Why are so many people wasting time on web research?



Searching the web often wastes your time. There, I said it. Google is a master illusionist. It makes you think you are working when you are not.

The reason is simple, you can get any question answered within seconds. It gives the impression that you have accomplished something. Before Google, you might have needed to find a book, search the index for something, locate the right page, and then read it, only to find it didn’t contain what you wanted. So we had to choose another book. Maybe it would have required a trip to the library. To find out a fact, it could have taken hours. Now all it takes are seconds.

Of course, in the past, the information you needed might not have been in a book. You might have needed to talk to someone. You might only be able to get the information from an expert. Or, if it was a business, you had to phone them. Many businesses had an “information line” – a special number that you could call to speak to someone to get the details you needed about the business. It all took a long time.

When things take a long time, our perception of progress is slow. However, when we can get things done quickly, our sense of accomplishment is heightened. So when we use the web to search for things that we previously needed to look up in a book, take a trip to the library, or make multiple phone calls, we feel like we have accomplished something. It is a psychological illusion that we are working on.

It is therefore not surprising to find in recent research that commercial buyers prefer to obtain supplier information using the web, rather than any other tool.

Web search preferences could waste time (graph)

According to Path Factory study, nearly 90% of shoppers use web search as their preferred method of finding information. Only one in three people choose the telephone. It is not a surprise either. Research by O2, the mobile phone company, found that making phone calls was only the fifth most popular use of a smartphone. It turns out that the most common use of a mobile phone is to browse the Internet, looking for information.

Searching the web wastes time

The problem with searching the web is that it is often wrong. Still, most people accept the first result provided by Google. For example, search for “how many planets are there in our solar systemAnd the first result will tell you that there are eight planets. It’s true, but not quite. Like many other facts, there are nuances that cannot be explained. Astronomers have redefined what constitutes a planet and so our solar system contains eight planets and five “dwarf planets”, including Pluto (which was a planet when I grew up…!). Like many other “facts”, the first information we see on Google lacks nuance.

Likewise, search for “duplicate content penalty” and you will find thousands of results telling you that you cannot duplicate your website content because “Google will ban you” or “Google will degrade your search engine rankings” or other nonsense. And this is absurd. Google has said this on several occasions. Yet many companies trying to make their websites search engine optimized will spend hours and hours redoing content in order to “remove the penalty.” It’s an activity that wastes time on unnecessary work, all because of research.

However, if you phoned a reliable search engine optimization expert, you would have received the correct information on content duplication, saving you hours of work. However, making that phone call and having the conversation is slower than searching the web and therefore seems less productive.

This means that if you need a new supplier, you might well make a better selection if you haven’t used the web search. Pick up the phone and talk to people who know the market, like the contacts you make in business networking. It will seem slower, but the answers you get will be more informed and less subject to the influence of an algorithm. Once you have the recommendations, use the web search to find out more about the company.

Making phone calls is becoming a low priority activity. Your desk phone rings less than before. You feel like you are be productive because you search and find things online, but it’s a waste of time.


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