Google Introspection


Regular readers may have noticed a hiatus in posts.  Last month, having just released the post on (In)Decision Making, I headed to the emergency room with what turned out to be appendicitis.  That was followed by surgery, some complications and a slowish recovery.  All up, not a great month.

As I get back on the proverbial bike we start with a bit of geeky introspection … what does Google have to say about the blog?  The idea started because the gap in writing revealed a shift in site usage which I suspect was the difference between regular readers and ad hoc visitors through search engines.

Publish or Perish

OK… googling yourself is egosurfing. It’s vanity searching. Having recently blogged on narcissism I see the irony.  Let’s dive in anyway.

When I registered the psygrammer.com domain in January 2011 a Google search revealed exactly Zero matches for “Psygrammer“.  It was yet another coined portmanteau (of psychology and programming). It’s “uniquitude” makes it easy to see the growth in usage: a bit like dropping some colored dye into a river to see where it flows.

It took only a few days before Google began returning the first results for the word.  That’s probably to the credit of the WordPress.com site on which the blog is hosted because of all the derived content and cross-links it provides.  But the web trolls were onto it quickly; first in Russia and then through various random domain lists and useless copyright-infringing sites.

For a while Google steadfastly refused first-class treatment for “psygrammer” and assumed that the term was a spelling mistake.  Perhaps it’s a computer’s Freudian slip.  A search for psygrammer instead returned the results for Programmer…

Showing results for Programmer
Search instead for Psygrammer

But then after about three months Google changed it’s mind and promoted the word.  Today it returns a modest 350+ matches and, not surprisingly, the page rank remains 0.  Still, since “psygrammer” is a rare text string by any measure, Google hedges and offers the helpful suggestion:

Did you mean: programmer

Over the 4 weeks I was off sick the weekly site traffic dropped by about 30%.  I suspect two effects.  First, Google tends to demote sites that aren’t fresh.  While I aim to post each Monday, life often intervenes and it becomes every second Monday.  I suppose that’s OK for a researched blog but it’s infrequent by Twitter standards.  But since the search rankings didn’t change much so I’m not convinced by this explanation.

Second theory is that regulars stopped visiting because there’s nothing new.  I know a lot of regulars read via RSS, Google Reader and a miriad of other pathways.  However, WordPress.com provides very limited information on this readership so I can’t back this up either.  Based on the impact of my hiatus I’d say it’s about 50% of traffic.  If the traffic returns now that I’m writing again then the evidence will be stronger.  If so, as a writer, it will be pleasing.

So my two lessons are (1) I should try to “stay regular” with posts and (2) don’t get sick.

[UPDATE: it took Google less than 2 hours from when this article was posted to appearing in search results. Not bad after 4 weeks of inactivity.  Did Google miss the posts?!]

As Reviewer

An advanced search of psygrammer.com with reading level shows Google’s opinion of my writing style or, more precisely, the reading level it thinks is required.

psygrammer.com: Google advanced search with reading level

It classified two posts as Advanced: Competence vs. Confidence and Questions of Dominance.  I can’t see a reason for the distinction.  Nor can I see why You can do anything, but you can’t do everything is classified as basic.

I wonder if I can manipulate the result for this blog by stretching my vocabulary…  Perspicasity is no nuggatory matter being of acuteness of perception, discernment or understanding.

Updates since the initial post…

+2 Hours: Google has spotted this new post but it doesn’t have a Reading Level.

+2 Weeks: Still no reading level for this post.  It looks like Google runs the Reading Level analysis intermittently.

Go Ogle

As Google launched I wondered whether its founders’ real motive was to attain the world’s master collection of porn … hence go “ogle”.  Certainly many innocent searches would return less-than-innocent results.

So far, I can’t see anything like this happening with searches for ‘psygrammer’ or even an image search (which, by the way, still spell-corrects to “programmer”).

An image tells me only that the blog doesn’t contain a lot of images.  Putting in a vaguely relevant but eye-catching image seems to de rigueur in blogging see here’s one … that might be eye-catching to programmers …

getRandomNumber
getRandomNumber() – source: xkcd.com

Queries vs. Tag Topics

WordPress has a widget that generates a tag cloud for this blog based on tags that I apply to each post.  It is usually in the right-side column.

Google’s webmaster tools show a complementary view based on how people find the site through text searches. (Webmaster content is restricted to site administrators.)

Here’s a side-by-side comparison (click images to enlarge).

What I think it this all says…

  • A lot of people can’t spell “entitled”.
  • The post about The Entitled and The Narcissist shows up most often in search results because (a) it often makes the top-5 and (b) it’s a moderately popular search phrase but still it didn’t make WordPress’s tag list.
  • “The zone” makes both the tag list and top-10 queries.  The blog on The Flow – Programming in Ecstasy has remained consistently the most viewed post on the site.
  • Being amongst the search results for “ecstasy” puts the site in interesting company.
  • There’s a big difference between being Rank #1 on a search result and anywhere lower.
  • I could probably do more to encourage more clicks from Google.

So I could do much better on SEO.

Site Performance

One of webmaster’s experimental features is tracking site performance as measured by loading time.  I noticed about 2 months ago that it was quite slow.

Being on a hosted site like WordPress.com limits what can be done to improve performance.  Since none of us likes slow sites (and apparently google punishes slow sites) I trimmed widgets from the site, reduced summaries on the home page and did other web fung shui.

Psygrammer.com: site performance

The report says the changes have paid off. Google says “the site take 2.5 seconds to load. This is faster than 57% of sites”. It’s opinion of Fast is 1.5 seconds which only the top 20% achieve.

I’ve noticed the slight speed improvement myself.  Apart from removing all the content from the site there’s not much more I can do.

So What?

Honestly, while it’s been fun to navel-gaze, I’m left with three impressions.  (1) I have quite poor statistics on the psygrammer.com website mostly because of the limited reporting of wordpress.com. (2) Psygrammer is still well hidden on the web.  And (3) I don’t care much and will continue to spend my energy on researching and writing articles rather than site promotion.

The only change I have made is to draft a “#include standard-claimer” just below which I’m thinking to include in future posts.  Since I’m writing a blog which is largely about the interaction of people I think it’s appropriate to encourage more of it around the topic and I don’t think I’ve yet reached the critical mass for vibrant discussion.  Encouraging ratings, comments and social media referrals seems like a reasonable quid pro quo.  I think it’s also in the interests of regular readers if it attracts more engagement and interaction on the site.

> cat stdio.h

#define INPUT  (commentsBelow, ratingAbove)
#define OUTPUT (Twitter, Facebook, Google +1, Digg, Reddit)
#define OLDSCHOOLIO (Email, Print)

if (youReadThisFar | like | disagree | whatever)
makeMinuteFor(INPUT | OUTPUT | OLDSCHOOLIO);

#define author “psygrammer AT gmail”

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