The Budget News doesn’t make good reading

Alistair Darling’s first budget didn’t make good reading for anyone who drinks, smokes, drives cars or goes shopping. If you’re a 90-year-old clean-living, self-sufficient hermit, though, you’ll be OK as you’re getting a heating handout.

Year in, year out Chancellors produce budgets that we all moan about. And every year millions of words are written about the tax rises and spending sprees that occur. So wouldn’t you have thought that if you searched for the budget you’d get all the latest news, blogs and articles being produced. Well you would have thought so, but you would have been wrong.

Search on Google for “budget” and your top entry is a car rental company. Look for “the budget” and you get a newspaper in Ohio news about last year’s budget from Gordon Brown. Ask for “budget news” and you get some better results. But, guess what, no-one is searching for “budget news”. So what’s going on? Google is presenting poor results for what we really want, and better results for a search term that isn’t being used.

The problem is that Google isn’t human. Humans would know that today, on budget day, if you were searching for “the budget” you were almost certainly looking for information on Alistair Darling’s missive – and not an Ohio newspaper or a car rental firm. In other words, humans are much cleverer than Google. We would adapt our search results, automatically, according to external events and other information. Google can’t do that – it is, after all, pretty dumb.

So, are those writers pouring out those millions of words on the budget wasting their time? No – because the vast majority of people interested in the budget won’t search for information on it. Instead, they’ll go direct to their favourite news site, or to a link emailed to them by their accountant, or perhaps to the Treasury web site itself. In other words, humans already know where to go for the information; they don’t need Google.

What does this tell us? It shows us that Google is a simple soul, which can help us when we can’t help ourselves. And that means if your business strategy online is to focus on getting good Google results you are focusing on the wrong thing. People are much, much cleverer than Google; concentrate on people.

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