Why Your Content Fails to Convert Consumers Aged 65+ (And Why You Should Care)

Jen Saunders

Marketing to older consumers requires careful consideration that, unfortunately, even thebest SEO agenciescan miss when creating digital marketing strategies for their clients. All too often marketers will imagine older shoppers flipping through the big bulky yellow pages to look for products and services, and although most online searchers fall well below the 65+ age range, this crowd should never be discounted bySEO companies that specialize in content marketing for two main reasons: (1) it is the professional’s duty to target ALL demographics, even the smaller ones, and (2) there are more older adults online than you think. 

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A Realistic Look At Senior Citizens Who Go Online

According to a 2014 Pewreport on the number of older adults who go onlinethere has been an 86% increase (a majority are educated users) since 2000, and the percentage keeps going up with a 36% increase from 2015 to 2016. The report comes from a number of large surveys and concludes that six in ten senior citizens go online. So most of them use desktops, right? After all, my 69 year-old mother can’t even figure out how to send a text message, let alone tell if her phone is set to silent mode, and the thought of her performing Internet searches on a smartphone seems as far-fetched as her ability to perform the moonwalk on a balancing beam suspended 1000 feet over New York City. But my generalization is wrong. According to this same research 77% of online seniors use mobile phones to access the Internet, which is vital for SEO agencies to know when creating a content marketing strategy designed to rank and convert the 65+ crowd.

While in today’s world consumers age 65 or older may feel left out when it comes to marketing, the fact is more and more industries have started to realize just how much baby boomers still matter in the world of advertising. Because of this, numerous products and services are being marketed in ways that will appeal DIRECTLY TO older consumers. Whether it’s doctors or lawyers advertising their services regarding estate planning or regular checkups for optimal health, or companies offering special travel deals, there are specific ways savvy digital marketers can reach these consumers with thoughtful content that resonates.

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Two Basic Digital Marketing Areas to Focus On

Like any other demographic you should focus your effort on the SEO strategy itself and creating content that appeals to and motivates the consumer. With this in mind, strive for the following:

  • Create content that ranks your landing page with senior search behavior as a foundation
  • Make your content reflect the way seniors want to be viewed as online consumers
  • Implement their generational commonalities
  • Build trust without playing the victim card, and by demonstrating security
  • Tap into their psychology and use your findings to fuel an inbound strategy that will delight and win them over

It is true that online users over the age of 65 are less trusting of the Internet than younger cohorts. Many believe that making online purchases can lead to security issues, while others engage online shopping with a great degree of unease because there isn’t any face-to-face action. This is why it is especially important to create custom content that humanizes a brand for a market that relies on the human touch to feel secure.

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Creating Your Content SEO Strategy for Baby Boomers

The general formula for reaching older adults is no different than one used for targeting millennials: content the Google bots love + well-written, original, entertaining educational content that forms emotional connections with consumers + simplified user experience = winning all day long.

Content for Google Bots –Before you can win over and convert clients, they must first see a link in the SERPs to your landing page. With theimplementation of Google RankBrainand the growing importance of mobile search optimization, Google is using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve search result quality by identifying human intent. Use more organic, natural longtail keywords with elements of the “Q&A” to clearly spell out what your content offers, who its for, who it isn’t for, and why people love it.

SEO Content for Baby Boomers –Although organic longtail mobile friendly content is vital for ranking, be sure to also use shorter keyword phrases. Here’s why: although I have not studied this to any great depth, I did notice that once when conducting a seminar to older adults on how to use the Internet, an overwhelming majority of them used the speech function on smartphones but made fragmented statements versus asking more natural questions. For example, many would say “cheapest vacations for seniors” as opposed to “where can I get the cheapest price on senior vacation packages”. Therefore, it seems logical just for this single engagement to throw in both (and it certainly won’t hurt anything).

User Experience for the 65+ Crowd –It is ideal to have large, easy-to-read navigational cues such as buttons or easy-to-see anchor text that take users directly to the product or service they are looking for. That said, keep these up top where they are more visible, and push your optimized text down below. Be sure to use HD images that not only humanize your landing page to instill greater trust in the user experience, but adapt them to break up the content so the consumer doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

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Content Reflecting Consumer Self-Identity: Never Call Them Old

Think about it: older adults will often engage in behavior associated with younger groups because they want to be a part of that world and not tied-up into an identity that tells them, and others, they are old. Although watching a senior citizen skydive compared to observing one doing an online search for their grandson’s graduation gift is not equal in terms of a youthfully-driven activity “wow factor”, both are nonetheless associated with youthful practices. Older people know full well that most brands are not marketing directly to their cohort. When you can acknowledge a senior citizen presence but not remind them they have another 10 years of life to cling to, your marketing strategy creates an intimate channel while making them feel youthful.

