You Are Better at Search Than Google


There is no denying that Google is clever. Just type in anything you like and within fractions of a second this search engine will find you almost everything there is to know about the topic and tell you where it is. Google even tells you which items are most likely to be the very thing you are looking for.

Yet in spite of this exceedingly fast ability to pin-point what you want, compared with your own brain, Google is rather dumb. Indeed, according to Google itself, only two out of every three searches result in a click being made on the results page, which suggests that what Google thinks people want, isn’t always the case. On top of this, significant numbers of people who have clicked on a link, return to Google within a minute or two in order to search again using similar words, once again indicating that Google’s results are not always “spot-on”. Equally, part of the problem is the way we search – using poor phrases and assuming Google knows what’s in our mind.

When you use advanced search methods on Google and carefully consider your search terms, then the search engine is pretty good at finding things. But ultimately, every search page you get is really saying “here are some ideas which I think you might be looking for. I’m not really sure, but it’s my best guess based on what you told me”.

Compare that with the human brain. Imagine you have lost your keys. You know they are somewhere in your dining room, but you don’t know where. You look around and find them after a scan of the scene in front of you. Effectively you are doing the same job as Google – locating information based on sketchy requirements. You are not sure exactly where you should be looking and if they are not your keys you are not really aware of what they look like, yet you can find them.

If I were to show you a photograph of a countryside scene and asked you to find the rabbit in the picture, you would locate it quickly. Even though you may have never seen that image before, you know a rabbit when you see one. Like finding the keys in the dining room, there is no error. Once you find what you are looking for, you’ve got it. You are not like Google, saying “here are the first ten items I think it might be”. You don’t rank your results; you are right first time.

Neuroscientists have long debated exactly how our brains can do this. After all, you need to use your visual system, but also your decision making systems and long-term memory. When you look for something, several different parts of the brain are involved. Now, new research shows that this activity is co-ordinated literally from the top of your head in a specialised part of the brain, the dorso-frontal parietal network. Basically this is your Google algorithm.

But you are better than Google because your brain ensures you find what you are looking for exactly and rapidly.

For business owners this has important implications for their websites. When someone lands on your site they know what they are looking for. So, their dorso-frontal parietal network kicks into action to locate it. If it can’t be seen, then the individual heads elsewhere to look. Just like looking for lost keys in the dining room, if they can’t be seen on the table, then attention is focused elsewhere in the room.

This means if your visitor cannot see what they are looking for straight away, they’ll depart your site and visit another one. Your visitors will assume it is not there, if the item they are looking for cannot be seen quickly. This means your web pages need to be completely obvious. And that means the right keywords in headlines, the right pictures and the right actionable elements. It means you have to focus precisely on what your visitors are looking for on each page because they will spot it is missing if you haven’ t included it.

Google might get visitors to your page, but their brain will decide in fractions of a second if your page is right for them or not. Provide exactly what they want and they will see it faster than Google lets them know your page existed.

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