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Search Natives: How Gen Z is Shaping SEO

Last updated on August 20, 2021
8 minute read
Key Takeaways

  • Gen Z — those born in 1997 or after — will soon be the largest generation in the world & their purchasing power is on the rise.
  • They're tech-savvy and selective — they're less likely to click on big name brands.
  • They use specific, long-tail queries and want mobile-friendly sites!

Skill Level


Gen Z is well on its way to becoming the largest generation in the world, and we’re starting to see their influence on different industries and platforms. For example, this generation has driven a surge in TikTok trends and a change in the way we market travel and tourism. 

These digital natives, born from 1997 onward, have never lived in a world without search engines — the first one was created in 1990 — so it’s no surprise that they navigate search engine result pages (SERPs) like pros. This guide explores how Gen Z interacts with search tools and how they are already impacting SEO. 

8 Seconds to Make an Impression

Gen Z presents a challenge for marketers because they tend to have a different kind of relationship with brands than previous generations. Gone are the days of blind brand loyalty — for Gen Z, that loyalty must be earned through authenticity, accountability, and a reflection of their values. 

With the barrage of information and advertising that Gen Zers encounter on the web every day, they’re quick to dismiss marketing attempts that don’t connect with them. Recent studies talk about Gen Z’s 8-second attention span, but Fast Company reframed this idea to understand it as an 8-second filter:

Gen Zers can quickly process information and assess whether they’re interested in a certain post, and if they’re not, they move right on.

However, once they’ve found something that engages them, they’re willing to dedicate a lot of time and focus to it. The challenge is to catch their attention within those 8 seconds with pages, posts, videos, ads, or images that speak to their values. 

gen z search graphic

Getting the Most Out of Search 

With their intuitive understanding of search tools, Gen Zers can quickly evaluate the search engine results page and decide which result to click on. They’re used to having all the answers at their fingertips, and they’re intentional about the way they search. Here are some ways in which they use search engines: 

shapeThey’re selective in the SERP. Gen Zers are less likely to immediately choose a big brand name in the SERP. Instead, they choose the result that best aligns with their query. They know what to look for, like optimized titles tags and meta descriptions, to make an informed decision. 

shapeThey’re mainly searching on mobile. Google already noticed this increase in mobile search and acted on it with their shift toward mobile-first indexing. According to a study by NRF and IBM that surveyed 15,600 Gen Zers around the world, 60% of Gen Zers would not use an app or site that loads too slowly, underscoring the importance of mobile site speed

shapeThey’re using long-tail queries. Gen Zers know that broad keywords will lead to broad search results, so they narrow their search by using long-tail keywords that will help them find exactly what they’re looking for. Their average search query is five words long (Fractl). The growing use of voice assistant searches (though Siri or Google, for example) contributes to this — we tend to ask longer questions when we search by voice. 

shapeThey look for top-rated products and services. Gen Zers are more likely than other generations to use terms like “best” or “how to” in their searches (Fractl), weighing their options before making a purchase or booking. They’d rather find the highest-rated experience, product, or process instead of going with the first result in the SERP. 

So how can you use these findings in your SEO strategy? The good news is you just have to keep up the good work with SEO best practices and what you’ve learned from other SEO guides. Focus on: 

  • On-page SEO elements like high-quality title tags and meta descriptions that include the main keywords and tell searchers exactly what they’ll find on the page
  • A mobile-friendly site that loads quickly and can easily be browsed on a smartphone 
  • Targeting long-tail queries that align the page content with the user’s search intent 

If Gen Zers are your main target audience, you should not only follow the tips above but also lean on social media as an important avenue to reach them. Learn more in our guide to marketing to millennial and Gen Z travelers and explore our social media guides for inspiration.

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