Each year, Forrester Research publishes a report detailing how consumers find websites. The findings are always fascinating, because they reveal different preferences between generations, and the popularity of different discovery methods changes from year to year, sometimes in surprising ways.
For 2012, 54% of respondents found websites through natural search results, up from 50% in 2011. Social networks were the second-most preferred discovery resource, with 32% using them in 2012, up from 25% in 2011 and 18% in 2010. Links were the third important means of website discovery, with 28% saying they found websites from links on other sites, down from 31% last year.
Attention paid search marketers: Just 18% of those surveyed said that they used search ads for website discovery. This is actually an improvement from 2011, when paid search was the least popular form of website discovery, with only 8% reporting that they used paid search ads to find websites.
Forrester surveyed 33,000 online users in the U.S. and Canada to collect its data.
Generational Differences In Website Discovery
Unsurprisingly, the study found generational differences in how people find websites. While natural search results was the clear preference for all generations, social media was the most favored second preference for younger people, with 50% preference for Generation Z (ages 18 to 23) and 43% of Generation Y (ages 24 to 32), with just 22% of Older Boomers (ages 57 to 67) and 19% for the Golden Generation (ages 68 and older) using social media to find websites.
By contrast, older people relied more on traditional media such as television and newspapers than younger people. There were only slight differences in the use of links and sponsored search results between the generations.
The full report, How Consumers Found Websites In 2012, is available for $US 499.