Getting a good position on search engines is a frustrating voodoo that can consume a considerable amount of a web master's time. Search engines use different algorithms and criteria, and often provide only fuzzy clues as to what they are. The sheer size of the web prevents engines from visiting a site very often, so it can take months to know if a particular combination of meta tags, titles, alt tags, links and content will get you the coveted first page position. If they do, other web designers will view the source of your well-placed document and steal all your tricks for their sites, making it a never ending game.
I write articles on whatever amuses or annoys me at the moment, so there's a wide variety of subjects covered in THMC. This means I get hits from people searching all kinds of different things. Quite a few are expected – lots of people visit while searching for "Gore Jokes" or "Bush Humor" or "Presidential Candidates." It makes sense that people would find me searching on "tea party" or "Zevon" or "risky bikes." But looking through the log files reveals that some people are finding this site with searches I never anticipated.
It first happened in October 1999 with the article "Smokers More Honest, Better at Math Than Non Smokers". Someone did a study to determine if men who smoked had sex less often than men who didn't. It was a sloppy survey, the results were ridiculous, and I had a great time lampooning it. Shortly after publishing the article I saw my hit counter soar. I was getting visits from people searching for variations of the phrase "men having sex." My traffic doubled that month. I'm sure I frustrated a lot of people.
One of my favorite articles, The Frog And Peach, has recently started generating a lot of traffic. It's based on a very old skit by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and I included the skit's script on a separate page. For some reason, during the past few months a lot of people have been searching on "Peter Cook & Dudley Moore," or "Frog and Peach." I'm guessing the skit aired somewhere recently. I've even found one person on a discussion board using a phrase from the skit as his signature, complete with a link to my site.
I created a site called The Facts to debunk the myths of second hand smoke. I wanted to post it under it's own domain name, but all the variations of "thefacts.whatever" had been taken, so I just put it under a separate subdirectory on this site. Several search engines give it decent placement when someone is searching on "second hand smoke" or "SHS" or even "the truth.com," but it also gets regular hits from a search I never anticipated.
Debunking (or, for that matter, bunking) medical studies requires some knowledge of epidemiology, the statistics used to indicate cause and effect. Since most of the information on the subject is unreadable, The Facts includes two pages explaining some of the basics of the science. I wanted an example that was obviously fake, so I explained how you'd conduct a study to determine the effects of coffee drinking on foot fungus. I intentionally used the term "foot fungus" because it sounded goofier than "athletes foot." But a lot of people don't find it amusing at all - I get hit after hit, month after month, from people searching on the phrase "foot fungus."
Because I consider the war on tobacco a good litmus test of the level of freedom and tolerance in the US (and we're not doing very well) it's a theme that appears over and over again in these pages, but it's not the most common search that brings people here. It takes second place to Napster, specifically word combinations like "remove Napster ban" or "getting around Napster ban." My first article about Napster included a page off to the side that explained how to get back on the service after you were kicked off at the request of Metallica. That little page has brought in more visitors than any other search, and continues to do so, month after month.
One of the first articles ever published in THMC was "Telemarketers, make my day." Telemarketers, who would be the lowest form of life on the planet if it weren't for lawyers, are almost universally despised, and rightly so. The TM article not only generates hits, but continues to generate e-mail as well, including letters from telemarketers trying to justify their evil profession.
One hit puzzled me for a while. A search on AOL's page for the word "disgusting" gave me a listing on page one, position three. The word "disgusting" doesn't appear on this site much, and I was hoping that it wasn't a rating someone had given me, when I finally realized why I was generating that hit. The page description, in the meta tag, is "…a journal of ideas and opinions from a slightly disgusted, somewhat amused perspective." (The AOL engine displays that description now, but but it didn't use to.) It's a great positon for a strange reason.
I added movie reviews because I thought it would be fun to write them, but I was also hoping they'd generate more traffic. They have, but not always as planned. As expected, I get a fair number of hits from people searching for movie titles and movie stars. I get hits from people searching for "gratuitous nudity," one of my ratings. But shortly after posting my review of "American Beauty" I started getting one of the most unusual hits so far.
In that review I complained the movie didn't have enough gratuitous nudity: "AB misses many chances for GN. All we get is one shot of Thora Burch's lopsided rack and one shot of Mena Suvari's large nipples and bony frame." My log files started showing hits from people searching for "Thora Burch's nipples" on Google. As this page goes to publication, a search for "Thora Burch's nipples" on that site brings up just a single entry on a single page: my movie review. (Try it.) Evidently no one else has put up a web page that mentions Thora's nipples. (Although I suspect some web weasels, after reading this article, will.) A search for "Mena Suvari's nipples" on the same engine returns several links, although mine is the first one. Evidently there are more devotees of Mena's nipples than Thora's.
Of course, this will all change now, with the posting of this page. It will be a while before the spiders get here, but when they do they won't just find one page that breaks up the phrase – "Thora Burch's….nipples." They'll also find this page, which uses the phrase with no words in between. And, being somewhat of a search engine slut, I've made sure to add the phrase to this page's meta tags. And the alt tags of the title graphic. (Hold your mouse over it to see what I mean.) And take a look at the title bar in your browser. With over a billion web pages out there, I'll take visitors any way I can get them.
Nipples, nipples, nipples…
Here are some other strange search phrases from our logs. For your convenience, we'll bring you right to the article these hapless searchers found. (Each one opens a new browser window.)
A search on "Ugly Babies" finds the same page as "photos of Chesea Clinton." (Chesea?)
"Gwyneth Paltrow naked" generates hits month after month.
A search for "aqua velva deodorant" landed someone on this page.
The person searching for "Who put the dick on the Snowman" probably wasn't expecting this article.
Whoever was searching for "rusty jones car undercoating" was probably disappointed with this hit.
The person searching for "dare drugs are really expensive" probably liked what he found, but whoever was looking for "how to make marijuana tea" was probably dissatisfied.
Here's a site devoted to sharing some of the strange requests other web masters find in their logs.
© 2001 Dave Hitt