Can A 9-Year Old Find Your Business?

An interesting thing happened this morning. After sleeping in past 7:30 (part of my Saturday traditions), I proceeded to get up and mosey into the living room where Lynne and Caden were already up watching TV. After sitting quietly watching Caden flip through the full cycle of channels without finding anything that he seemed to find worthy of watching, he asked if we wanted to watch a movie on Netflix (we have a home theater PC setup that makes watching Netflix streaming movies a breeze).

After flipping the TV input to VGA to receive the signal from the monitor output on the PC, I took a moment to observe how Caden (currently 9 years old) navigated his way to Netflix. I have him trained to use Firefox (developers rejoice), so he clicked the icon on the Windows quick launch bar to open the browser. On this machine, we left the default Firefox home page alone so the window presents a screen that looks like so:


This is where things got interesting. Instead of using the large Google search box in the middle of the screen (where the cursor is set by default when the page loads), Caden moved the mouse to select the small Google search box in the top right corner of the window. More interesting still were Caden’s steps after typing ‘netflix’ into the box and hitting enter. When presented with the Google search results, he selected the absolute first link he saw that he knew would take him to his destination. This happened to be a sponsored link for Netflix, not the organic search results found below it. For the visually inclined, he clicked here:


How children are being conditioned to use the Internet

It became clear at that moment that one of the things I have not paid much attention to is how our children are being taught to use the Internet, and more specifically, how to use search engines to find what they are looking for. Lynne and I proposed the notion that he had been conditioned to use the small box in the top right, thereby causing him to completely ignore the big search box on the middle of the screen.

On top of that, it became clear that even though he undoubtedly knows that Netflix is found easily by simply typing into the browser’s address bar, he chose to go the “long way” by performing a search, which provides further evidence of some pre-existing conditioning.

The blind leading the blind

It dawned on me that he most likely had not been educated and therefore conditioned to the concept of going directly to his destination. Even more importantly for businesses, though, was his quick-clicking action on the sponsored link. At 9 years old, he doesn’t care that it’s a sponsored link, he just wanted to get to Netflix.

Granted, as he grows older and more educated in the ways of the Internet he may be less-inclined to click on sponsored links, but the lesson remains. The businesses that have opted to not promote themselves via Google and other major search engine sponsored links (at a minimum for those people that are searching specifically for their company) are most likely missing large opportunities every day.

As our children grow into this Internet and information age, it seems easy to forget about how they are taught to navigate these waters. Where we need to be careful is in realizing that many teachers may not have the knowledge of how to navigate the Internet themselves that our children need to be taught by. [As an aside: I have huge respect and appreciation for teachers, and in no way mean to belittle them in my previous comment] In many ways, those that are in teaching positions are still learning how to harness the power of the Internet themselves.

What to do

As businesses increasingly build relationships with customers via online tools (not just their website, but also social media, etc) they need to be especially focused on how the upcoming generations will look for and find them online. They are not buyers yet, but they influence the largest buying group (women) dramatically – don’t think they don’t. And in the near future, they will be buyers, and if they aren’t able to find you, they will not have the loyalty of your older demographic customers. Kids and teens are far more inclined to move on in an instant if they are unable to find what they are looking for – which means they move on past your business if you’re not prepared.