While in years past marketing agencies may have directly marketed to “old people”, many of today’s baby boomers consider themselves to be in the prime of their lives. Therefore, rather than calling them old or even “elderly” smart advertisers can instead adopt terms like “older adults”, baby boomers” and “senior citizens”. The difference between “elderly” and “senior citizen” may seem minuscule, but from a psychological standpoint the difference is substantial. The word “elderly” has specific ties to a definition of someone who is aging, while “senior citizen” is a more general word to describe an older person. If your content can find a clever and subtle way to connect your products to a message such as, “you are a senior citizen but you aren’t elderly”, you will delight your older audience and you can expect to see an increase in conversions.

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Cater Content to the “Me” Generation

Although older adults don’t want to be isolated from general consumer groups, there is one overwhelming thing they have in common: “the good old days”. If you are creating a landing page specifically for people aged 65 and older, find a way to incorporate subtle touches of the 40s, 50s and even 60s into your content that echoes the general values held during those times. This will resonate with their psyches, while helping to instill trust via familiarity in a human manner. In addition, digital marketers can also use the second person pronoun “you” throughout the content to enhance personalization thus allowing the consumer to feel as if the product or service is speaking directly “to them” and not “at them”.

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Build Trust and Keep Promises

You can’t blame seniors for being hesitant when it comes to making online purchases. Members of the senior population are targeted by fraud at increasing rates. Since Internet mistrust is the highest among older adults, it only makes sense that your content stresses trust and safety. For example, you can create a H2 title on your landing page that reads “How do I Know this Site is Legitimate and Secure from Online Predators”, and then follow up with some straight-forward answers with visual aids. You can point out the Google Trusted Store icon and explain through some short bullets what retailers must go through to get this seal of approval. You can also show a screenshot of the padlock icon in the address bar with a simple explanation. Add customer reviews to the page, and showcase how long you have been in business with your Google map location in plain view.

Live chat is another great way to instill trust in even the most skeptical consumers.  Whether it’s a local attorney doing a live chat session to answer general questions, or a large corporation improving its customer service department, senior consumers place a high value on dealing with companies they can trust, and in order for that trust to be front and present in the senior psyche, a human layer must be prevalent.

Finally, follow through with your promises. Various studies reveal that one of the biggest reasons older adults walk away from a brand is when promises are not kept. While younger consumer groups may be more likely to shrug and say “well, that’s a business”, baby boomers tend to be traditionalists and hold brands to their word–a sign of integrity and a vehicle for driving trust.

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Ageless Marketing Justified by a Popular Campaign

“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” This is the popular slogan that has, for decades, graced the product Life Alert–a device one can use to call for police and medical services worn around the neck. On one hand this campaign has been hugely successful, as its slogan has been the butt of many jokes from Improv 80s comedy up to contemporary comedic sitcoms garnering massive amounts of attention. But are the targeted consumers the ones buying the popular medical alert device? In anarticle by Consumer Reportsexamining medical alert systems with a focus on Life Alert, it is suggested that seniors are not the primary consumers who purchase the device but instead friends and family members that “know someone who could use a medical alert system” are the ones making purchases. Again, older adults do not want to “feel old” nor be viewed by society as some fragile relic that can break a hip by walking over uneven tiles on a kitchen floor. Furthermore, the social media remarks visible on this article’s page come from a mix of younger people who bought the product for a family member, younger people with medical conditions such as epilepsy, and a mix of seniors who all seem to be posting complaints. 

Life Alert creates an ideal example of a brand that could garner even more sales by ditching the comical old “help I’ve fallen” routine, and instead embrace an ageless marketing campaign that still stresses the dangers of being an older person with increased health risks home alone, but that doesn’t showcase them as a joke while excluding other consumers who need the product but would rather buy from a brand that markets to them. That said, if you are a digital marketer and your client’s brand has a target market of older adults, as well as other cohorts, an ageless marketing campaign that touches on each consumer profile will surely garner greater conversions in 2017. The 90s are long gone and consumers are not so easily swayed by advertising gimmicks, especially senior citizens.
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Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.

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