So you think you can do online research? 

So you think you can research?

So you think you can research?

The most common sentences I hear when I tell people what I do for a living are:

  • Online researching is easy.
  • All you do is sit in front of the computer and play with Google, anyone can do that.
  • Why would I use an online researcher?
  • Google will tell me all I know.

The average online researcher

“Mr Average Searcher” types in some words, he presses enter, and then under a second he gets ten thousand million hits.  Mr Average Searcher (most likely) will only look at the search results on the first page.  He reads (possibly) only half of the results on the 1st page and thinks he’s found what he was looking for.   If you want to look at some recent figures on click through rates have a look at Barry Schwartz’s article over in Marketing Land.

Now, let’s just think about that for a moment.  Out of a possible 10 000 000 000 search results only 5, (possibly 10) of those results are actually read? The researcher thinks they have got the best information?  It is quite bizarre.

Why is this so?

I blame Google!

Well not Google entirely.  There are a number of different web search engines out there, Google just has better PR. I think the phrase “let me Google that” highlights what I’m trying to say here. You never hear people say; let me Yahoo that, or Bing that or even Dog Pile that.

It would seem that Internet search tools have made  researching online more accessible.  The internet is easy to access. It is easy to use. But is it easy to master?  I’m not so certain.

The internet is big

When I think about the enormity of the Internet and cyberspace in general I am reminded of the line in Douglas Adams’s book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which reminds us

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store, but that’s just peanuts to space.

Yep the internet is Big. When one conducts a simple key word and they get 10 000 000 000 search results in under  a second, it may get all a bit overwhelming.  Who in their right mind would sit through all that content?  Nobody has time for that.

Make some time

How much time? 

Yes I get it. Everybody is busy.  Even more so if you are a a small business owner.  Time is money.

However,  please consider this, how much money and time will be lost if you only look at the top ten search results and you get the wrong sort of information?

I’m not suggesting you read hundreds and thousands of articles.  Ten good articles should be enough to get the correct information you are after.

Hang on but you just said, 10 articles wasn’t enough?

Yes I did.  However the ten articles listed on the first page may not be the right results for your information needs.  There is  a strong possibility you will have to read more than ten articles to find the best ten.  You just need to apply a bit of information evaluation skills when assessing each article.

Information Evaluation?

Generally speaking there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself when assessing a piece of information. These are:

  • How old is this information?
  • What expertise does the author have in the topic you are researching?
  • Does the author have an agenda?
  • What is the author’s reputation like?

If you apply these four questions to your original on line researching  question, you should be able to get 10 good articles in next to no time.

Online Research Matters

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