How people find a blog

Let’s talk about search engine terms. No, I’m not going to hand out blogging advice. You won’t find any advice here that you’d want to follow, on blogging or any other subject. What I want to explore is that strange and lovely world of search engines and algorithms and other things I don’t understand, about which I want to ask the following profound question: What the hell are they thinking?

I know, thinking’s the wrong word. Algorithms don’t think. Someone does, though. A human mind, with an actual human being attached to it, programs these suckers and sets them loose on the world trusting that they’ll connect the right question to the right answer.

Or not caring if they do.

A chough, pronounced "chuff," Cornwall's official bird. It was driven to extinction in Cornwall, but a few years ago a pair flew over from Ireland and nested successfully, and a handful can now be found. Those who know are keeping their locations secret. I know and I ain't telling. Photo by Ida Swearingen, who ain't telling either.

A chough, pronounced “chuff,” Cornwall’s official bird. It was driven to extinction in Cornwall, but a few years ago a pair flew over from Ireland and bred successfully and a handful can now be found. Those who know are keeping their locations secret. I know, at least vaguely, and I’m not telling. Photo by Ida Swearingen, and she isn’t telling either.

And then there are the people who type some of these terms into Google. Spare a moment to wonder what they’re thinking as well.

So here’s how people found Notes from the U.K. (I’ll do a separate post on vaguely relevant search terms. Sooner or later.) They typed in (with Google’s lower case format carefully preserved):

good comments with u: All my good comments contain that letter. Except this one. My bad ones? They don’t.

who are the bigwigs in legal highs: . Okay, I’m pretty clear on what this poor kid was looking for and can make an educated guess or three about what they planned to do with the information. And they were so disappointed to end up in the middle of a discussion of lawyers’ wigs. Sorry, kid. Now get off the internet and go finish your homework. And remember to use the letter u.

kittens dash into rooms they shouldn’t: Rooms and dash are clear enough to work with, but we need a definition of shouldn’t. They shouldn’t because they’ll get scolded? Because they’ll get eaten by the Minotaur? Or the Merrimac? Anyway, we need to define the term. And we need video, which I don’t do. And come to think of it, how young a kitten do they want to see? So I was a disappointment here. I do have a page of kitten pictures, which I haven’t updated lately now that I think about it, but I can’t imagine I’m high up the Google list. How many web sites and blogs did the googler go to before being disappointed by mine? What is it about kittens and the internet that someone went through that many links looking for this?

dog poo for rubbish collection Cornwall: For this, they need to contact the county. Unless they’re looking for dog poo itself. If they can convince me it’s a good idea to donate it, we have plenty. And a nice collection of the cat variety as well. But, well, I will need convincing.

Sumerdress: These are what they wore in Sumeria? Sorry, this isn’t a fashion blog.

kitten club: I can make a fair guess about which regular readers would  join, but I don’t know where to refer them. And a kitten a month? It’s too many. No matter how cute they are. Plus it’s wrong to ship them. They need to be hand delivered, lovingly.

notes of the kettle: This was weird enough that I googled it myself and was, sure enough, led to one of my posts, “Putting the kettle on,” as well as to notes from a community meeting that included the subhead “Vott is kettle,” which is all about JavaScript. Why is said “vott” instead of “what” is a mystery. Or maybe “vott” isn’t a mispronunciation of what but some arcane bit of geek speak. You know: “I’m going to vott your computer now. Stand back.” I’d love to give you a link to this so you don’t think I made it up, but I didn’t copy it down at the time—I was too busy being baffled—and it won’t come up again, but if you want to buy a whistling kettle, several of those links popped up. I think it was when I typed in “vott is kettle.” The connection’s obvious, isn’t it? The kettle whistles and you run into the kitchen yelling, “Vott iz itt dis time?” (Sorry, my phony accent’s a bit woozy. I’m not sure what language group I’m supposed to be imitating and I doubt I’d get it right if I was sure. Normally I wouldn’t stoop to making fun of someone’s accent, but it’s justified this time. Necessary even.) You can find out about Kettle Knudson, who’s either from or visited Bemidji, Minnesota, I’m not sure which, but the story’s in the Bemidji Pioneer. On this I could give you some links but not having them introduces an element of randomness that’s way more fun. What does it all mean, bartender?

