Going Beyond Google; How to Create Original Content

Search engines like Google are immensely powerful tools for finding information, but they have one serious drawback: when everyone is using the same resource everyone ends up writing content that is depressingly repetitive.

Google many topics and you will find that often all of the pages that you can find with a simple keyword search contain the same information. When all goes well that is the same content you find in the Wikipedia page, but more often you find the same misinformation simply repeated.

At this point anyone else trying to write about the same topic usually ends up citing the same facts, anecdotes, evidence and stories that everyone else has cited, for the simple reason that everyone is Googling the same keywords and finding the same pages. By simply Googling a topic and then writing more content based on the same information you are unlikely to add anything new to human knowledge and understanding.

So how do you create original content that doesn't simply repeat the Googlesphere consensus? How do you research a talk, a presentation, an article or anything that brings original insights to the topic? There are actually a number of strategies that you can use.

Talk to People.  It's tempting to take the lazy way out and sit there on the sofa Googling information. It works and it is fast, but everyone gets the same thing. One way to get out of this trap is to actually go out and talk to people. Want to know how a violin is made? You could just Google existing articles or watch a YouTube video, but if you really want something that isn't already on line go and talk to one of the luthiers in your town. Want to know how people reacted to the launch of Google in 1998? Don't just Google it, go find someone who remembers that day. In journalism you would be very unpopular with your editor if you turned in copy based entirely on Google searches. Editors dislike that because anyone else could have done the same search and written the same thing. What is much more interesting is to identify some expert human sources and ask them for their opinions. Unless they are all reading from somewhere it is more likely that their words are not Googleable.

Use the Library. Your search engines are a quick way to find things, but to dig deeper you will often get better results in a physical library. You can browse through volumes looking for relevant material that isn't tagged with obvious keywords and you can read older documents that are no longer on the shelves but can be summoned up simply by asking a librarian. Don't just rely on the big city library. There are also some immensely useful specialist collections in museums, universities and so on. Maybe you can't always get access yourself but if you have been building a network like I have suggested in other posts you will probably know someone who can help you gain access.

Build Your Own Collection. If you look for information only when you need it you will often not have enough time for a deep search. One way around this is to continually scan sources and when you see something that might be relevant one day you add that to your collection of papers, links, references or whatever. For example, if you try to find stories about how culture impacts technology decisions you will find some reports that discuss this topic and give examples. But there are many more examples that are not presented in that context. This is one of the topics I have followed for more than ten years so my archive of stories is much richer than anything you could find with a simple Google search.

Develop Your Google-Fu.  Anyone can Google but very few are truly masters of the art. There are some common pages that anyone can find but there are many others that can only be found with more advanced techniques. You might consider using alternative search engines, but most of the gain here comes from understanding that the page you are looking for might not be found using the first keywords you thought of. There are many ways to work around this. For example, you might identify one person who has worked on the topic of your interest and then look at what else they wrote. You could also look for older terminology that is no longer current but might be used in a relevant document. 

Do Your Own Research. When you can't find the answer to your question easily by Googling consider also doing your own research. Want to know what people think about something? If you can't find the answer by Googling you can do a survey either yourself or getting some help from other people. There are many online survey tools available today that make this trivially easy. And if you want to know how hard it was for stoen age people to build a coracle? Go build one yourself. Then you can post the YouTube video and a how-to article based on your experience.

Over-reliance on search engines has made online content repetitive and bland. We can all overcome this by adding new knowledge when we create articles, posts, podcasts, presentations, talks and whatever. You can start by promising yourself to always have at least one fact or story that is new to Google; eventually you could aspire to make entirely new content, which lesser writers will simply google-cut-and-paste. 

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

If you would like lectures, interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching or writing on this and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or 0046 73 089 44 75


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