Tuesday, August 29, 2006


My new blog, imaginatively titled "blog.rightreading.com," can be found, not surprisingly, at blog.rightreading.com. Please check it out -- and leave me a post! ;-)

The foundation of the new blog is WordPress. This enables me to host it myself rather than using an off-site service like this one. WordPress also allows greater customization. For example, I can turn off the no-follow tag on comments, which is locked on with Blogger. No-follow denies link juice to commenters. This is small-minded of Google (part of their anti-spam obsession, which has proven a big failure so far). If I'm moderating comments and someone posts a thoughtful comment with a link in it I think the bots should follow it, and it makes no sense to me to block them. (I use the show non-PR links bookmarklet to see what sites are doing about their comments.)

By the way, at rightreading, check out Gutenberg and the Koreans, an article recently posted that some might find provocative, since I argue that there was more influence from Asia on the early European Renaissance than generally believed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

link building

Some of the tips at SEO Book By Andy Hagans and Aaron Wall might be helpful.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Using the AOL Search data

Okay, enough of the voyeuristic freak-show stuff. The AOL data was released for research, right? So what does it tell us?

Several people have analyzed the data to see what position gets most of the clicks. Not surprisingly -- at least it shouldn't be surprising, although some SEO types had been overthinking this -- the number one position gets more than 42% of the total click-throughs. After that it's a pretty sharp drop down to the last position on the first page (10). Position ten actually does a little better than nine, apparently because searchers suddenly see the second page coming and in a panic will click on anything rather than continue to a second page. Anyway the tenth position gets almost 3% of clicks and then it falls to two-thirds of a percent for position eleven.

I guess that tells you that if you want traffic, beyond those who are really determined to find exactly you, you'd better be willing to scrap and claw your way to page one of the SERPs or else forget about it. And that's gotten harder thanks to the value search engines are now placing on domain age (although one might buy existing domains). Probably better in most cases would be to find some niche that isn't well filled. How to do that? One way would be to analyze the data for searches that get no click-throughs, on the assumption that failure to click through means the search results weren't satisfactory. The ambitious webmaster could then construct sites designed to respond to those searches.

The problem with that is that most searches are very ill-formed, and most searchers appear to have short attention spans. So there is a large random factor in all this. From what I can see there isn't a glaring difference between searches that get click-throughs and those that don't. I assume that this is an area that will be explored in coming weeks.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Romance, Hogs, and AOL User 66

In an act of staggering stupidity, yesterday AOL released – to the public! – the results of three months' worth of search queries by some 650,000 of its users. The data provides a glimpse into the collective (and, one might have thought, private) thoughts and desires of the nation -- or at least that percentage of it that subscribes to AOL.

It seems not to have occurred to the AOL employees who published the data on the internet that, although the user names were replaced with random numbers, their identities can often be easily determined when provided with every single thing they searched for over three months’ time.

Or that releasing the data was a gross violation of their confidentiality pledge to the users.

The data has since been removed, and AOL executives are doing the obligatory mea culpas, but the damage has been done. Probably thousands of copies of the data now have been downloaded by marketers, seo types, identity fraud specialists and other scammers and spammers, and so on. Watch for lawsuits soon.

Viewing the data gives a taste of what it must have been like to have been Kenneth Starr during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. A quick look at one portion of the data was about all I could handle.

The first user I encountered in the data was User 66, and I immediately felt a desire to help her fulfill her wishes (as long as I’m not, you know, personally involved). User 66, who searched at least a couple dozen times for information about “hog baying” “hog baying winfields,” and “record hogs” in Florida, is drawn to “sunset pictures” and “romantic photos.”

Yes, romance calls to this hog-loving lass: She was searching for “what men really want,” “falling in love what to do,” and, of course, “how to make him cum.” Finally, putting her interests together toward what I hope will be a happy resolution, she searched repeatedly for “pork roast recipe boston butt.”

But I worry: What if her suitor turns out to be User 927, who has searched dozens of times for variations of “skin mold on humans”? I don’t know how the mold got there, but if you told me it was related to his interests in “dog sex,” “mange,” “hentai pedofilia,” “sex torture,” and “testicle festivals,” I wouldn’t be surprised.

This person, by the way, is a gardener with an interest in asters, azaleas, orchids, camellias, daffodils, carnations, forget-me-nots, gladioli, jonquils, and many more. Don’t be deceived by his floral offerings, hog- and romance-loving User 66! You can do better! Let’s see … Hmmm … I’m afraid we must reject:

User 164526, whose interests include “monkeys for sale,” “showdownmusclecars,” “pokemon cheat codes,” and “hookers in Saint Petersburg,” I just don’t see you as that kind of girl, User 66.

User 163622 does not seem to have the wherewithal to support you in the style you deserve, based on his searches for “chuck e. cheese” and “cost of renting a car.” Besides, he’s too busy looking for jobs for gay teens in kalamazoo.

The less said about User 157816, whose main interest is “women in diapers,” the better.

I hope User 154569, who is interested in who is looking for women who are excessively (to my mind) intimate with dogs, doesn’t have skin mold like User 927, with whom he shares his canine inclinations. Besides, this person is searching quite determinedly for a place to hold a wedding. (With a human, I trust.)

I’m not sure I have the stomach for much more of this.

But wait! Here’s the perfect match for User 66! It’s User 131562! He is a fun-loving guy who likes to play “fulltilt poker,” “holdem,” and “brainsturgeon poker,” is into video games, and is looking to rent some netflix. So you know he’ll have plenty of ways to fill those idle moments. And he’s also searching for “cheap restaurants,” so your boston butt pork roast should be a plus.

Best of all, he’s into “pocket pigs” and “pigs as pets!”

Good luck, User 66, and if User 131562 doesn’t work out, remember, there are a half million more users whose secret thoughts are now public, thanks to the good folks at AOL.