The most important tech skill ISN’T Googling for answers, but THIS…

As a reader of this blog, you’re probably familiar with the wry observation that the most important tech skill is knowing how to Google for answers. Over the years, this observation has been turned into many, many memes:

Meme: Squinting Fry from “Futurama” with caption “Not sure if I am good at programming or good at Googling.”

Meme: Programmer concentrating at laptop with caption “New programmers Google everything; Pro programmers Google everything.”

Meme: “First step in learning programming” dones as Drake “no / yes” meme. “No” caption: “Learn basic syntax, data types and variables.” “Yes” caption: “Learn how to Google.”

Image: Headline reading “Computer programming to be officially renamed ‘Googling Stack Overflow’.”

Meme: Day 1 of programming — Google. 10 Years of programming — Google.

Twitter screenshot: ”My spouse (an artist, not in tech), working her way through a C++ class (part of Digital Arts curriculum) /  Me: Let me know if you need help / She: Will do / 2 hrs later / Me: How's it going? / She: Fine. I'm cheating / Me: ??? / She: I google for stuff don't know / Do I tell her?”

I’ll agree that it’s a valuable tech skill. I do it all the time!

However, with nearly 25 years of Google, it’s now assumed that you Google answers in day-to-day office work, just as it’s assumed that you know the basics of using a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software (you can still list Excel on your resume if you have deep spreadsheet skills — don’t forget that Excel is the next big esport!).

The “level two” skill

Googling for answers is a “level one” skill. It will serve you well for immediate needs in your daily life.

What you eventually want to do is move to the next level: Writing the answers that people Google for.

Here are the reasons why you want to reach level two:

  1. It often expands your knowledge of the subject matter you’re covering.
  2. It establishes you as a credible and knowledgeable source of information on the subject matter.
  3. It often gets people to approach you with job offers, or offer to pay you for your services, or ask to work for you.

Achieving level two has two key components:

  1. Putting answers in some online form. Traditionally, this has been writing, but people are increasing looking to video, especially on YouTube (the world’s second largest search engine), Instagram, and TikTok. This is the easy part.
  2. Getting those answers on the first page of Google results for its search terms or keywords. SEO people love to tell each other this joke: “The best place to hide a body is on the second page of Google results.” This one takes a little more work, and takes into account that no two people get the same Google results for the same search terms.

Level two puts you in demand

On any given week, I get a handful of emails from recruiters, HR people, and the occasional manager with hiring authority asking me if I’d like to leave my current job and go work for them instead. Many of them came in the form of the Dreaded LinkedIn Request:

New Yorker cartoon: Man dying of thirst in the desert runs into man in suit with briefcase who says “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

During last year’s “Great Resignation,” there would be weeks where I’d get one or two dozen such emails and follow-ups. (I’ve turned them down, as my current gig as a Senior Developer Advocate at Okta is pretty sweet.)

Level two gives you an extra portfolio

It’s very helpful to have a portfolio to show to prospective employers, collaborators, co-workers, and customers as proof that you can do what you say you can do.

It’s even better if you have multiple portfolios. You might showcase your work on a site, but also have a Github account where people can look at your work and code. My line of work has also given me a chance to collect media clippings where I’ve appeared or have been quoted, as well as records of my apps in the App Store.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started a new portfolio: search results for which anything I’ve made is on the first page of Google results. It’s proven handy for my last couple of job searches, as it’s something that other candidates never bring up. It could give you the edge you need!

My “level two” tricks

Image: Screenshots of my articles that are on the first page of Google results for their keywords.

Write an existing answer, but better!

There are nearly 1.2 billion web pages, so there’s a good chance that someone’s written up an answer to a question. But that answer may not be easy to understand, or wrong, or out of date. Someone else might need that answer in another language. Another reader might need that answer, but applicable to a different circumstance. This is an opportunity to write a better answer!

Here are some examples of this kind of answer from my own page one portfolio…

Write the answer that nobody else (or nearly nobody else) is providing.

Eventually, you may get the chance to be one of the first people — if not the first person — to post an answer to a specific question, solution to a specific problem, or exploration of a specific topic. This is an excellent way to establish yourself as knowledgable on a given topic and get on the page one results for that topic.

Whenever you encounter a problem that doesn’t have a solution that you can find via Google and the solve that problem, post your solution to that problem!

Here are some examples of this kind of answer from my own page one portfolio…

Use titles with good keywords.

As far as I know, I’m the only person who posts a regular list of tech, entrepreneur, and nerd events for the Tampa Bay area, and I’ve been doing it every week for five years. In spite of that, I’m missing from page one of the results for this search:

tampa bay tech events

Why? Because until last week, my titles failed to use the right keywords:

Screenshot: My “Tampa Bay Tech Events” article for the week of August 8, 2022.

Since 2017, I’ve used the title What’s happening in the Tampa Bay tech/entrepreneur/nerd scene, which fails to use search terms that people are likely to use, such as event or meetup. I’ll try changing it this week and see what happens.

Make sure that your answers have titles that contain words that people will use when searching for your answer.

Put the answer someplace where it’ll be found.

Your answer needs to be someplace where people look for answers or someplace that Google ranks highly. That makes your answer more likely to be found, which makes people link to it, which in turn makes your answer even more likely to be found.

This blog, Global Nerdy, is my personal tech blog, and I’ve been publishing tech content on it since 2006. This is important, as the Google algorithm factor that matters the most for a site is consistent, high-quality content:

Graph: Pie chart showing factors that affect a web page’s Google ranking. The biggest factor is “consistent publication of high-quality content.”

This blog also focuses on certain aspects of technology and software development, which means that I’ve established myself with niche expertise on a handful of topics. Google also considers this in its site rankings.

While you can publish content on social media, I strongly recommend that you get your own site, as it gives you more control over your content and its format.

Tell people about your answer.

Once you’ve posted your answer, you need to tell people about it to increase its exposure and “findability.” This is where social media and forums come in handy.


Getting on the first page of Google results doesn’t happen instantly; it’s the result of steady, consistent content creation. Keep at it, and you’ll build your own page one portfolio!

Try it out — start working on your answers and build your page one portfolio!

One reply on “The most important tech skill ISN’T Googling for answers, but THIS…”

A friend of mine recommends translating google questions into other languages before searching and regardless of what language you see answers in, you can translate them into english or whatever you prefer – this can present other alternative answers that you otherwise might not find

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