Monday, March 10, 2008

Click (better than the Adam Sandler movie)

This is a post about search engines and a theory I have (probably debunkable by anyone with more than a rudimentary knowledge of the internet) about how to mess with their system. If you don't know anything about search engines (Mom and maybe a few Irvine friends who read this blog out of guilt), here's a quick summary of what I'm talking about:

When you type in something to Google, let's say "Scantily-clad hobbit", you're going to get some results. These results have a link, a text abstract, and a reference as to where that link goes. When you click the link, a bit of information is saved. Google knows what you typed in and what you clicked on and the site you go to (most likely) knows how you got there and what you typed in to Google to get there. This is how I know that "caravan jokes" is the most frequently searched term to lead to my blog. This is why Google is often misguided, as there are no caravan jokes on my blog. Nor is there albino fetish porn, information about Michelangelo or the country of Beirut. Yet, all of these terms, variations of which are typed into Google, lead to my blog. At any rate, when you search on any search engine, be it Google, Yahoo, Ask, or Mahalo for that matter, you click on a link and that's how you get to the next site. On most major search engines, however, you don't actually need to click the link to get to the site. For some reason, I got into the habit of not clicking on the link but copying and pasting the given URL and pasting it into my search bar. This way, I am going directly to the site instead of being sent there via a search engine. The site I go to will recognize this, and I will be considered a "Direct" visitor instead of a search engine visitor.

This distinction is important. A site can be said to really have "made it" once the bulk of it's traffic is direct. For example, I don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing that a great deal of About.com's traffic comes through Google and Yahoo. They get highly ranked in these search engines, but as their content is not totally amazing and few people think "Hey, I should go to About.com for this info", not everyone is typing that into their URL bar to get there. YouTube gets tons of search engine traffic as well, but if you're looking specifically for a video, you know that you can go right to YouTube.com and search their content. YouTube probably knew it had something big on its hands once their direct traffic started skyrocketing a few years ago. Also, if you go right to YouTube and search for a video, only YouTube will know what you searched for, whereas if you go to Yahoo! and type it in, both Yahoo! and YouTube will get visits and they'll also have information about how you're searching, what you're searching for, and what you're likely to click on. This information, compounded over millions of people, is very valuable to them. I started copying and pasting the URL, because sometimes I just don't feel comfortable with a site knowing how I reached them. This can be useful if you're a little embarrassed with a search query leading you to a questionable site.

So I'm told.

Anyway, this is a little habit of mine when I'm going around the web, except when I'm at work, when my search engine use is so frequent that I simply don't have the time to cut and paste.

I was wondering if someone with considerable influence (not me...yet) could convince all of their readers to no longer click on links through Google, Yahoo!, Ask, or MSN. Instead, find what you're looking for and go there directly. If 1/3 of all internet users did this it would vastly change the industry.

In the efforts of being open, I'll admit that Mahalo does not visibly show you the URL under the link, and you must physically click it to get where you're going. However, as Mahalo only has the highest quality links and we don't save people's search histories anyway, there's no feasible reason to be concerned about clicking the links.

So, if you've read this far, maybe give it a try, and tell your friends to try it as well. Just copy and paste the link into your toolbar. Take the two extra seconds it will take. We could change the world, people!

1 comment:

It's Mom said...

First of all, I don't read your blog out of guilt...I read for information (I can learn from you) and for my entertainment. You're very funny.
I check in on you frequently and don't comment every time.
I will give your suggestion a try.