Google's search engine is the most powerful tool for solving problems (and looking smart). Learn how to be a pro at ... googling!
Likely all of us use at least one Google product to enhance our experience on the web, whether we may realize it or not. But, don't forget how Google got started. Google's search engine is still the most valuable product they deliver and maintain.
I like to solve problems. Often I find myself helping employees throughout my office with various tasks. I occasionally hear the phrase, "You're smart." I always immediately think, I'm not smart, I just know how to use google.
Now, granted, it takes time, effort, and practice to be good at googling, as funny as that sounds. But it's not that difficult. And the results of this small amount of effort are invaluable. It will actually make you smarter -- you may learn something you didn't know. But it may also change the way others perceive you -- you'll appear smart and proactive, and that makes you valuable.
Here's my philosophy:
Google is my answer to a lot of questions, but it's not always the answer. It's usually a good solution if:
Google isn't always the answer. Sometimes:
It seems like Google gets better every day at providing relevant results. And, like I said, it takes some work to being a Pro Googler. Sometimes that means creating processes that help you avoid duplicating Google searches.
Make Google work for you. If you haven't already, get yourself a Google account. Even if you don't use their other services, stay signed in while you peruse the web. Google is watching you, and they'll use your web habits and interests to help return relevant search results. You think it's creepy? Get over it. They're providing you a service. FREE! Use it and you'll be surprised how much your search results improve.
Evernote has a web clipper that lets you save web pages to your Evernote account (as notes). This means when you find a web page you're going to use again, you don't have to type any notes, and you don't have to maintain a list of bookmarks.
If you don't like Evernote and don't like googling the same thing twice, that not a problem. Save your answers. Seriously. Many times I go through 5-10 web pages before finding exactly what I'm looking for. Now, if I don't save that answer, I'm going to look through those same pages again. But if I save it, and I come across the same problem, I know I've recorded the answer.
For the record, I don't use Evernote, although I used to. Googling is so fast it's often quicker for me to just google the same thing twice. For simple solutions, I usually just know I'll google it again if I forget the answer. For more complex answers, or for answers that were farther down the results list, I'll save them. Usually I save complex solutions by writing a blog post.
Google recognizes which words are used and reused and reused again, so they ignore them. And not just words like "a" or "the." Want to know how to play the piano? It may actually be more useful to use the word learn than how to. If I search how to play the piano, only six of the top ten results include the words "how to" in their title or description. But if I search learn to play piano, every result in the top ten have learn in their title or description.
The answer for your question is most likely out there. But Google isn't perfect. As much as you may like to believe, Google can't actually read your mind. So be creative and reword unsuccessful searches. Think of some synonyms to your search. You can do what you'd like, but I tend to only try three of the top five results, and if I don't find what I want, I start a new search.
Even if Google does get you to the best results, it's not to say the best results are going to solve your problem. In some cases, be prepared to translate someone's problem to how it helps you. In other cases, you may find nothing at all. So, instead, look for user forums for the subject you're searching. One likely exists. Join and post your question.
Happy googling! And just remember, if you become the expert, and if people start asking you stupid questions, there's always Let Me Google That For You to help you give people a hard time. To make it work, just add
?q=your+question -- http://lmgtfy.com/?q=how+to+google -- and watch it go to work.