Dear Lifehacker, Most of the time I use Google to find the website that I want, rather than going directly to the relevant URL. Is this good or bad for the company or for Google? Should I just directly go to the relevant URL and bypass Google’s data collection? And if I do Google the site, should I click on the paid advertisement or the relevant link? Who wins in this situation, and who makes the money from the ad? Thanks, Google Junkie
You’re certainly not alone in this behaviour: the names of major web sites (such as Facebook and Twitter) regularly feature at the top of Google’s most popular search terms. Clearly, many people would rather avoid typing the .com (or .com.au or whatever) at the end of site addresses.
For the operator of the site you’re planning to visit, it ultimately doesn’t make much difference whether you type the address directly or visit via Google. Google, on the other hand, benefits immensely by knowing what your browsing habits are. If you’re particularly concerned about privacy, then typing the address directly makes more sense. (Note that if you’re using Chrome, Google will be tracking your habits anyway.)
If you’re not concerned about privacy, the other question you raise is whether you should click on advertising for a site. We’d suggest ‘no’, since the company you are visiting will pay for that advertisement when you click on it. That seems pointless given you’ve already decided you want to visit. So if there’s a standard link, click on that one instead.
With all that said, regularly typing addresses into Google isn’t a productive way of browsing, especially for sites you visit regularly. If you begin typing an address into the address bar, you’ll see autocompletion suggestions appear. If the site you want is there, hitting Enter will get you there faster than any search engine.
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