I recently faced that dilemma when I had to do some searching on a very broad topic: digital newspaper advertising trends. As you can probably guess, there were way too many articles, studies, sources, analyses and reports on this topic to even begin trying to work through.
So—what’s my strategy? Well, first I should say that although it’s become fashionable to pile on Google, I am still a big fan of the ability of its algorithm to take in so many “signals” to prioritize and rank highly pages most likely to be relevant and valuable. However. Despite Google’s capabilities, we still have to sort through sites that are less than desirable. I’d put these into the following categories:
Sites so popular that you are likely going to find them almost always ranked highly. Think USAToday or CNN among others.
Entities so focused on search engine optimization and working the system, that they appear much higher than others that are not so skilled at SEO, but are at least as good if not better. Think, for example HuffingtonPost. In the case of individuals, there are people who seem to spend most of their time getting Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, performing strategic commenting on popular blogs and focusing on building their Klout score to get a high ranking as well.
The content on the site is not so much independent journalism and analysis, but more “sponsored content”—commercially sponsored white papers, reports, articles and other reporting that masquerades as journalism, but whose creators actually have a much narrower focus and are more like informative advertisements. I’m seeing lots more sponsored content these days as more news and educational sites—even those with stellar reputations—are finding sponsored content to be a new reliable source of revenue.
So, one way I try to bypass retrieving too many of these sites is to first consider who or what I want to be my custom filters—these are journals, sites, or even individuals’ whose work I find consistently insightful and on target. So then, at least for some of my searches, I leverage Google’s search power to retrieve just those pages that were published in those journals, or written by those people.
So, for instance, in my research on newspaper advertising trends, I determined that my best sources (among others) included Pew Research, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Business Insider. I could then focus my searches in one of two ways—the simpler way is to do a simple “OR” ing of my sources and names with my search terms as you can see above.
In either case, I am insured that I am going to find articles on my topic of interest from one of my most trusted sources or people.
What are your strategies for getting more filtered results on Google?