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Sex, porn and Britney Spears

Fear not, you’re still on the irreproachable collective blog of the EP web editors. But you are also on the internet, and I was much struck a few days ago by the information, from the impeccable source of one of my co-workers, that the three most commonly searched terms in Google are the three that constitute the title of this post. I suspect the latter may soon be overtaken, but equally that the former two are secure in their primacy.

Another memorable snippet of internet insight which stuck in my mind a while back from an “Online PR” course I did (yes, training works at least to that extent), was that: “On the internet, there is a God, and he is called Google.” Disconcertingly, however, it would seem that we are dealing with a divinity pandering to the basest impulses of mortals. (Note: I discover that this Google/God notion seems actually to be taken quite seriously in some quarters)

No-one knows what Google’s “algorithm” is. It is a Mystery worthy of medieval theology, beyond human understanding. Ours as mere mortals indeed not to understand, but merely to please the divine whim.

To push the metaphor a bit further, how do we mortals (web-users) demonstrate our devotion? Search engine optimisation, of course. We turn to the internet gurus (you see? religious imagery abounds in this area) to seek enlightenment: how do I please Google so people will come to my site? And before I move on from the religious metaphor, of which the reader is doubtless tiring, I cannot but note one nice little point: the Mystery. As the gurus invariably point out, not without a geekily admiring frisson, no-one knows what Google’s “algorithm” is. It is a Mystery worthy of medieval theology, beyond human understanding. Ours as mere mortals indeed not to understand, but merely to please the divine whim.

Which is, as I say, disconcerting, given that this deity seems to have a predilection for sex, porn and Britney Spears.

alt text“God vs Google’s trademark lawyers” Flickr by zimpenfish

Where do we fit in all this? Simply that my mind has turned to the question of how it is that people end up looking at a site, ours specifically. According to our figures for the new elections website, just over half of the visits to the site are via direct links, just over 30% come from referring sites, with the rest coming from search engines, a.k.a., for practical purposes, Google. This blog, with much lower traffic, sees about 60% direct visits, 37% referrals and just under 4% from search engines. It goes without saying that in both cases we need a dose of search engine optimisation.

Or does it? A new breed of gurus are telling us that it’s not about scattershot supplication on the big bad internet, but about networking, interlinking (which itself helps with Google, of course) and the “quality” traffic of participants in the Great Conversation. Others still – shall we call them Wise Men, will tell you that all that hocus-pocus is all very well, but what really matters is Content. If it’s good, they’ll find you, and when they find you – neglected point this – they may also read you.

Your regular web-editor Everyman, undersigned, can only see as through a glass, darkly. As ever, I suspect that all are right, from tricksters to sages.

Meanwhile, I am just curious to see whether an article titled and tagged as this one is, especially when these terms appear in tempting conjunction with “European Parliament”, gets any bump in traffic.

Discussion

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  1. I wonder what role in SEO play the outbursts of Twitter messages… Have just posted a terrible but supposedly optimised Twitter message, will see what it brings ;)

    #Europos #Parlamentas #Twitter http://tiny.cc/sekite-mane-twitter-cia #europarlamentas #europarl #lietuva #europos #sajunga #ES #naujienos

    Posted by Mindaugas | July 20, 2010, 11:03
  2. A little update on this: after a week, the visitors coming to this blog following a query in Google on “sex” or “porn” (or any combination of both) represents 5% of our visitors.
    They tend not to stay, unfortunately…
    Tibo.

    Posted by admin | February 25, 2009, 11:57
  3. So, what are the numbers in absolute numbers ? 30% of 1 billion visits is quite not the same issue nor question as 30% of a few 1000th.

    This being said, from a SEO point of view, the pages from the european parliament are just awful.

    Posted by Xavier | February 16, 2009, 19:09
  4. Hard choice. You may have to decide if you want to draws millions of viewers or if you are content to write about the European Parliament.

    In my humble opinion, the EP is worth more attention than Britney Spears, so don’t lose faith.

    Posted by Ralf Grahn | February 14, 2009, 14:17

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