Research Shows the Google Effect on Our Memory

A client shared with me today how she no longer has to worry about typos because of her growing awareness that Google is auto-correcting her search queries.  She said, “I no longer have to worry about typos because Google always just knows what I meant and fixes it for me.”  Whether we want to admit it or not our thought process about how we use search is changing.  As most of us know Google has the ability to auto-correct your typos and in some cases will reformulate your search to give you a more precise result.  I remember when auto-correct first came out and the backlash against Google correcting your search.  All that has changed as we’ve grown more and more accustomed to Google just figuring out what we meant.  However, has the precision of Google’s “intelligent search results” shaped our memory?

According to researchers of the so-called “Google Effect“, the simple ability to quickly and easily find information online means we are  less likely to remember certain details simply because we believe we will be able to access it online.  The inference is also that if we found it once we’ll be able to find it again.   The researches say this experience makes the Internet more of a transactive memory.  The net result of this phenomenon is that we have an ever growing dependance upon the Internet.

This was highlighted recently as I was working on a research paper for my graduate program.  While I have access to a large library of reference books,   I knew that I could leverage Google for certain historical questions and immediately be able to pinpoint background information that could later be used in my research.  Online citation software makes this process even easier so not only could I find the right information, but be able to properly source it for later reference and for footnoting and bibliography.  Gone are the days of writing on those crazy index cards!

The marketing implications of the “Google Effect” are profound.  First, with advanced auto-correction and reformulation of our search queries we have grown even more reliant upon Google to just give us what we want.  This means as internet marketers we have to make sure our website content reflects not only the specific content users are searching, but the larger relationship between the big concepts of our website so that Google can more effectively communicate our internal intention to the users intended search.    Second, it is becoming more important for us to build relationships with our users so we can be there when they are looking for us the next time.  Imagine if every time they wanted to find us they simply Googled us.  The implications for your online marketing as well as potential positioning opportunities are considerable.