A number of studies over the last decade have shown that business executives, middle managers and small business owners attempting to do their own research and information gathering on the Internet have often times garnered poor results. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean that it is authoritative. Anyone can put up a website regardless of their credentials. Executives have stated in the past that they do not trust some of the information they find and feel that it can be faulty or inaccurate, but that it is better than nothing. This can lead to endless hours of fruitless searching, leading to many hours in lost productivity. When making costly business decisions, “better than nothing” is not good enough.
Most people think that they can find all the information they need for free on the Internet, when that is not the case. The information contained in search engines such as Google is vast; however, it is by no means all of the information that is available. There are still many places that web spiders can’t reach in the “hidden” or “invisible” web. Vital information may be contained within fee-based and licensed databases that require the user to enter an ID and password to gain access. Government websites, such as the U.S. Census or Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, require you to drill down through a number of search menus to find the tables that match your criteria. Subscription databases such as Nexis, Proquest and EBSCO, to name a few, are authoritative sources of business information and have been designed for precision searching. All of the content in these databases comes from reputable sources and has been vetted by human beings.
Search engines look at words. They do not have the ability to reason and make judgment calls on relevance. Depending on your search strategies and the vocabulary you use, you can end up with thousands of search results, many of which might be false drops. False drops are results that contain the words you select but in which the context they are placed is wrong. Most people don’t go past the first page or two of search results, so you might never reach a page further back that contains that nugget of needed data.
Many information professionals, such as me, are librarians with an MLS or other advanced degrees. We are trained to do reference work so we know the right questions to ask and where to look to find the answers. Sometimes the most seemingly easy and straightforward questions are the hardest to find the answers to, so with our training and our natural curiosity we always dig deep. Because of our skills and proficiency, in the end, we can save your business valuable time and lost productivity so that you can focus on running your business and at the same time have the confidence in knowing that the business decisions you make are based on good information.