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Just Google It

August 2, 2011

Something I see frequently online is people trying to help other people find something online by telling them to search for it. This typically takes a form something like this: “It’s really easy to find. Just Google ‘[name of person]’ and ‘[topic].'” Sometimes they’ll even tell you how many links down from the top of the page. I see three main problems with this:

  1. Search engine results won’t be the same for everyone. Google, for instance, takes your location into account, and of course the company has been toying with using its social networking services to enhance search. (Take Google +1, for instance.) It’s also been my experience that the same keywords in a different order will yield slightly different results.
    • Ads are a bonus problem for people who tell you to click, let’s say, the third result. Not everyone knows to skip the ads at the top, and there’s no way of knowing whether the person posting the number knew it, either. Worse, the number of ads fluctuates.
  2. Things change. Even if everyone in the world using the same keywords would get the same results right now, there’s no guarantee that the same results would appear tomorrow, or in a week, or in five years. In fact, since the Web constantly changes, you can very nearly guarantee that won’t be the case.
  3. If it’s so easy to find, it seems to me that there’s no legitimate reason that the person sharing the information can’t do the search himself, post the link instead of the search terms, and save everyone else a step. It comes off looking like laziness.

The bottom line is this: If you want others to find a particular page on the Web, you should provide a link to that page. That’s the only way to ensure they see the page you had in mind, and it makes their lives easier.

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