Saturday morning my eight-year-old daughter asked for help in finding her grandmother a birthday present. Since she did not have any ideas on what to buy, I suggested we begin doing some research on the computer. I asked her to go to a Google Search Bar (which she immediately knew how to do) and type in what she thought would be a good way to get started: “help me find the perfect birthday present for my grandmother” is what she typed in. When the Google results page appeared, she looked directly at the sponsored results. She was immediately drawn to an ad with the title “Birthday Gifts For Grandma”. The description in the ad said “We have the perfect birthday present for your grandma”. She immediately clicked on that listing (3rd on the page). Funny how that is an ad that I personally would not click. I did not notice much creativity, nor a call to action. However, my daughter doesn’t know a whole lot about internet marketing, and right in front of her very eyes was the exact result she was hoping to find. I asked her what she was looking for on that page and she said I’m looking for something that says, “We have the perfect birthday present for your grandma”. Perhaps this very company actually thought that it may be a child who is searching for a gift for their grandmother, and created relevant ad copy for a 3rd grader? Or perhaps not, since the webpage was much too cumbersome for my daughter to utilize on her own once she was directed to their landing page.
I decided we would just do an original arts and crafts project for a gift, however, at this point I was also interested in experimenting with how a child searches on the web. I asked her what else she would want to search for online. She typed in “webkinz toys for girls” (for those of you who don’t know, Webkinz.com is a social site for children and their stuffed animals). She skimmed the page quickly and saw in the title of the 4th sponsored ad was the word “store”. She immediately clicked on it and when I asked why she explained it was because it had the word store in the title and she figured it would be a good shopping site. When she arrived at the landing page, there were 12 dolls displayed and each said, “Click here to learn about this doll”. It was extremely user-friendly for an eight-year-old, and she was easily able to browse the site on her own. Seems as though this company really thought about who they were targeting in their online marketing initiative — from the PPC campaign to the usability of the site.
She was having so much fun with the experiment she wanted to try typing more things into Google to find information. She said she would be interested in finding friends online – what we call social sites — a way for children to meet other children online. I asked her to type in what she thought would make the most sense. At this point I wasn’t surprised when she typed “new website for kids to meet friends in a safe way”. Every one of the sponsored ads was for adult dating, some of them with ad copy that read “hot men and hot women meet”- completely irrelevant to the search request.
In this last example I asked her to type something into Google pertaining to homework help. She typed in “division tips for school” and not one relevant site appeared. She then typed in “help me with school division” and again, no relevant results. Third try, she typed in “division help” and the 1st sponsored ad’s title said “Division Worksheets” with the description “Easily printable math worksheets”. Finally!!!
I find the online search behavior of a 3rd grader very interesting. My daughter types in the search bar exactly what she is looking for, no matter how long a sentence may be. She also clicks on sponsored ads because to her, the ad copy is more enticing to click. I find that most relevant sites for her age range do not have ad campaigns targeted to what a child would actually type into the search engine. I would assume that many internet users looking online for help with schoolwork are elementary age (let’s be realistic — these days children learn very young how to use a computer!). I believe that if my child is typing in “please help me with my math homework for 3rd grade”, there should be many more results than just paid tutoring schools in the sponsored sections. Just food for thought, however, there is a whole generation of internet users who are not being targeted appropriately through sponsored advertising.