The PEW Internet and American Life Project just released new information about use of the internet by Latino adults in the United States. How does this relate to search engine optimization? Understanding who’s online and how they search is core to success in search acquisition beyond simply ranking well. Over a billion people are now online worldwide, which means the potential audience we can attract from search likely has varied internet experience, needs, and demographic profile. Data about who might end up at our sites from the search box can help us ensure that we build sites that keep them there once they arrive.
Looking at the Latino market specifically, according to comScore senior analyst Jamie Gavin, Latin America is gaining momentum in online use at the same time the United States is slowing. This latest data from PEW Internet provides insight on Latinos in the United States. The report notes that this demographic grew in internet use the most in the United States between 2006 and 2008 , rising 10%. Even more useful for ensuring that web sites meet visitor needs is that groups with typically low rates of internet use have had the largest increases. These groups include foreign-born Latinos, those without high school degrees, and those in lower income brackets. In fact, Latinos with household incomes above $50,000 had no change in internet use.
This trend may be true of other demographic groups as well. Some segments of the population already have high levels of saturation regarding internet use and therefore, growth tends to be among those who may be less tech savvy. My mom is now using your web site and I promise you, she does not know how to navigate it. She thinks Firefox and Internet Explorer lead to two different internets. From a search acquisition perspective, this means you may need to take a fresh look at your site’s usability. If someone who is not experienced with navigating web pages lands on any page of your site (since with search, every page becomes the home page), can they see at a glance that this page satisifies their search and the page include an obvious call to action? If you’ve done usability tests before, check the demographics of the users. Were they more tech savvy than the current internet population?
I always recommend that search engine optimization begin with building searcher personas. What can you learn about those who are searching for what you have to offer? Data such as that found in this PEW study offers great information to help define those personas. 92% of Latino college graduates are online vs. 41% of Latinos without a college degree. 88% of Latinos with household incomes above $50,00 are online vs. 56% of Latinos with household incomes below $30,000. This type of demographic information can be added to other insights on online behavior such as search query length, differences in online behavior based on age group, how searchers interact with search results, and more. Understanding your audience and how best to ensure you engage them successfully on your site is key to a comprehensive search strategy.