Readers of a certain age might remember the ITV kids’ programme ‘How 2’ in which a series of weird and wonderful quickfire ‘how’ questions would be answered and explained by a trio of presenters.
These days, rather than refer it to Fred Dinenage, Carol Vorderman and Gareth ‘Gaz Top’ Jones, most people bash their queries into Google and allow the collective wisdom of the internet to give them an answer. Of course, Google knows what questions are being asked the most, and recently shared them with us, revealing some interesting insight into our curious minds.
Perhaps fittingly during back-to-school week, the number one ‘how to’ question is ‘how to tie a tie’. That might be because the long summer of T-shirts and shorts has left some young internet users out of uniform practice, or because slightly older ones want to look the part for a job hunt, hence ‘how to write a cover letter’ being eighth on the list.
Success on that front might see ‘how to make money’ drop down from sixth place, but it’s not all business and officialdom. Requests on how to make pancakes (seventh) and French toast (ninth) also make the list, while second and third (‘how to kiss’ and ‘how to get pregnant’) relate to romance and life planning.
Body conscience is a theme too, with ‘how to lose weight’ (fourth) and ‘how to lose belly fat’ (tenth) making the rundown, and ‘how to draw’ (fifth) completes the list.
Google says that since 2004, the rate of ‘how to’ searches has shot up by 140%, and recent years have seen the search engine become a lot better at answering questions rather than simply matching words. Today, a search for ‘how to lose belly fat’, for example, will give us many pages of relevant results. In earlier years, it might have just picked out the words ‘belly’ and ‘fat’ and returned results about cooking or removing the fat from pork belly, or even just pages about overweight people.
The finetuning of Google’s algorithms seems to be an endless process, and its users also have something of an obsession with ‘fixing’ items. Google says that ‘how to fix’ queries are extremely common, and has created an interactive page on household items people around the world want to repair.
In the UK, and most of the Western world, the washing machine is responsible for the most Google repair queries, but Americans and Canadians are more preoccupied by their toilets. Climate perhaps affects searches too, with the hot African nations looking for advice on fixing their fridges, and Norwegians dealing with their long, dark winters by looking for lightbulb guidance.
Perhaps going by this, Brits looking for ‘how to make money’ and other careers advice should consider a career in washing machine repairs?