Fifteen Things I've Learned From Google,
or, What Did You Look For To Find This Site?

At the bottom of this site, you'll notice a little Sitemeter icon. Sitemeter is a service that allows me to see how many visitors I've had (around 3,000 since I added Sitemeter, sometime in the spring), and it also gives me a smattering of other information about my visitors, like what time zone they're in or how long they spend on the site (average visit length is 1 minute, 18 seconds, which isn't bad). By far the most fun statistic is the referral page, which tells me what webpage visitors are referred here from. That means that I can often see what exactly it was someone Googled that led them to my site. (And no, I have no way of telling who's googling what, so if you're the person who found this site by looking for feet porn, your secret is still safe!)

So here's what I've learned about how people get to my site.

1. A lot of people are in the market to buy a fez. This is, oddly enough, probably the most common way people seem to stumble across my site (where, in a column on how damned difficult it is to shop for my father, I suggested that I might give up and just by him a fez; in fact, the column is entitled Screw It. Buy The Fez.). Some people search specifically for Shriner fezzes or Masonic fezzes, but many are just turning to Google with the request to buy a fez, and Google, in its inimitable and inscrutable way, is sending them to me.

2. In fact, that column on weird gift ideas spawns all kinds of weird search hits. For example, someone found my site via a search for, yes, pimp suit homemade. And another fashion-impaired surfer found me by looking for John Wayne Hats.

3. If you search for "feet porn websites" on, your first suggestion will be Television Without Pity. Suggestion number fourteen is my Past Featured Websites page. Both these sites are actually listed for the same reason: we both mention Six Feet Under and porn on a single page. This is, no doubt, frustrating for the poor guy looking for actual foot porn.

4. Speaking of searches likely to lead you to porn, I was shocked to discover that my site - and specifically the Readers Strike Back essay on bad movies - is the number one search result if you look for "Olsen twins tied up" on Yahoo. I really think it is better not to know why someone was searching for that phrase in the first place.

5. The same week that I posted my latest cat pictures (and suggested that no one but me would ever see them unless someone Googled "do cats eat strawberries?") someone actually Googled cats eating strawberries. She even e-mailed me about it. Her cat wanted to eat strawberries and she wanted to be sure they weren't poisonous to cats, Googled it, and found my pictures. Who would've guessed?

6. Those people who have cats and aren't concerned about strawberries are still, as a rule, concerned. I get plenty of hits from people who're looking for information on cat hysteria, cat neuroses, or the simple, but perhaps more urgent search for cat, underneath couch.

7. Animal searches don't stop there. Someone found my site by looking for an image of sheep. Personally, had I been the one searching, I would've gone with the picture entitled many-sheep-from-three-feet-away.jpg.

8. Quite a few folks are looking for pictures of or sites about Native American auras, and are probably somewhat irritated when their search turns up my page instead. Personally, I can't stand New Age-y appropriations of Native American culture (and you probably don't want to get me started on the many reasons why), so I think the irritation is at very least well-deserved; if they spend a minute (and eighteen seconds) reading about sovereignty or land rights, the irritation might even be productive.

9. My soccer paper, the only academic paper I've posted here, gets a lot of random hits, for example: Mauritian flag colors and description, antifascist FC Barcelona, Scottish feuding Kennedy's info, Tamil pitch pattern. A more existentially-minded searcher, meanwhile, simply asked, "Why soccer?"

10. Evidently, bad music continues to be popular, because on a fairly regular basis, people find their way to my site by searching for Dschinghis Khan. Some prefer a more roundabout method of arriving at the same page, using ha ha ha ha ha lyrics as their search term. Personally I'm really curious what they were hoping to find.

11. I also find it fairly amusing that my essay on what I do instead of writing the paper I should be writing, which is titled "I draw the line at ex-treme dating," shows up in sixth place when you search for ex-treme It's probably not quite what the searcher was looking for, but they clicked on it anyway...

12. I'm not sure if the person looking for romantic captions for pictures of water found what they needed, but I'm damn sure my site really wasn't it.

13. For those people out there who come across the site because they would like poison ivy to die, I wish them the best of luck, and I hope the picture of my arm oozing pus didn't scare them too badly.

14. Of course, some people find this site the plain ol' boring way: by googling my name. I found out last semester that one of my students, looking for our course's online syllabus, found my site this way. This was near the end of the semester, and he e-mailed me to tell me that he was impressed that, given my clear and highly political views (which he now knew about thanks to finding this site), he'd never felt as if I was pressuring anyone to think in any particular way in class, but encouraged my students to find their own points of view. I'm sure plenty of other students have found their way here over the years, but he's the only one who ever mentioned it, and it was really nice to hear that at least one student felt I was helping my class figure out their own opinions rather than just giving them mine.

15. But some people find the site because they're googling "the making of Thorn Birds," and I just gotta love 'em for that.

3. October 2004


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