In a world loaded with misinformation, unreliable sources, and a tyranny of distractions in the form of content, social media, and perpetual stimulation, it is more important than ever to know where and how to find information.
From a content marketing perspective, understanding the reasoning behind the content and learning how to effectively search for answers in the digital age can prove more beneficial and practical. Oftentimes, these marketers tackle projects that entail unfamiliar topics, necessitating the use of search skills to achieve a thorough understanding. If you’re implementing a content marketing strategy, the ability to search is detrimental to your success.
Benefits of Learning How to Search
Learning to search involves critical thinking, determination, and ingenuity, all of which can be skills that will aid your professional career. Being able to search thoroughly and effectively can give you access to more relevant and accurate information. Additionally, conducting deeper searches allows you to uncover valuable insights that can be used to inform your content strategy.
Creates a Learning Mindset
Constantly being willing to research and learn new information, versus relying solely on the information you already know and have memorized, will help you be a better learner. By incorporating aspects like better judgment, question formulation, and tenacity, you can adopt a good mindset for learning that extends beyond searching.
Content marketers must be learners to be successful. They must strive to fully understand a topic before they write about it so they can clearly convey it to the reader. By honing researching skills, such as how to conduct a search, select the best sources, and draw insights from the material found, content marketers can ensure that their work is accurate and valuable.
Increases Your Ability to Self-edit
When you consistently use search, you will grow your ability to refine searches into more concise queries.
Developing your ability to construct precise queries can also increase your ability to produce quality content. In the same way that you'll learn to submit queries that are concise and relevant, you'll learn to self-edit and write in a way that honors these objectives as well. In a sense, it helps you to ignore fluff and keep your eye on the goal or main objective in a situation.
Search Improves Openness to Critical Feedback
Searching effectively is an iterative process.
Often, the first search doesn’t return all the information you want, and it’s necessary to follow up with additional searches. Sometimes the facts don’t line up with what you expected to find. Accepting this feedback and understanding how best to use it to inform your future actions is an important skill that will make you more flexible and able to adapt to new challenges.
Tips for Improving Your Searching Skills
Using a search engine efficiently takes a combination of skills. Some come with experience, such as learning which keywords would be most fruitful to target. Others require more technical knowledge and an understanding of when different search strategies are appropriate.
Brush Up on Your Boolean Operators
Sometimes, simply inputting your search terms isn’t enough to return the desired results. To help narrow a search, it may be necessary to use some of Google’s more advanced query features. Adding boolean operators to your search query allows you more control over your search results.
Boolean operators like “AND” and “OR” allow you to dictate that the search engine looks for all the included terms or combine the results of several search queries. Enclosing a phrase in quotation marks makes Google search for that specific string of text. These are just a few of the powerful options Google offers for customizing a search query.
Don’t Just Search One Head Term
When searching for information, try to take variations into account too. When web content is written with target keywords in mind, authors often insert a variety of related phrases and popular search queries from a keyword research seed list. This list is made up of variations on the head term and related questions.
As a result, information-gathering can be made more effective by getting more granular with your web searches. If initial searches return subpar results, try again with some variations or search for other aspects of the topic.
Suppose you are looking for information about the impact of deforestation on biodiversity. You could use the following search terms in Google: "deforestation impacts biodiversity." If this search does not yield satisfactory results, you could refine the search by adding more specific terms such as "tropical deforestation impacts biodiversity" or "global deforestation impacts biodiversity."
Learn To Vet Authors and Sources
Google will try to return the best possible answer to a search query that it can find — but that doesn’t always mean you’ll get the answer you want.
The query could have been written ambiguously, causing the results to differ from what the searcher intended to see. Additionally, some pages could be benefitting from black hat SEO tactics to unfairly manipulate search engines into seeing their content as more valuable or relevant than it truly is. Some of those unsavory methods include cloaking, keyword stuffing, and the use of private blog networks (PBN) — and all of them can result in false positives, allowing spammy and scammy pages to rank high in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when they absolutely shouldn’t.
Whatever the case, it is a mistake to automatically assume the top response is the best possible result for your query. For a long time, Google’s algorithm assessed pages’ perceived expertise, authority, and trustworthiness — or E-A-T — on a subject to evaluate the quality of the information on a page.
E-A-T has since expanded to E-E-A-T to include “experience” as part of the ongoing evolution of search. It can be helpful to use these core ideas to perform your own evaluation and determine a page’s usefulness and value.
- Expertise: This refers to a source’s command of a field through experience and knowledge. Expertise can often be determined through the quality of information provided. An expert will typically provide clear answers and a unique perspective on a subject and related topics.
- Experience: Similar to expertise, a page has high experience if the content demonstrates some firsthand knowledge of the topic. For example, a medical topic written by a verified healthcare professional would likely have high experience. Similarly, a product review would likely have higher experience if the author demonstrates that they have actually used the product themselves.
- Authority: Try to determine who wrote the information. Check to see if the page lists the author’s credentials. If it doesn’t, check to see if there is information about the organization that produced the content. This can help to determine if they have the necessary experience to speak authoritatively on a topic.
- Trustworthiness: The content on a trustworthy page should exist with the primary purpose of informing a reader. As such, factual claims should have sources cited.
These guidelines can help to vet sources. To evaluate authorship, try to search for an author’s name and see if they have a larger presence online. Check the types of writing they have created and the subjects they have discussed, and see if any major inconsistencies exist that should draw closer scrutiny.
Get Comfy With Google’s Tools and Filters
Often, the first set of search results contains relevant information; it just needs to be sorted properly. Search results can be categorized based on the type of result or the date published. For example, Google offers tabs for categories like “news,” “shopping,” “images,” and “videos” which can help sort the information by only that which is most useful to you. Pages can also be sorted by the date they were posted.
Going back to the “deforestation” example, the first round of search results provided articles on how deforestation impacts biodiversity.
However, you may want current news articles about the deforestation impact. By reorginizing the search results by news, you are now served articles that address current deforestation issues around the world.
Now you have current articles with real-world examples that you can use in your content.
In conclusion, learning how to search effectively is a valuable skill that can benefit you professionally. It helps you access accurate information, uncover valuable insights, and inform your content strategy. By embracing a learning mindset and continuously seeking new knowledge, you can become a better learner and achieve success in your content marketing endeavors.