The tyranny of the search terms

*This post is for all those people who have become incredibly tired of my recent blogs with wafer thin textual content that come bedecked with a bajillion photographs. There will be no photographs on this post.
**To those of you who thought that the photographs were the most redeeming aspect of my blog posts, well, this is bad news. I highly recommend you to drift away to the next blog which deals with the cricket world cup- or not!

This weekend will mark the second anniversary of my wordpress blog. I cannot imagine how two years have gone since my first post comparing my wait for a magazine to Calvin’s wait for a beanie (from Calvin and Hobbes). Like most other fellow bloggers on wordpress, I have since day 1 been a fan of the site stats tab. Remember those initial days of email (or a bored day at work even to this day) when you  keep hitting the refresh button every 30 seconds to see if a new email has arrived- well us site stats addict hit the refresh button at about the same time intervals to check if by some random miracle, our blog has been hit with 1000 new views.  More often than not you only see (or not see considering that wordpress has a very effective spam guard) a junk comment by some interbot littering your blog and you go back with a heavy heart to continue churning out (or not) a steady flow of new content.

This is where the search engines like google and the others are supposed to step in and help. Any search for content that you have written about ought to be displayed somewhere among the million other search results and some poor passer-by who accidentally stumbles upon your link in the 57th search results page (yup! that likely!) comes to your page (unless you’re one of the lucky questionable posts that gets pulled to the top of the pile because of a blip- see interesting article on google search algorithm’s war against bad results here)  .

Anyway the point is this- search engines are good because they pull in traffic into your blog/ website. Whether the traffic that gets pulled to your blog actually wanted to get there in the first place or whether they pause at your page for a micro second before wandering off is a completely different issue. So it is with much curiosity that I always look at the kind of search terms that wordpress indicates as bringing traffic to my blog in one of the sections of site stats.

There are always a few regular culprit search terms that are always popping up in the list but once in a while there are also search terms that are so completely random that it is only with some very out of the box thinking that you are even able to connect why google or a similar engine brought them here in the first place.

So for example, the most obvious search term that one would think brings people to  another individual’s home page or blog is that person’s name. So if we thought about it logically we would assume that the search term that brought the most internet traffic to my blog over the last two years was ‘Sukanya Ramanujan’. Except that it didn’t. In the complete rankings of search terms that brought viewership to my blog- Sukanya Ramanujan ranked only a distant fourth (on an aside- I’m glad that it came in at fourth at least. Imagine if no one came to your blog looking for you- wouldn’t that give you an identity crisis?)

So what was the term that brought most people to my blog? Who or what would I have to thank for this incredible honour. Turns out that the search term that attracted maximum hits to my blog was ‘Cloud Atlas’ (so wait! My blog is no more mine , but David Mitchell’s???). I was astounded- not by the fact that it was not my name but the name of a book on which I had written a detailed review that brought people to my blog, but the fact that this certainly did not corroborate with the term that I had expected to be first. Yes! I knew all along that Sukanya Ramanujan could never have been the most popular term as I check the search terms that help bring extra traffic almost everyday. Only because I had seen this other search string occur so frequently in the list that sometimes when the times were good and traffic was pouring in anyway with or without the search terms I would curse the moment I even wrote the blog that attracted this particular search term. In desperate times, however, when pickings were rare, I was grateful that I’d had enough sense in me to write that post.

If you are wondering what post I am referring to then I will torture you no more and tell you that the search term I expected to be at the top of my list was ‘Please leave your footwear behind!’. Yup! (you can read the post here if you want to- I wouldn’t personally recommend it!). No other search string I thought had brought traffic to my blog as regularly and as unfailingly as this one had (unrequited love anyone?) and yet I hated it ( I am atleast mature enough to write about it now!). So how should I have reacted when I finally found that footwear was not what was bringing most viewership to my blog but a wonderful book? With doubt! And that is exactly what I did.

Turns out I was not wrong in the first place. Search strings 3, 5, 7, 9 and many others in ascending order of having brought most viewership to the blog all turned out to be a variation of ‘Please leave your footwear behind’ (Leave your footwear, Footwear outside, Press conference footwear etc.,) So when I added up all these terms it turned out that the suspect post mocking the act of footwear throwing press conference attendees had indeed pulled the most number of unsuspecting people to my blog.

Not to say that the only sensible, readable and blogworthy post of my entire blog (here) did not bring any traffic. It did considerably well. Just a reassurance that there is hope for good content in the internet- even if it is just a review of a book that has already been reviewed 2 million times by others. That should be a lesson for me. I have much to thank Cloud Atlas and David Mitchell for and I hope that at least those people who stumbled on my blog wanting to read something about Cloud Atlas went back happy!

Among others who went unhappy were

(a) the serious scholars/ amateurs of Latin who wanted to do some background research on ‘Bibant, quoniam esse nolunt’ and instead landed up on my fun post about Paul the Octopus (May he rest in peace!).

(b) the people who wanted to do some research on Octopuses and landed up on my post on Paul the Octopus!

(c) the people who wanted to find out how to prepare a drink of Horlicks without milk and landed up on my post on how Horlicks won my heart!

(d) the students and mathematicians who wanted to know more about Srinivasa Ramanujan and landed up on my blog

and so on.

So far I have seen the term Hampi bring only one viewer to my blog. And I wrote a mind boggling 13 posts on that subject!

Truly- a lesson learnt! Write about tacky footwear with colourful posters. Your blog is much more likelier to be viewed than if you are pouring out treatises on mandapas of Hampi.

(Incidentally the entire post was an exercise of how to write about Hampi in a post that was not about Hampi- I won!)



5 Comments Add yours

  1. lav says:

    may be there are some insomniacs clicking at the randomly generated link at the bottom of blogs and got to yer page?!! 🙂 a treatise in search terms indeed!!!

  2. Nirmala says:

    I am dumbstruck on this research you did on what brought people to your blogs.Made very interesting reading and surprising too !!!

    1. sr256 says:


  3. brad says:

    … b-b-but how did you fimnd out I was an interbot?? (…whatever that is?)

    1. sr256 says:

      You are pretty obvious lol

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