As part of a promotion for my two new ebooks, I’m sharing selections from “Building a Better BS Detector” parts 1 & 2 about market research. Interested in reading more? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Tame the Wild Google
Google (or Bing, if that’s how you roll) will probably serve as your main gateway to third-party information. We all know Google’s abilities: Google knows all. Google sees all. Google can almost read your mind. However, Google works on hidden biases and trends that require vigilance by the researcher.
- Ask pointed questions. Yes, you can type ANYTHING into Google and get an answer. However, the more specific your questions, the closer you’ll get to the answers you want. So, don’t type in “laundry soap” or “laundry soap buyers,” but something more specific like “heavy users of laundry soap.” Google even has rudimentary natural-language capabilities, so feel free to enter a question such as “who uses the most laundry soap?”
- First isn’t always best. Most notoriously, Google tends to return the most-visited or cited page for any given query. While PageRank helps employ the wisdom of the crowds, it helps to remember what Gen. William T. Sherman said about journalists: “vox populi, vox humbug.” Look down the page and even (gulp!) onto the subsequent pages to find the most complete and credible answer to your question.
- Be creative. While search engines work logically, people don’t, at least not always. So do some free-association brainstorming to come up with other ways at getting to the information you want.
- For instance, on a B2B financial services project, I wanted to understand the differences among roles in the industry. So I typed “a day in the life of” plus the different titles (investment banker, commodities trader, etc.) and found a mountain of relevant first-person articles.
- In another example, I wanted to get perspectives on home remodeling. So after looking up terms like “home remodeling” and “home renovation,” I searched on the adage “a man’s home is his castle.” I found several home remodeling websites with a more creative focus than the usual contractor’s site.
Remember, Google can’t be any smarter than the questions you ask it.