When I was a kid, I was trained to do category type searches by the Dewey Decimal library system. Later, as I got older, the Yellow Pages reinforced this category type search.
When I needed my Hair Cut I let my fingers do the walking and I looked up Beauty Salons. If I needed to drop a few pounds I looked up weight loss.
And I'm not the only one.
These category searches are so programmed into how we look for information, that they've become some of the most competitive keywords on the net: "travel", "weight loss", and of course, "sex".
Our neural networks have been programmed to do Category type searches. But the average 16 to 24 yr old doesn't know how to do category level searches. If a 21 yr old has a leaky sink, they're going to search under "leaky sink" not "plumbers".
Why don't the Millennials use Category Search?
(The Millenials are the generation born from 1980 to 1995. They are currently our biggest demographic. With 79 million, they even outnumber the Baby Boomers)
1) The Millennials Brains do not have the same neural networks that ours do
That's a fancy way of saying that they haven't been trained to use category search. Young people no longer use the Dewey Decimal system and paper Yellow Pages. If they want to find something they go to a computer terminal and look up exactly what they're looking for. And with a few refined searches, they usually find it.
The internet (which wasn't in mass consumption when we were kids) allows Millenials to search in natural terms. There is no need for them to "re-train" their brains to think in terms of Category Search the way generations before have.
2) The Search Engines are smarter.
When I first started using the internet in 1991, it was really difficult to find anything. The search engines couldn't handle more than a couple of keywords and the average searcher didn't understand Boolean Search.
In fact, search engines are so smart now, they can compensate for the fact that I can't spell. I can search for "boulian search" and get the "hey dumbass, did you mean?" result:
Okay the dumbass part was mine – Note to Google: the next evolution of search should include an opt-in to make search more FUN (you know, for the Millenials)
3) The Millenials are a Demand Generation
They haven't known Depressions, World Wars, Oil Crisis's and rampant Inflation like our grandparents, parents, and us. They haven't had to worry about goods being in short supply. It's about them and their needs. I don't need a beauty salon I just want my hair cut.
So what's the implication of this?
Category type keyword phrases such as "weight loss" and "plumbers" is fine if your target market is 30+. But if you're marketing to the 16 to 30 demographic then you had better have a very robust long tail strategy.
And if budget is a consideration (when isn't' it?) and you have to make spending decisions, you may even want to forgo those pricey category keywords in favour of the long tail.
As the Millenials start to dominate the economy, smart marketers will think about how to better market to this demographic. From a search perspective, this has a tremendous implication on Keyword Strategy and how we optimize sites. Optimizing for the long tail is now much, much, more important.
It's not about targeting thousands of additional keywords by cranking out tons of low quality content. It's about finding really good ways to talk about your product or service in natural language. This could be in the form of articles, blogs, or user generated content.
So Nike, Pepsi and Wii: when I search for "Dude, I'm Phat!"; "Crush my thirst" or "I'm bored"
I'm not finding you … and neither is your target market.