Picture of phone and online search. Image by edar from Pixabay

Image by edar from Pixabay


I recently got into a discussion online about the limits of Google.

And while Google has done an amazing job indexing information – so good that most people rarely use their competitor – it does have limits.

So I wanted to take a few minutes so we could think together about the limits of Google. As usual I am thinking about this from the perspective of a business owner or leader (the people I work with) but the same issues are true for any user.

Before we jump into this a little backstory on how and why this article came into being.

I posted on social media that I was looking for a new sponsor for my suits. Many people ask me where to get them and I tell them. In the future I’d like to partner with someone who I really know so I can direct traffic to someone I know, like and trust rather than random manufacturers I don’t have a relationship with.

Fast forward from my posting to a comment on that post: “Why do people need you telling them where to buy when then can Google it?” 

Great question.

Why do we ask people about things when we can Google anything?

When wouldn’t our customers go to Google?  And what does this mean for marketing and sales?

These are questions I asked myself. So here’s some thoughts on the limits of Google particularly from a marketing and sales point of view.

Point 1: Google Doesn’t Work Well When You Don’t Know What You Want

Whose had the experience of trying to Google something you don’t know the name of?

Let’s say you see something – out in the wild – but you don’t know what it’s called. Googling to find that something can be really difficult.

Like a song. You hear it, remember some of the lyrics, and try to Google what you remember. You keep playing sound clips until maybe you find what you are looking for.

Sometimes I can do a Google search and find what I think I want. But because I am unfamiliar sometimes I buy what I think I want and I wished Google had given more information so I would have bought the alternate product.

Here’s a real life example of that: Business owner calls me and wants to set-up a “Partnership Agreement.” Now in the legal world a lot of people call a lot of things a “Partnership Agreement.” Usually it just means there are two owners of a business whether it be an LLC, Corporation or actual partnership.

So after getting into all the details that client sends me the “Partnership Agreement” he had prepared from an online form he bought. He had put a lot of hours into it. But he had bought, and used, a partnership agreement for a business that was a partnership type of entity. And his business was a corporation.

Google got him what he Googled but not what he needed.

And I must say this is a constant issue with Google when you have rare or unique things. In my businesses I find that it’s still hard to get my personality and unique combination of knowledge into a Google search.

Point 2: Online Communities Can Be Inaccurate

A lot of Google searches lead you back to online communities. Users that are really interested in whatever you are Googling. This happens to me a lot when I am working on my cars.

But the issue with communities is they put out a lot of words on a topic – so Google finds them – but the posts are of varying qualities.

Some posts are made by real novices. Some posts are by true experts. It takes a lot of time to know who you should trust and to dig through.

Zooming in on why people would ask me for a recommendation on a suit makes sense. I wear an unusual suit regularly. I know which ones tailor up well, which fabrics last and which ones come with good materials free from manufacturing defects.

Are you going to want the opinion of a real user of the product or the opinion of someone that researched it and maybe wore an unusual suit to a Christmas Party (once)?

Knowing this as business owners and leaders it leaves the door open for us to use real personal connection to sell when our customers don’t trust or are buying products that are too important for (just) Google.

Point 3: Google Results Can Be Influenced

We all know Google results can be influenced.

Read about SEO and blogging and they’ll tell you the same thing. If you build content the right way you’ll start getting Google traffic.

It’s not as easy as it used to be but you can work and influence Google results.

And what this means is that you are interacting with the persons or entities that are most active online. This may or may not be the best source for information.

In the cases of my suits Googling for usual suits will find you unusual suits to buy. The buyer could easily buy the brand I am wearing – or get a knock-off that might not give the same experience.

I think deep down most people know this. Which means there’s a sales opportunity when there is a trusted selling relationship.

Point 4: Sometimes You Need To Look Them In The Eye

We, as humans, trust more when we can see people. I know I learn a lot by watching people’s reactions especially to tough questions.

As an extreme example I was once doing research in a legal matter and the other side told me to “ask them anything.” I kept asking questions and I knew they were getting uncomfortable. Then I asked them a really direct question that would potentially expose their potential wrongdoing. Their lead negotiator stood up and declared “this meeting is over!”

I learned a lot by being face-to-face with them. Over email they could have thought, slowed responses and tried to work around my questions. In person there was nowhere for them to go.

In a more normal set of circumstances I learn a lot by how a person talks, sits, shifts or gives off body language when I am negotiating. 

When I am researching my next car(s) I’ll ask people driving the car I am interested in about their experience. I learn so much more by their statements than I would online.

And I bet the buyers or our goods and services are out there asking other actual users and not just Googling for who they want to buy from.

Point 5: Humans Somes Tell You More

Beyond looking in the eye often when you get into a discussion on a product or service with a real person they give you more color. They tell you about things you wouldn’t Google.

When someone looks at my suits and asks me about them I usually volunteer more information. I’ll tell them about the materials, the quality, the fit, how easy they are to tailor, etc.

And I see the same things when I ask others. When I ask about their current accountant, for instance, I usually learn more than just “it’s Joe Smith Accounting.” I usually get something like “I work with Joe Smith. Joe is a little slow but he’s really good.” Or “I work with Joe Smith. I am shopping for a new accountant right now and I am considering Nancy Jones because 2 of my friends are her clients and they are very happy.”

So we know this limit when our businesses are buyers. We also know this limit when we are trying to close sales. Often our potential buyers are going to be looking beyond Google.

Point 6: Some Things Just Aren’t On Google

Some things can’t be easily found on Google. A few times I’ve had to advise clients on white collar criminal issues. Those clients typically aren’t going to be talking about how a lawyer helped them with the confidential, potentially criminal, issues online.

Similarly for relationship reasons many times bad experiences with a product or service won’t be online. Sometimes airing your dirty laundry – particularly in the case of a long-term contract where you have to get working together – can do more harm than good.

So as we build our business plans we have to know that others know there is information outside of the Google process.

What To Do Now

Google should (probably) still be a big part of your sales and marketing strategy.

But you should also plan on what Google can’t do for your business. And how to work beyond Google.

This may create great opportunities for us as others are so focused on Google. Those of us using broader strategies might gain an advantage!

DISCLAIMER: This article talks about legal issues. I am a lawyer licensed in multiple US jurisdictions, but I am not your lawyer unless we have signed an engagement agreement. Please view this material as educational and general in nature (as it is). Consult counsel you have retained for advice on your specific facts and circumstances and applicable laws. Do not rely on the statements in this article as legal advice.

By: The Our Shawn McBride, is the business nerd and long-time business attorney that focuses on changes of ownership in businesses. He works with business owners that know their business is about more than themselves to get ready for their future through keynotes, training and personalized solutions. In furtherance of this he hosts The Future Done Right(TM) Show where he collects, digests and gives lessons and insights on The Future of Business. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.

You’ll quickly notice his unusual suits which he uses open the conversation of how businesses should Do Business Differently™.

The Our Shawn is based in DeLand, Florida (between Orlando, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida) and Dallas, Texas where he keeps offices. You can also find Shawn on webinars or traveling nationally or internationally for speaking engagements.

Check me out at: www.planningdoneright.com

NOTE: This article contains links to sites where I may be paid a small commission on your purchase.

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