Thursday, May 05, 2005

Googling the Blog

Being a reference librarian, wanting to understand how reference tools work, I have been testing Google to see whether the reviews and comments that I post on this blog can be found in the vastness of cyberspace. I want to know the odds that a reader has of finding one of my reviews. I want to know whether posting reviews via a blog is an effective way to distribute them. Some of my findings have surprised me.

I started blogging on February 17 and looked at Google four days later. When I entered the author and title of the first book I reviewed into the search box and clicked Google Search, I retrieved hundreds of hits. I scanned more than a dozen pages without finding my review and stopped. I was not surprised. Google uses popularity in ranking results and very few people had seen my blog at that point. I also tried searching “ricklibrarian” and was pleased to find Google had found me. A link to my blog was listed in the results right below a link to Aaron Schmidt’s blog. Aaron, who had announced my blog in his, had more cyber presence and got top ranking. That the search engine listed my blog very quickly was not too surprising, for Google owns Blogger, the service I use to blog. I tried other search engines, but none of them had found me.

In early April, about six weeks after starting my blog, I again tried to find some of my reviews by Googling. In a few cases, less reviewed works of nonfiction, I found my work on the fifth or sixth page of results. My stock was rising slowly.

Also, in early April, I placed a counter on my blog, using the free service from Site Meter. In addition to learning how many (or few) times the website was visited, I also learned how people linked to my blog; the referring URL was rarely Google.

In second half of April two of my blog postings were cited by LISNews, Library Stuff, and the Norweld Library System in Ohio. Traffic on my blog increased for a couple of weeks, as librarians from across the US, Europe, and South America read my more popular postings. It was still small potatoes compared to many library-oriented websites, but it must have meant something to the Google algorithm. Suddenly my reviews rose in the Google rankings. I even made the first results page several times.

According to Site Meter, a majority of the visits to my blog in the past several days have been linked to Google searches. My joy and pride have been tempered a little, as I notice a new trend that I certainly did not intend. Read more about that in Part 2 of “Googling the Blog,” coming soon.

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