Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The internet and serendipity

I assume that most people who write blogs are keen to have lots of other people reading what they have written. Google claims to know about 8 billion pages. There are obviously substantially fewer users of the internet than this - let's guess on a ceiling of 800 million. The average number of pages that the average user looks at in a day is - let's say - of the order of 10 or so which means that in theory the total number of page views per day is probably of the same order of magnitude as the total number of pages.

However, the page views will:
a) largely be confined to pages that the user knows about - the "favourites" that he or she goes back to every day;
b) in the event of the user searching for something specific using an engine, likely to gravitate to a relatively small subset of sites;
c) in the event of the user searching for something by typing in domain names "blind" (does anybody still do that?), likely to end up at predictable domain names.

So pages that are off the beaten track will not attract many viewers. Is there any likelihood of a user just happening to come across a page with an unlikely domain name - say this one? Not really - which is why if a page is to get any traffic, it needs links in from places where people are likely to be. So blogs need links from other blogs, or sites that have a related subject matter, if the objective is for them to be read. But the link needs to be one of not too many, otherwise statistically it won't help much - although lots of links back and forth improve the site's visibility to search engines. The blog can be listed as the "homepage" when the user participates on discussion forums and bulletin boards and the like, which means that if somebody is interested in what that person says, they might just go and see what else they have to say.

So basically, the likelihood of serendipitous traffic is pretty small.

And yet ....

One day, not long ago, I got about 20 hits in the space of a few hours. I don't know why - though it was when I wrote a post that mentioned Google, who sponsor this site through advertising and also own blogger.com. Was this relevant? Does a new post mean that I feature in some list of new postings somewhere? Well, there is weblogs.com, but I don't know - it's hard to imagine how one post might be visible on such a long list. If so, how come the other posts haven't evoked the same response? If anybody would care to speculate on these issues, they are welcome to do so. However, on the basis of the number of hits I get, it is somewhat more likely that nobody will read this at all ....

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