I’ve noticed that the search strings (i.e., what you type into Google or similar) people use to visit sites I run frequently have nothing at all to do with the site or its contents. For example in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had people arrive via. “people who have multiple religions”, “aa9b493913c7fa93440c96e2b97f4657ac066b0870c5f11fcb2de464244fed91952e8c9b04d2dcd2 1d6aafc23d3d8ead749f907b1a67af09c736d8c68304b1a1518492618b4d0e7aea650ac34593bfcb7 b18c38d3af9f6e4ebe10e20a952444d38a1eadb2ae63c4942745740e547568ead860a2906781e44” (I’ve added a couple of spaces to that one), “meaning of idolate”, and a few other things I’m sure I’ve never mentioned.
I use Google Analytics for my webstats. It’s fantastically powerful, but it’s aimed more at businesses. It’s designed to help your site be profitable, and I’m given to understand it’s very good at that, but I use it more for seeing what parts of the site are proving popular and how people are finding them. For example, once a day or so someone looks up Dave Hitt on Google and I get a hit from that because my Dave Hitt Is A Twat page is the second Google result, except that for some reason I can’t work out, on Tuesday (the 22nd) I got 17 hits this way, and a further seven the next day. I see these strange exponential curves drop into my traffic periodically, such as the time I got twice as many hits one day because someone on b3ta linked to my Reverse Creationism cartoon, so I’m assuming that Hitt managed to worm his way into some publicity that day. Thanks to me and the great democracy of Google, roughly 25 of the people he reached have now read Dave Hitt Is A Twat and therefore got a more balanced opinion.
I am actually rather pleased with that: Hitt is almost universally used as a source by the anti-smoking-ban lobby (who, in the vein of the two abortion factions calling themselves “pro-choice” and “pro-life” as if anyone could reasonably be “anti-choice” or “anti-life”, I think I should probably refer to as the “pro-poisoning” lobby) and I like that there’s nothing he can do to stop Google showing everyone who looks him up exactly what I think of him.
But all of this is something of a precursor to my Idea. It’s an Idea which I feel sure wouldn’t work, but that doesn’t stop it being an interesting idea worthy of discussion. It’s an idea for a website, with no theme. It would have a forum, probably, and it would be organised kind of like a wiki. First, you register a fairly generic domain name; the kind that could really apply to any website, much like IGN or xkcd or elephant.co.uk have done. Then you put an introduction page up that does nothing but explain what I’m about to explain to you. Then you wait.
You also make sure your site is listed on Google. Just telling Google your site exists is generally enough to do this, but having a couple of links around the web helps too. Eventually, someone will stumble onto your page from Google, and when they do you’ll get a search string from them. Then you put up a page that addresses whatever you think that search string was looking for. So if they arrive having searched for “people who have multiple religions” you put a page up about those people, or, if they don’t exist, which I would have thought was a logical necessity but I realise that logic is not exactly one of religion’s strong suits, you put up a page about why they don’t exist. Then Google will index that page and you’ll get a little more traffic from people searching for things tangenially related to our polydeism page. Those people will also give you search strings and you add pages for those as well. Eventually you will end up with a website with a great many pages, drawing in traffic from Google. You could also drop the page with the lowest traffic, every time you add three pages, so your total content would always increase, and the average traffic per-page should also increase. (A special wiki-style CMS that logs search strings could handle most of this automatically, though obviously human input would be required to write the new content.)
This is evolution on the internet. Every page would pull in more visitors from Google, simply by increasing the amount of indexed text on your website, and the successful pages would spawn more children (as more people land on them and seed pages with search strings) and the less successful pages would die out. I wonder what kind of website you’d end up with.
You might end up with a very general Wikipedia style website. Or you might end up with a very thighly-focussed site dealing in great depth with one topic.
Or, you might never get more than ten hits. You just can’t say, on that crazy Internet. But I’d like to try it, one day.