The Shift in Search Engine Use: From Boomers to Gen Z

Is Google Still King? How Search Habits are Changing with Each Generation

Is Google Still King? How Search Habits are Changing with Each Generation

Key Takeaways:

Get an overview of how search engines have evolved since the 90s to the present.

Tips to better market your products and services to different generations of shoppers.

Search engines are the cornerstone of online navigation, shaping how we interact with the digital world. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z all have distinct approaches to online search. Join us as we highlight these generational shifts. We’ll uncover valuable insights to inform your marketing strategies in an era where search continues to evolve alongside AI and other advanced technologies.

The Evolution of Search Engines

From their humble beginnings to their current complex forms, search engines have dramatically shaped the digital landscape. Here’s a glimpse of how search engines have evolved and how they’ve impacted user expectations and behavior. 

A Historical Journey

The timeline of search engines begins with simple document retrieval systems which gradually morphed into today’s complex algorithms that can understand human intent. The first search engine, Archie, created in 1990, was designed to index FTP archives to make finding files easier. As the internet grew, so did the need for more structured search systems, leading to the creation of more sophisticated search engines like AltaVista and eventually Google in 1998.

Over the past few decades, search engines have undergone significant transformations, particularly in their algorithms and interfaces. Google, for instance, has made countless updates to improve user experience and provide more relevant search results. Major algorithm updates such as Google Panda in 2011 and Google Penguin in 2012 were designed to penalize low-quality sites that did not provide substantial value to users and to reward websites with original content and effective SEO practices. In 2014, Google announced its E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) concept as part of its Search Quality Guidelines. This acronym was soon expanded to E-E-A-T in 2022, to include content experience as a ranking factor in SERP. Google also released an infinite scroll feature to mobile in 2021 and to desktop in 2022 so users have access to more results as they search for information, products, and services.

These changes have continually refined how search engines evaluate and rank web pages. This, in turn, has impacted how websites are designed and content is created.

Impact on User Behavior

These technological advancements in search engines have shaped user expectations and behavior. Modern users expect highly relevant search results almost instantaneously, reflecting the improvements in search algorithms that now prioritize factors like page speed, mobile-friendliness, and content quality. As search engines have become more sophisticated, users have also become more demanding in terms of the information they expect to find quickly and easily.

The evolution of search features, such as voice search and image search, along with personalized search results based on previous behaviors, have also changed how people interact with search engines. Users are now more inclined to use natural language queries or speak directly to voice-activated assistants. They expect an intuitive understanding from search engines. Today, user interactions with digital platforms are more conversational and personalized than they were in the past, setting a higher standard for how information is queried and consumed online. 

Understanding Generational Shifts

Baby Boomers

Boomers value thorough, reliable information presented with simplicity and security. They typically use established search engines like Google and Bing for straightforward searches on practical topics like health, travel, and retirement. To better market to this group, focus on clear, informative, and easy-to-navigate websites with a strong emphasis on security and privacy. Building trust is key for this generation.

Generation X

Skeptical but pragmatic, Gen Xers often meticulously research before making a purchase. They comfortably navigate both digital and traditional media, using search engines for product research, news, and professional development.

Bolster your connection with Gen X when you make comprehensive content the core of your SEO approach. This will build credibility and trust with this audience. Also, make sure to leverage local SEO and authentic reviews to influence this group’s purchasing decisions.


Digital natives who expect seamless information access across devices, Millennials primarily use mobile search and heavily rely on search engines for decision-making. Per recent data from Fractl, the top two terms they use in searches are “how to” and “best.” 

To better reach Millennial buyers, ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and that all content you share loads quickly. Boost visibility and engagement with this group by integrating social media and video content into your SEO strategy.

Generation Z

This generation, raised with instant information access, is reshaping search expectations. They favor platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and social media for information, with a preference for visual and voice search.

To captivate this demographic, adapt your SEO for voice and visual search trends. And think of shorter keywords when optimizing your content. The average search is 4.2 words long regardless of generation and 5 words long for Gen Zers, according to a recent study from Fractl. We also recommend creating engaging and dynamic content for non-traditional search engines like TikTok and YouTube. Don’t forget to use interactive and visually appealing elements to lure them to your brand’s products and/or services. 

“The average search is 4.2 words long, regardless of generation, while the average search for Gen Zers is 5 words long.”

– Fractl

Future Predictions 

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises a significant transformation in search engine usage. AI-powered search will personalize results based on user profiles, past interactions, and preferences. This tailored approach could revolutionize search efficiency, delivering highly relevant information that anticipates user needs.

As AI technology matures, we can expect a shift in user behavior. People may increasingly turn to AI tools for answers, potentially moving away from traditional search methods like search engines. Companies like OpenAI are developing innovative search products that could either complement or challenge established players. Google has introduced SGE (Search Generative Experience) to enhance its traditional search engine to provide users with more relevant answers to long-tail search queries. These AI platforms not only answer queries but also understand the underlying context and intent behind them. This evolution has the potential to redefine search experiences, offering users a more intuitive and conversational way to interact with digital information sphere. 

“The rise of AI promises a significant transformation in search engine usage. AI-powered search will personalize results based on user profiles, past interactions, and preferences.”

– Technology Therapy® Group

The Importance of Having a Progressive and Flexible Mindset

As search engine usage evolves across generations, digital marketers must embrace a progressive mindset and adaptable approach. Understanding generational preferences and keeping pace with technological advancements, like AI-powered search, will be crucial for crafting effective SEO strategies that resonate with users in the ever-changing digital world.

Pivot with the Latest Search Shifts

Keep on top of the latest search trends to better connect with the generation of shoppers you’re targeting. Connect with a TTG mentor to step up your search strategies! 

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