Friday, July 30, 2010

obscure search terms will find ... me!

My blog enjoys a reasonably good ranking in Google’s PageRank system, which decides which sources appear at the top of a list of search results. This means that from time to time, Google does actually send people my way. Naively, I might have thought that those googlonauts who touch down on my site would have started their voyage with search terms relating to the big issues that I write about, such as nanotechnology, genomics, autism, bioethics, etc. On second thoughts, however, one realises that such topics are also well-represented on sites that are still a few rungs higher up on the ranking ladder, including those of the BBC and major newspapers. The traffic that’s left for me is looking rather different and possibly more interesting.

When I realised that my visitors had typed in things like “philosophy of greed” or “think logarithmically” rather than biochemistry or nanotechnology, I started a month-long observation of the Google searches leading to my blog, of which I can now reveal the results. The only words I have excluded from the ranking are prose and passion – their presence in the title of my blog means that I get ranked highly in searches involving these words, even though people who look for prose pieces about cancer will not be very happy with the results my blog can offer. (I think the over-representation of “Prose of …” searches actually reveals a real flaw in Google’s algorithms; people setting up such things should realise that the title of a blog may be chosen in a roundabout way and may not literally specify the content of the site.)

So here comes the countdown:

In 6th place, Oxford – typically in combination with more unusual terms, including “Parson’s pleasure” which is the title of this blog entry. One customer’s search for “naked dons parson’s pleasure” led to the same entry, of course.

5th, an eternal favourite, and one that alerted me to the eccentric qualities of the search terms that lead people my way, is “greed philosophy” (or, more rarely, greed combined with other terms, such as “How is greed Neanderthal”). The relevant blog entry doesn’t really answer any deep philosophical questions about greed – it is in fact a short appreciation of a book by Naomi Klein.

4th, Sale el Sol – fair enough, that’s a video of a live appearance by Shakira which I embedded in my blog here. Oh, and there have been reports that this will also be the title of the album to be released later this year, so no wonder there are lots of searches.

3rd, another eccentric favourite, is “shark images” and other shark-related stuff. All I did was to write a blog entry about the Headington shark, an Oxford landmark somewhat off the beaten tourist track.

2nd, various members of the Strada family, including Katharina Strada (mistress of emperor Rudolph II), lumped together under Strada searches, and presented here.

And the unlikely winner is …

the Spanish painter Ana Medem, sister of film director and auteur Julio Medem. Ana died very young, and Julio used her paintings in the film “Caotica Ana,” which I reviewed here.

Obviously, having all these (relatively) popular search terms included in one blog entry will completely confuse the Google bots. So if you arrived at this entry hoping for insights regarding Ana Medem or one of the other five top topics, please follow the links provided.

For the future, what I really need to do to attract a larger audience via Google, is to cultivate more eccentric topics and to flag them up in my titles. Paradoxical but true. I should start a series about obscure composers right now.

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