Our financial well-being may depend on our Google searches!

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How we use Google to search for information on the web may well determine our financial well-being! Perhaps this is just common sense as a search engine is only as good as the words we use to search for information. As we search, so shall we surf.  The title says Google searches, instead of web searches because Google is a monopoly when it comes search engines. A huge chunk of online activity stems from Google, Gmail, Youtube and Google+.

Bill Gates is supposed to have said at a dinner party a few years ago, “the future of search is verbs”.  He meant people are not going to search for merely product names or categories anymore. They are going to search for some property or some action associated with a product.

For our context, no one searches for ‘mutual funds’ or ‘Indian mutual funds’ anymore. They search for ‘which is the best Indian mutual fund in the year 2015′.

‘Best’ is probably the most popular keyword in all disciplines.

No one (relatively speaking) searches for ‘how to select a mutual fund’. That is an action phrase too.

However, most people prefer ‘best’ to ‘how’. When we use ‘how’, we will be provided with a series of steps like this one: Step-by-step guide to choose mutual funds

When we use ‘best’, we are looking for pre-packaged information. So we want to use the research someone else has done for us.  The most popular keyword phrase for mutual fund in India is ‘best mutual fund’.

This is why bloggers write posts like “Top Best 10 Mutual Funds for 2015”.  In the coming months, you will see posts like “Top Best ELSS Mutual Funds for 2015”. They write this, because that is what people are searching for. It is a vicious cycle.

Read such posts and all we are left with is a list of 10-15 mutual funds. We wanted the ‘best’ and we are left to choose from a shortlist. How many would have the confidence to ‘inky pinky ponky’ and choose one from that?

My point is, at least wrt money management, ‘how’ is a better keyword than ‘best’. Learning to fish is better than seeking free food, and all that sort of thing.

I am willing to bet that the only area of personal finance where ‘how’ is popular than ‘best’ is when it comes to estate planning: “how to write a will” should be a popular enough keyword. Can’t use best there!

People want the best pretty much everywhere else:

  • Which is the best health insurance policy
  • Which is the best term insurance policy
  • Which is the best home loan provider

You catch my drift. Sometimes ‘best’ is determined by user experience. Some guy said in some forum that XYZ product is good, so let me buy it.

Does searching for the best result in efficient decision making? Or does it result in haste or the other extreme indecision? Statistics do not matter here. All of us need to ask if we are adopting the best search strategy!!

How many are searching for “best financial planner in India”? Results will be crappy because many websites have that in their meta descriptions – hover your mouse on top of this tab to see my meta – “Personal Finance Calculators – Prudent DIY Investing”

My point is, not many are searching for best professional to help us manage money. We  want products, sorry solutions with minimal effort.

Speaking of DIY, a true DIY investor or money manager focusses on the method – the ‘how’, not on the ‘best’.

True DIYs and individuals seeking financial advice are a minority. Most of use are not sure about what to do. Do we DIY or do we seek help? Some say, they are learning to DIY and in the meanwhile they are searching for the ‘best’ so that they can learn ‘how to select the best’!

Not many can remember that it is personal finance. In the meanwhile, bloggers earning from Google Adsense are laughing their way to the bank.

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About the Author M Pattabiraman author of freefincal.comM. Pattabiraman is the co-author of two books: You can be rich too with goal based investing and Gamechanger. “Pattu” as he is popularly known, publishes unbiased, promotion-free research, analysis and holistic money management advice. Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year with numbers based analysis on topical issues and has more than a 100 free calculators on different aspects of insurance and investment analysis, including a robo advisory template for use by beginners. Contact information: freefincal {at} Gmail {dot} com He conducts free money management sessions for corporates (see details below). Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints.

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