sure, as I walked out of the high school, all of the talk about Google's stock price being inflated seemed ridiculous. I would have written a check to Sergey right there on the spot.