tumblr pics of fully clothed grandmothers: I hardly know where to start with this one. Is a website somewhere offering pics of semi-naked grandmothers? And if there is, how do we know the pictures are of genuine grandmothers and not women like me, of a grandmotherly age but without grandchildren, which by any definition I understand disqualifies me from grandmotherhood? I mean, how much less of a turn-on is it once you know the background’s been faked?  You won’t find me on any site of that sort. Not only won’t I lower myself to pretend I have grandchildren but because my clothes are tattooed on, so I’m always fully clothed. Even in the shower. So, how did they find Notes with that in the search engine? The only one of these words I remember using is of, although it’s not impossible that I said everyone somewhere or other was fully clothed. It sounds like me. And in many of the places I go, including the supermarket, they are. Time after time. In fact, even as I type this, I’m fully clothed. It’s chilly in the morning at this time of year. I only frighten the neighbors in warm weather. As for what the googler was looking for, I can only speculate. And I’m not sure I want to.

What people want to know about Americans in Britain

Like so many other bloggers, I’ve become obsessed with my Stats Page. To the point where I have to remind myself that yesterday’s stats won’t change, no matter how many times I check them. And having told myself that, I check them again anyway. (I use the old Stats Page, because it has yesterday’s stats. And because I hate the new one.)

But the most interesting bit of the Stats Page is what I find under Search Engine Terms. This is where I see what people really want to know about Britain. Or about Americans in Britain. Or about life, poor dears, and then they get shunted in my direction and who knows what happens to them next. Nothing good, I’m sure.

Irrelevant photo: Where cats hide on gray days

Irrelevant photo: Where cats hide on gray days

Before we get to the list, I should admit that I’ve edited out the most sensible entries. This isn’t sociology, kids. We’re trying to have fun here, so settle down in the back row. Pay attention.

I’ve left the spelling and capitalization as I found them. When they think no one’s watching, most people are as lazy about capitalization as I am. Of course, it’s possible that either search engines or WordPress turns everything into lower case and the handful of capital letters are only there because I imported them without noticing. Either way, we’re becoming nations of illiterates.

Sad, isn’t it?

Enough. Here’s the list.


british english obsessed with the letter U

tea in motion

slang used today

beech loses sand

lemon drizzle cake american measurements

guy with a camera

lemon drizzle cake notes

why does cnn anchors talk with accent

musical quavers and crotchets

manners American

musical notes in British sex (this showed up two days in a row; don’t ask; don’t even think about it)

american chocolate chip cookies uk

what should we do to show good manners in public places in britain (twice in one day, once without the S in manners)

show good maner in public place in britain


What do we learn here?

  1. That what Americans most want to learn about Britain involves lemon drizzle cake, which, sadly, they won’t learn here since we pretty solidly established that the recipe I posted wasn’t a true lemon drizzle cake but some other kind of lemon cake in disguise. In its defense, it was measured in cups.
  2. That what people who could be from anywhere most want to know about Britain has to do with good manners and musical notation. In the case of manners, they sound a bit desperate. I feel bad about that, because I can’t think I’ve been much use on the subject. I’m not sure what subject I have been much use on. I’m nervous about being made an Authority, even if it’s by something as arbitrary as a search engine.
  3. That somebody wants to know about American manners and assumes we have some.
  4. That a lot of strange stuff gets typed into Google and that some of it gets shunted here for no apparent reason. Guy with a camera? Have the words guy and camera even showed up in my posts?

And what could we teach, if anyone who asked was listening? That CNN anchors talk with an accent because if human beings stop talking with accents they don’t talk at all. It’s like breath: no breath, no speech; no accent, no words.

And the sex query? That sounds a bit desperate, and it makes me want to know what have you lot up to when I wasn’t looking.