Ultraq's Final MooCow

Bits and pieces by Emanuel Rabina

Google knows all

It's been well over a month since I complained that this site had the stability of a house on stilts, because it's been well over a month since this site has imploded of its own accord, ie: it's fixed! :D

Well, it's been fixed for well over a month, meaning that for a while now my logs are no longer artificially inflated by program exceptions caused by annoying errors, and my visitor counts are no longer artificially inflated by my own make-sure-it's-all-OK visits either.

It's that latter one that I was particularly interested in getting some clean numbers about, because when I ran this site using web hosting provided by other companies, they gave me a whole bunch of tools to track visitor numbers and stats. They were OK for what they did, but they didn't really paint a very good picture of the sorts of things I was interested in, like how they got to my site in the first place. So when I moved to DIY web hosting earlier this year, I went looking for a visitor tracking package that would do what I wanted.

Cue Google Analytics.

Google is watching you

Like many other visitor tracking tools out there, Google Analytics can tell me about the browser you're using to read this, the resolution of your monitor, even what city you're in (provided you haven't done sneaky things to your connection to mask that information). That last one in particular helps me gauge what percentage of my visitors are my friends, family, and combined with other tell-tale signs can let me know if that last visitor was my mother. (Hi mom!)

One thing that I really like which previous visitor tracking tools I've used hadn't offered, was the ability to let me know what search terms are used to bring people to my site. It makes me visit my Google Analytics dashboard quite often as I watch with interest the search terms used to bring people here. And the results... well they had me scratching my head.

The #3 search term used to bring people to my site is campaignultraq20b which is related to the Red Alert campaign I put together and released years ago as a bit of fun in modifying a game.

That one makes sense I thought, and so did search term #2: emanuel rabina My name. A search for that in Google gives you this site as the second result (the first being my Facebook page). It made me wonder though, who the hell is putting my name into Google? It's not me, even though I've blogged about doing just that in the past.

The answer was revealed to me when I visited my dad at work one day and, standing at his desk, I told him about something I posted. I watched as he opened his browser to look for that something I wrote, but to my surprise he didn't open a bookmark or type my site URL into the address bar. Instead, he typed my name into Google and clicked the link in the search results.

Facepalm

It's not the first I've heard of such behaviour though - I've read many articles about your ordinary citizen using Google as the gateway to everything; putting site names, even site URLs, into Google search and clicking on the results. So while I had heard of it, I never expected it of my tech-savvy family: me a Java programmer and web developer, my dad a computer programmer of a language whose acronym I now associate with Rocket Propelled Grenade or Role-Playing Game (What? RPG is a programming language? Get outta here!), my brother who has an iPhone and is more connected to the internet than a cloud service, and my mum who is the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle e-Reader and often sends the rest of the family e-mails about what's hot in tech (or YouTube).

That was the day I introduced my dad to bookmarks. I'll get around to telling him about RSS feeds (like mine) as a method of keeping-up with news from his favourite sites instead of having to do the rounds of visiting them every day and hoping there's an update, but I'm afraid that too much tech all at once might just make his head asplode.

Now brace yourselves, because the #1 search term used to bring people to my site is: chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies
What. The. Hell.

I kid you not - the most visited page on my website is my blog post, Giving-up on giving-up on baking, which I wrote about how I back-tracked on a previous post where I was so frustrated that I was surrounded by so many skilled bakers that I just gave-up on baking altogether!

I don't even know how that could have happened. I've tried putting "chocolate chip cookies" into Google, and I'm not even in the first 10 pages of results! How desperate for a cookie recipe must one be to end-up here!??!

So if you found my site by accident because you were looking for actual content about baking but instead landed here and had to put up with me whining about baking, could you please send me an e-mail (link in the 'Email Me' part of the top navigation bar). I'd really like to know how you got here.