Google like a PRO! - A guide to productive Googling

Google like a PRO! - A guide to productive Googling

Someone once said, "The secret to getting anything is to ask properly". You either ask, bargain, or convince. Either way, you are simply making a request with the right parameters.

The Google search engine may not be a person, but we definitely need to ask questions to get results, so we need to ask properly.

In this article, we will delve into how Google works and how to get the exact answers you need from Google, every time (or at least, almost every time).

Let’s assume I wake up one morning and decide that I want to get fit. Well, then I need to start doing exercise. I need workouts. I need regular routines. So I’ll just check Google for some.

homer simpson episode 23 GIF

If I go to Google and search “regular gym exercises," I get something like this:

Not exactly what I want, eh? However, if I enter “gym workout routines," here's what I get:

That looks more like it!

homer simpson episode 23 GIF

Let's take another example. Some days ago I was wondering how the right amount of water always managed to remain at the bottom of a toilet bowl no matter how many times you flushed it. So the first time I asked Google, I asked Why does the water in the toilet not drain away”. Here’s what I got:

Apparently, Google thought I was trying to fix a faulty toilet. which was definitely not what I intended. So I decided to rephrase the question and give it another shot. This time around, I typed in “How does the the toilet bowl hold water”. Here’s what I got this time around:

Now that explains it!

Now this begs the question - How do I get Google to give me the answers I want?
To answer that question, we need to first understand how Google works.

When you type a question into the Google search bar, here’s what happens:

  • Google's algorithms analyze the query (question) to understand its meaning, intent, and context. This involves breaking down the query into its constituent parts, such as keywords, phrases, and syntactic structures, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to decipher the semantics, syntax, and context of the query and better understand the user's intent

  • Google's algorithms then go through the vast index of web pages and other online content that the search engine has crawled and then use hundreds of factors to determine the relevance of these web pages to a given query. These factors include the presence of keywords, the quality of content, user engagement metrics, and the authority of the website.

  • Finally, Google provides you with the answers or websites that closely match your query and are most likely to contain answers to your questions.

Now that you have this knowledge, let's look at ways to make sure you get the exact answers you want anytime you type into the search bar!

Tips for Getting Precise Answers from Google

1. Google is not a person:

Sometimes, we tend to have the common misconception that Google thinks like a human, probably because it can answer how, when, where, and who questions in our natural language. This is wrong. Google is just a set of algorithms, so all the “why”s, “where”s, and “who”s are mostly filtered out except for cases where they are very necessary parts of the question.

For example, “What is Obama's age”, or “How old is Obama”, can be simply reduced to “Obama age”. This is shorter and makes it easier for the search engine to pick out the keywords "Obama" and "age."

2. When querying Google, don't be an asker; be a commander:

While this does not apply to all questions and inquiries, this method still works pretty well. Don't go begging Google for information, because if you do, you might end up with vague and irrelevant information.

Take yourself as an interrogator and let Google be your suspect. As an interrogator, you don't ask, "Can you tell me?" rather, you say, "Tell me." Instead of “Is there a way for me to do xyz”, just say “How to do xyz”. The more direct the question, the better.

Give It To Me Want GIF by Mashed

3. Use fewer, exact keywords:

Always remember that Google looks for keywords to identify your question topic and bring results, so you would want to use direct and specific keywords so that the search engine understands perfectly what you need to know.

This is also another reason we should always try to make our queries as short as possible - so that the chances of Google picking up unnecessary keywords are significantly reduced.

Love Hostels GIF

4. Ask yourself before asking Google:

Chances are, you might figure out the solution before even typing out the question if you do this. When confused and stuck, sit back and vocalize what you are trying to solve. A teammate told me it is called Rubber Duck Debugging (or Rubberducking). Pretend you're explaining the issue to someone who doesn't understand coding (or whatever line of profession your issue is coming from).

Rubber Duck Hml408 GIF by truTV’s Hack My Life

The problem is that we often think too much in one particular direction and fail to think that the problem question can be rephrased to give better search results.

5. Avoid the XY questions

The XY questions arise from XY problems. The XY problem is a communication problem where the question is about an end user's attempted solution (X) rather than the root problem itself (Y or Why?). It usually happens like this

  • User wants to do X.

  • User doesn't know how to do X, but thinks they can fumble their way to a solution if they can just manage to do Y.

  • User doesn't know how to do Y either.

  • User asks for help with Y.

  • Others (or Google) try to help user with Y, but are confused because Y seems like a strange problem to want to solve.

  • After much interaction and wasted time, it finally becomes clear that the user really wants help with X, and that Y wasn't even a suitable solution for X.

So to avoid this time-wasting process, make sure you know the very root cause of what you're trying to fix and what exactly you're trying to achieve. By doing this, we don't keep going in circles and have Google looking like this:

Season 8 Episode 22 GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

To help us further, Here are some types of questions we normally want to ask, and these are how they can be rephrased to give Google a better context of what your intent is.

1) Process questions: When you want to know how to do something or how something is done, you should mostly Begin with

  • How to (perform tasks)

  • Ways to (perform task)

Eg. “How to set up Android Studio on Mac”

2) Understanding questions: when you want to know how or why something exists or why one should take a particular action or decision, you mostly want to start your question with “why” or “what”.

For example, "Why use a Js framework?", “Why do I have a brain?”, “what makes the ocean blue?”

3) Comparison questions: To know the better of two or more options or the difference between them. In this case most times, use “vs”).

For example, “PHP vs JS”

“React vs Angular”

“Core i5 vs Core i7”

4) Explanation questions: To get full details about a particular topic.

For example, “All about programming”, “Explain SAAS”, etc

In conclusion, these methods do not apply to every situation, there are also a few cases where it is necessary to use questions and long texts to explain the situation. However, the purpose of this article is to help software developers quickly fix bugs or coding issues, which would usually take a lot of time, energy, and probably coffee too.

I hope this article has helped you gain insights into how Google works and how to make the best use of it when asking questions.

Till I come your way again!

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