Writing fantastic articles is difficult enough as it is, but I find the most difficult part is finding the relevant data that goes into them the biggest and most time consuming issue.
Not only are statistics, quotes and facts important to add credibility and meaning to the article, but they are the key elements that make content interesting and share-worthy. Plus, Google are now getting cleverer with their search algorithms and position pages in their search results based on the quality of the content. Citations from authority organisations, websites and reports will be what Google are looking for as part of their campaign to deliver meaningful results. Matt Cutts talks a bit about quality content.
So, this leaves us with the question of where to get the “golden nuggets” of data to begin with. There are a lot of dedicated tools that crawl the websites, social media channels forums, news channels and any other online digital medium. You can use content aggregators, social media listening tools, RSS feeds, content curators or just plain old Google search.
I have to say, what annoys me is Google want us to provide valuable data for our readers and yet then makes their search engine so “unfriendly” for finding any real data in the first place. Perform a search on Google for a statistic and you will have to wade your way through hundreds of pages of waffle to discover just a few useful bits of fact or data.
However, there are some features you can use in Google to find data and statistics to add to your articles. Why they don’t make these tips and tricks a little easier to discover remains a mystery and adds weight to my previous point.
Google Search Settings
First, we have Google’s Search Settings which you will find in a drop down menu when you click on the little cog looking icon in the top right of the search home page, ONLY ONCE you have performed your initial search.
You can set the results page to display up to 100 articles per page here which saves having to click on to the next page all the time. It also allows you to do a quick search for a word or phrase on all 100 results in the display by clicking [CTRL + F], which is the hotkey for “find”.
“Where results open – Open each selected result in a new browser window”
This useful to have checked when doing research. It is much easier to open and keep open multiple tabs when you are clicking and searching so many pages and then want to find a bit of data again. Much easier than trying to go into your history and wade through all the pages again.
Further down the dropdown menu attached to the little cog you will see “Advanced Search”. This is a visual version of advanced search to help filter results and refine your search terms. You’ll see under “site or domain” there is an option to add a site name or even the extension to organisations like universities or the government use, such as .edu or .gov. You have to remember that these are specific to the country, but you will learn another way of performing searches like this straight from the main search box using quick codes that Google doesn’t seem to like to share with people that much.
One last function in advanced search that is really useful for any SMEs and webmasters who don’t have a lot of money to spend on images and graphics is the “Usage Rights” setting. You can filter results here to show images that are “free to use, share or modify, even commercially”. This normally means they are in the “Public Domain” and have very open licences for usage. Always check the licence terms and when using the image make a note somewhere of where you found it, just in case you are later pursued by a company stating you have used their image without paying them. At least then you can show them where you obtained it and the licence terms.
For a full list of shortcuts for Google search go to our list on Google Advanced Search Commands.
Search by site
One of my favourite shortcuts to use is [site:] to bring back a list of results only from a site I then include in the search. This is great if I know on which site the data is or would only trust the data from a particular, authority site and don’t want to include results from any other site that may appear in the search results for the same term.
Search by domain extension – .org, .gov.uk, .ac.uk. nhs.uk
Just type the search term you are looking for and then if you only want to search education related pages such as universities add [.ac.uk] to the end of the search. Google will then only return searches from education sites. The same goes for government with [gov.uk] and [.org.uk]. Just remember these are country specific.
If you want to add credibility to the article you are writing then citing government and education sources is always a good idea. They give instant credibility to your content.
Inside Speech Marks
Another useful term to remember to refine your results is to enclose your search term in speech marks. Normally people search for multiple keywords and the problem with this is Google can look at each of these words separately and return results based on each individual word rather than the whole term. This makes the plethora of pages usually returned even vaguer. Instead, if you put your search inside speech marks like, “how to write great articles”, you will only receive pages that have that exact term written somewhere on the webpage. A quick test in Google shows that searching for that term without the speech marks returns 405,000,000 results and with the speech marks only 1,080,000.
I really wish there were better search engines out there for searching for valuable data, statistics and quotes for article writing projects. Maybe one day there will be.