Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sending Messages Via Google Searches

If you're one of the 14 ardent followers of this blog: a) thanks!, and b) you may recall a post I wrote alluding to the privacy implications of Google Analytics. To summarize, Analytics compiles stats on visitors to a website, including information that can be aggregated to be personally identifiable in certain cases, and presents the data in a graphical way to the website's operator(s). It allows the site owners to see everything from each visitor's city to his ISP to his screen resolution. But one of the most fascinating stats provided is the listing of keywords searched to get to the site.

I never cease being curious about the search terms that drive users to my blog. For the record, the most popular search term is "port 587," which goes to post I wrote about this alternate SMTP port (I know, quite the nerdy digression). Of course, being a semi-vain jerk, my favorite is when I find people who have searched for me by name; nothing brightens my day more than seeing a "Chris Mustazza" query in the list. Anyway, vanity aside, here is what's interesting: I've discovered that one doesn't actually need to visit the site to have the search term and his information logged!

Here's what I mean: I Googled (ack, I hate using derivatives of "Google" as verbs!) for "Chris Mustazza is a jerk," and my blog came up as the first link (I assume for this to work the site has to come up high in the search rank); I didn't actually click the link to go to my site, but the search query was logged in my Analytics report. Why? I don't know; it's bizarre. I showed the students in my class this "feature" that I had discovered, only to find 16 more queries for "Mustazza is a jerk" logged in my Analytics (you win this round, students).

So what can we deduce from this? That it's possible to send messages via Google searches, provided that the recipient actively (read: obsessively) checks his Analytics records. For example, you could Google (ugh, did it again) for "Chris Mustazza, you're awesome," and I would get it.

Perhaps this is the digital Tristero. So, Thomas Pynchon, if you are one of the 14 subscribers to this blog, you now have the basis for The Crying of Lot 50.

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