Researching on Google: just ask the damned question

Researching on Google - just ask the damned questionRecently my son, who is a post grad (MA) marketing management student at a UK university, asked me to help him find a customer profile on Google for a particular British food company about which his course was developing a business simulation project.

“What’s the matter with Google?” he shouted from his section of our rambling house over a trail of sleeping dogs and cats all the way to my home office. “I tried to find a customer profile for this company and there’s nothing on the first page, or the second, or ….” he bleated on.

“How much time have you got?” I shouted back.

“Half an hour before I need to submit my conclusions on the company’s customer profile.”

“Oh, no hurry then.”

“Mom, please, it’s not funny….can you do something?”

He’s 22 and a bright student. What’s so hard about researching on Google?

There and then it struck me that even youngsters (22 yrs) like my son are still entrenched in the bad old days when to find useful information on Google you needed to be an expert in Search and SEO techniques and know what keywords were going to work if your search was to lead to anything other than pages and pages of junk that had nothing whatsoever to do with the information you wanted.

What really shocked me here, was that my dearly beloved post-grad university student son did not know how to search on today’s Google to research his project.

And when I asked him, he told me that no-one at his university had ever suggested or even implied that they should learn how to search on the Google of today, despite the fact that…

  • a) Google is now the biggest repository of information the world has ever known and
  • b) it’s really easy to use.

So how do you research on Google now?

Enter a) Google Penguin, b) Google Panda, and c) common sense, plus a few and not necessarily in that order.

What seems to have escaped squillions of social media types and especially SEO wallahs, is that algorithm changes over the last 2-3 years within Google have made searching for research purposes so much easier that it isn’t even funny.

My son was blowing his stack because he was entering what he thought (based on how we used to search a few years ago) were the right terms to get what he wanted. Naughty, naughty, university, for not keeping these young people up to date. Here are some of the terms he used:

(Name) customer profile

(Name) customers by segment

(Name) primary market

(Name) products appeal

Nothing came up. What did I do?

I just asked the damned question, by keying in, “who is the typical (Name) customer?”

And at about the number 5 slot on page 1 of the results, was a match to a newspaper article in a respected publication, in which the author conveniently had listed all the key attributes of the (Name) typical customer.

Job done, attribution and details of author and publication referenced, happy student.

Frequently I get asked how I manage to get so much really valuable information from Google considering that the internet is stiff with erroneous information, spam, garbage and other crap that really doesn’t deserve to be there.

Surprise: it’s not difficult.

Here are my top tips for today’s Google searching:

1.Only take seriously sources you can trust.

2.When in doubt about a particular issue, check out several reliable sources. If they all say much the same thing, it’s reasonable to assume it’s true.

3.Don’t get sidetracked by interesting leads no matter how close they are to what you’re researching. Stick to the point or you’ll waste hours online.

4.A website’s PR ranking means that it’s popular; not necessarily that it provides the accurate information you need. Go for quality, rather than quantity (of content) that may well be influencing a site’s page rank.

5.Forget trying to figure out keywords, long-tailed, bushy-tailed or otherwise. Just ask the damned question. Google is now more user-friendly and idiot proof than ever before.

What is your recent experience of searching on Google?

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