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Spying on Us

Writers Web Watch

The Internet without search engines would be like CNN without satellites. The search engines do a truly amazing task of indexing the pages. Each one has its own way of doing it. Some, like Google, scan the text. Others look at the words used in headings to identify relevant pages and a few list mainly on the basis of payments to them. This is why the engines return different results.

And once your site makes it into the big league, the search engines start keeping snapshots of it. This is fine until you need to convert a biography to an obituary. It came as a bit of a shock to us to see that the old material remained visible weeks after it had been removed from our site. Now, we know better and can have these copies removed.

It was claimed recently that 88% of websites had no measurable traffic. It's a tough world but success breeds success - The more visitors you receive the more attention the search engines pay to your site. Now the search engines are 'hooked' into us, so when we change or add something, they know almost immediately.

Good spelling is not all it is cracked up to be. Search engines may be smart but if you ask your search engine to find sites about literature or full of woards it will oblige. Recently the site recorded more searches from one search engine for the word auther than author.

But I don't want to lose search references because of some typo by the user. So the bad spelling is guiltily hidden from view.

As a site for writers, we incline toward pedantry when using the language. But the Internet provides us with a way of 'cheating'. At the very top of each page we can include a list of words to help search engines. These are hidden from the user so many of these popular, but aberrant, spellings can be included shamelessly.

There is also little point in being grammatically pure if it reduces your cyber visibility. The search engine will ignore writers' and writer's for someone looking for writers.

Sex sells but not as well as it used to, according to the thought police. Numerous products provide filters to exclude sites that incorporate this 3 letter word. There was a time when the inhabitants of Sussex and Middlesex were subject to cyber censorship but this misbehaviour has been corrected.

However xes slips through undetected as do many more imaginative and lust-laden words. We could slip in a few 'catch words', but it is unlikely that our valued visitors would stay if lured under false pretences. We are proud that nearly half of our visitors stay once they find the site. For the web as a whole, 70% leave after looking at only one page.

The search engines do a great job. How else would thousands of people in China or remote parts of South America ever know WritersServices existed? To update Oscar Wilde: 'the only thing worse than being spied on, is being ignored'.

© Charles Jonesauthor; formerly nerd responsible for keeping the site running; spent over 25 years in computer business; started out dusting bugs off valves, but in time graduated to writing software and managing projects; as published author with stack of waiting-to-be-published manuscripts tucked away, WritersServices is answer to his silent prayer; his book 'Ordinary Heroes' An extraordinary true story of wartime adventure; recently published book about Battle of Fulford-'Fulford the forgotten battle of 1066', published by Tempus ISBN 0752438107 2001