Have you ever noticed the level of importance people place on ‘The first page of Google’? I run into this phenomenon often. I get phone calls because of it. There are not-funny memes based on it. (Where is the best place to hide something? On the second page of Google) People (mostly marketers and small business owners) talk about it as it if it is the single most important metric on the Internet. They are conditioned to do this because of how people, specifically the Googler, use Google Search. How do you use Search?
- Default settings.
- Without a basic understanding of the mechanics behind how the terms are used.
- Without modifiers.
- Devoid of knowledge on how returns are ranked or what impacts that rank.
- Oblivious to the fact that the only thing more powerful than giving people the right information, is giving them the wrong information.
Here is a biggie: If you use Google Search on the mobile web in iOS…you are at a huge disadvantage if you have never used or don’t know what a long press on the reload button does or don’t use any options in the share sheet before you hit the Go button. That is a fact, and there are people who are counting on you not knowing.
The person who wrote the, ‘Best place to hide something’, meme, as well as those who constantly use it – either don’t understand how arbitrary it really is or – are counting on your inability to understand. If they did have a clue it wouldn’t be as funny. Most people believe that page 1 is top 10, and almost no one ever gets to page 9 on a search. But the fact of the matter is, I can get returns 1-100 on the first page. Why? Because I don’t fall into the category of people who are guilty of #1 in the above, “How do you use search?” That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m smarter or better than you. Nor does it mean that my research will be any more or less effective than yours. It does mean that my research (if I used Google Search for research) would be less impacted by marketing. Pagination does something to the thought process that makes you feel like the farther you get away from “Page 1” the farther away you are from the truth. Ironically, nothing could be further from the truth than that feeling.
There are awesome white papers that discuss the efficacy of Search used by a person who seeks, ‘truth,’ or, ‘fact’. If those are the reasons you use Search and you can be honest with yourself that you are not vulnerable to the above 5 bullets, then you are set for an effective session in research. But in your quest to find the information upon which your decision will be based, you must ensure that your conclusion is not based simply on the things you agree with. You need to find the most popular, ‘wrong’ information as well. Luckily, finding the most popular wrong data is easy: It will be on the first page of an unmodified Google Search using the default settings for a person who cannot detect obvious SEO’d returns.
There are great tutorials on how to use Google search effectively. I won’t replicate them here because I’m not interested in helping people find the most popular returns. I’m more interested in helping people find and assess the proper data to yield the answer they need…unless I have an interest in helping them find the wrong answer.
Catch my drift?
I got an interesting notification on metrics from Quora the other day. It states that an ‘answer’ I had written was placed in the Quora Digest and reached a specific milestone:
The Quora digest is a weekly e-periodical that has some kind of special sauce which dictates how many people get it. Much of it is based on popularity: How many responses it gets, up-votes, activity and shares. Basically how popular it is. I’ve seen some that get sent in the 100k range. While the 1K metric pales in comparison to that, I would rather focus on what it was about this specific answer that got it to this point. I have given much more detailed and helpful answers to people in the past. I have provided information that would certainly be considered more impactful when it comes to the lives of people using mobile devices.
Things that make a read popular differ from person to person. We have to be careful about that word, ‘popular’, because popular does not denote any intellectual value. It doesn’t take into account the accuracy of the information presented, nor the propensity to be beneficial to those that read it. For example, when people share videos about fire-arm demonstrations with me on Facebook, more often than not it will be based on a large number of cartridges expended in a short amount of time, or a montage of clips that show an ignorant or foolish operator firing a large caliber weapon where the discharge makes it impossible for the operator to maintain positive control of the weapon. The number of videos I get on fire-arms that demonstrate the operators ability to accurately hit a target while maintaining safety guidelines and best-practices are rare.
In my opinion, an article that consists of a good amount of relatable content, a mix of text and visuals and the level of controversy it contains will gain good traction. Is it disruptive? Does it have entertainment value? Entertainment value seems to be one of the important ones. Telling a story or showing a sequence visuals that lends credence to the point being made while providing humor to the level of absurdity is one of those recipes for a good read, but sometimes this can be taken above the intent of the author. In the following discussion, I made an unqualified statement based on my opinion. I did not have evidence or proof of the claim, but when called on it I responded with a sequence of visuals that, on the surface, appeals to the sense vision and the image recognition that people use as discriminators:
To the above question I answered:
If they did that, then both companies would fail.
Apple would stop designing mobile technology, and Samsung wouldn’t have Apple mobile technology to steal designs from.
-Jason Yeaman, That iGuy, TheMobileGuru, Apple Certified Associate for Mac Integration 8.9k Views • Jason has 630+ answers in Apple (company).
9000 people (and counting) viewed my ‘answer’ and currently, it is the accepted ‘answer’. Why? Because when called on it, an anonymous person asked:
I answered that with the following:
None of the above images contain any implication that Samsung had ‘stolen’ designs from Apple. There is no documentation to corroborate or substantiate my claim. I used visuals that implied it was possible, and left it open to suggestion without any text to qualify my claim. By doing this, it got an exceptionally high up-vote count (for my content) probably for the level of absurdity and the entertainment value it brings.
Quora in my opinion is a better place to conduct research than using Google Search. The returns you get on a Quora question also describe who the Answer came from, and information about that writer, like how many other answers he or she had provided in the same category. The asker can gauge the level of acceptability by the number of up-votes the community has provided it. Answers are fielded from anyone, but having a community of intellectuals to curate the information with these tools and provide ranking based on the opinions of people and their thought process provides a better environment to gather research data. As my example above shows, it is not perfect. But it is much more granular and the data presented is qualified by visible metrics that the consumer can take into account at first glance.
Contrast this with Google Search. At first glance you have no idea why returns are ranked the way they are, other than an assumption of popularity. Who are the people that made it popular and what credentials do they have to substantiate its rank? Does money play a role? The only metrics you are provided on a Google search are something like this:
I am impressed. About as much as I am by the videos about fire-arms I get on Facebook that discharge a large number of cartridges in a short amount of time. It’s entertaining, but I put more credence in accuracy.
When conducting your research, hopefully you do as well.
Also published on Medium.