- Daniel Russell, a senior research scientist at Google, shared with us three common mistakes that can prevent you from finding the perfect search results.
- Such habits include performing only one search on a particular topic, tailoring search results to get a specific answer rather than the most accurate result, and skipping search results that include terms you’re not familiar with.
- Russell discovered these tendencies as part of his field research in his role at Google, which involves shadowing people to understand how they’re using the company’s search engine in everyday life.
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Google’s search engine has become so pervasive, it’s almost impossible to remember a time when you couldn’t find the answer to nearly any question just by googling it. It’s become such common vernacular that Merriam-Webster began recognising it as a verb in 2006.
But even if you use Google on a daily basis, you’ve probably struggled to find the result you’re looking for on at least a few occasions. That’s where Google’s Daniel Russell comes in, who works as a senior research scientist for search quality and user happiness at the company.
Part of his role involves conducting field tests to gain a better understanding of how people are using Google’s search engine in everyday life. And that research has led him to notice three common habits that can make it more difficult to find the answer you’re looking for through Google.
Here’s a look at the top three mistakes people make when conducting a Google search, according to Russell.
Stopping after one Google search when researching a topic.
One Google search usually isn’t enough to become well-educated on a topic, says Russell, particularly if it’s an issue that’s complex or broad. Russell suggests performing at least two searches on a given subject to get a more comprehensive and complete view of the topic at hand.
Tailoring your query to get a specific search result.
Another common practice Russell sees among Google users is inputting a very specific query in order to turn up a sought-after result that may not accurately answer your question.
For example, imagine you’re performing a search to find out what the average length of an octopus is. You might have heard that the answer is 21 inches, but perhaps you’re not sure so you’ve decided to do a quick Google search to check.
Rather than typing in a query like “average length of an octopus 21 inches,” you should just search for “average length of an octopus.” Doing the former may prompt Google to pull up search results that list 21 inches as the answer even if it’s not correct.
“You wouldn’t want to prejudice a jury,” Russell said. “So likewise, you shouldn’t put terms into your query that prompt Google to give you a specific type of answer.”
Avoiding search results with words you may not recognise.
If you see a search result that looks promising but includes terms you’re not familiar with, don’t skip it, says Russell. By doing so, you may be missing out on valuable information that could include the answers you’re looking for. Instead, try performing another Google search for the words that you don’t recognise.
Russell pointed to an example, remembering one instance in which someone he was shadowing as part of his field research inputted a search query that read something like: “Why do I get white patches on my cheeks in the summer?”
That person skipped over a top result because it had the word “hypopigmentation” in it, a term that refers to patches of skin that are lighter than your normal skin tone, according to Healthline.
But this person didn’t know what that meant, so he disregarded it even though it included the information he was looking for.
“When you’re reading or writing, you shouldn’t let these things slip by,” Russell said.
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