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3 Easy Steps to Design a Website for the Boomer Generation:

Designing Sites for Baby Boomers

It’s the market that still seems to be eluding the online marketing world: Boomers. In the last two years, several sites have popped up to court this generation. And, yet, they still can’t find a way to form a real boomer community with them, even though there are, according to the 2000 Census, over 79 million. Sure, many companies are investing heavily into tapping this market, but online, I believe that many still consider this to be a niche group not worth catering to.

Three Boomer Sites Not Up Snuff:

eMarketer predicts that by 2011, over 83% of the Baby Boomer population will be online and active. Logically, and naturally, these folks are going to want a place to congregate. And, whomever can find the right model and design, will own the market. As you can see from the chart, all three sites are below half a million monthly users. So where are they all going?

How To Design a Dynamite Baby Boomer Site:

Just a few quick tips on how to design a site that Boomers may actually want to visit

1. Color Choice is Key:

Studies have shown, and science has proved, that the color blue is actually the hardest color on the eye on the as we age. Moreover, you have think about the psychological implications of the palette you choose, what group of colors best represents that generation. Blue, while being a very gender-neutral color and representing trustworthiness, also represents sadness and the ambient. Physiologically, blue calms and sedates.

Colour perception and sensitivity; less violet light is registered, making it easier to see red and yellows than blues and greens and often making darker blues and black indistinguishable.

-Web Accessibility for Older Users: A Literature Review

If you look at three sites listed above, blue dominates the palette. Seems this would be the color to stay away from, right? These sites aren’t banks or financial entities in any sense, so why use blue? What kind of trustworthiness do they have to build, visitor loyalty? Why “calm and sedate” your visitors, seriously?

2. Large, In-Your-Face Text

Not only does body deterioration come with age, but so does eye deterioration. To be honest, I like sites with text bigger than 10 point font, considering I live at the keyboard 60+ hours a week. If your users have to struggle to read the site, then you can bet 99 out 100 times, they’re gone, especially a demographic that has poor eyesight to begin with.

I would stick with no less than a 12 pt. font, possibly in Arial or Tahoma.

3. The Site has to be About Boomers

Of course all three sites are “about” Boomers, but are presented in such a way as if they are selling something to them, rather than a place to commune. I believe the website will have to serve the ego of the Baby Boomer generation, not merely have a name and outer shell that identifies with them.

If you’re following, then the solution to designing the Boomer site is to create a robust social networking site. All they’ll want to do is talk about themselves: photo-sharing, video sharing, blogging, discussions, etc. (after all it’s what they’ve done best the past 50+ years) It doesn’t need to be as globally-integrated to other sites, they won’t use it. They key is to have very easy to use functionality: pick and post. Remember the K.I.S.S. Rule: Keep It Simple Stupid.

No website is going to take over for Ebay or Amazon to serve their commerce needs to buy goods. No website like this going to serve as the “News” station replacement over their local newspaper sites and national news sites. They don’t even want to connect with one another; they just want to talk out loud to everyone else.


Charter Communications: The End of Web Privacy

New Era of Transparency: Goodbye Web Privacy

Search Engine Roundtable posted a very interesting article today about ISP (internet service provider) Charter Communications “deep packet technology”. And an interesting discussion popped up on Webmaster World on the subject as well, which I strongly suggest anyone using Charter Communications read immediately.

Here’s is some choice language from the “memo” on Charter’s site:

How does this service actually work?

It uses completely anonymous information and, based on your surfing and search activity on the Internet, it infers your interests in certain product or service categories, such as automobiles/sports cars, fashion/handbags, or travel/Europe, and so forth.

The enhanced service we are bringing to you was created with your privacy in mind and was designed to collect and store only anonymous information that cannot be used by anyone to identify you. The original data on which your online activity is based – such as historical logs of web pages visited, search queries used, and ads clicked on by an individual – is not stored [but is used in some fashion].

So here’s the $64,000 question: Does Charter’s behavior matter?

Inherently, one would think that it does matter. Further, one would assert that what I do in the privacy of my home (even though the activity interjects me into a global sphere of contact) should stay in my home.

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps, I’ve been in the SEM/SEO game too long, not to mention my extensive military career where private information is a luxury, that I’m nearly immune to it. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is where the web, the world is headed, complete transparency. Once again, as I mentioned before, there are no more secrets. Information is a stream-of-consciousness now; all one has to do is stick their hand out and grab it.

Google’s been collecting anonymous data on users for years and years, through the PageRank toolbar, Google Desktop, Google Talk, and other wonderful applications. Their universal search is just the beginning; they’ve already discussed behaviorally targeted Pay-per-Click. Let’s not forget about Yahoo! and Microsoft as well. They’ve been gathering the same data. And, once again, I haven’t heard an uproar from the web community over this.

I hate to dip my toes into the psychology of an SEO, but perhaps it’s because we are SEOs that we find this an egregious offense. We live in the non-private world all day; in fact, our jobs is to de-privatize information so it can be found and used by consumers to build brand awareness, brand loyalty, and revenue. Why is Charter’s behavior any different from our own?

Just a little thought to rest your head on tonight.


An Argument: Use Meta-Descriptions, They’re Not Obsolete

Meta-Descriptions are Good For You

There’s some talk out there that meta-descriptions are a waste of time and aren’t really needed when optimizing your site. That’s nonsense. Pure and simple.

Every major search engine uses meta descriptions, and every major search engine bolds the terms from the query in your TITLE TAG and META-DESCRIPTION in the SERPs. It’s valuable, otherwise, what would be the point of showing the meta-description and bolding the terms in the Big Three? Like so:

And, I have to point out to SE Roundtable, that meta-data is NOT the same as meta-keywords. Easy way to put it is: they are the same genus, different species. And, I agree, meta-keywords are fairly worthless, especially on top-level pages. But, as you can see above, every engine displays and takes into account the meta-description. Now, whether they weight the ranking that page is given organically, only the engines really know that. Because, as far as I know, no one knows the exact elements and weight to Google, Yahoo!, and MSN’s algorithms.

Moreover, SEOMoz compiled a great report of Search Engine Ranking Factors and their importance based on what 37 industry leaders (names we all know and recognize). Here’s the introductory text from Rand Fishkin:

This document represents the collective wisdom of 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimization. Together, they have voted on the various factors that are estimated to comprise Google’s ranking algorithm (the method by which the search engine orders results). The result is a resource of incredible value – although not every one of the estimated 200+ ranking elements are included, it is my opinion that 90-95% of the knowledge required about Google’s algorithm is contained below.

I would like to make special mention of the Meta-Description section:

37 leaders in the SEO industry think meta-description is “moderately important”. Not to mention, some of the sites we work on with completely bare meta-data, begin to rank well after a month or so after we insert some solid keywords and long-tail into the meta-description. So, yes, I think it’s important. And, frankly, not writing meta-descriptions is simply doing your sites and injustice.

Let’s not forget that Google Webmaster Tools tracks them and identifies duplicates. It’s about as blatant as it’s going to get to the SEO world: make unique meta-descriptions because we count them and they mean something.

Don’t get me wrong, I think forum discussion on WebMaster World is useful as a logic/thought puzzle in Search Engine Algorithm Theory, but can’t be taken seriously by SEOs whom clients pay for results. And, hopefully, I’ve compiled enough evidence here, that you’ll see you can’t ignore them.

If anyone out there has evidence to the contrary, by all means, my ears are open.


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