Poodle Balling and Blogging

This began as a brief discussion in the comments on another post, but which has shifted to some interesting discussion on blog traffic, stat counters, and RSS feeds with a few bloggers by email. It raised a number of points which I though should be elevated from the comments to a main post. This began when I was alerted of a slur elsewhere. While I haven’t verified this, the points raised remain of interest even if the attack didn’t actually occur.

The discussion began with reports of a claim being made that Liberal Values gets most of its hits by searches for “poodle balling.” If so, that would be the interpretation of someone who is ignorant of both math and how search engines work.

At the time of the first comment, 84 out of the last 4000 hits came from searches for “poodle balling.” Poodle balling is mentioned on the blog due to quoting from the episode of Will and Grace with Britney Spears. Britney plays a character who acts as if she is a right winger, but then confesses: “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”

As a consequence of quoting this, about 2% of the hits involved searches for poodle balling. As this is a specific phrase, those looking for it generally put ‘poodle balling’ into the search engine exactly the same way. There are also thousands of searches based on specific political questions. These account for the vast majority of searches to the blog, but each individual search was only used once or twice, so these don’t rank as high as searches for ‘poodle balling’ or for other leading searches such as Paris Hilton and Heroes.

Incidentally, one of the top searches at the blog where this claim was allegedly made is for “Ann Coulter Nude.” Before anyone gets too excited, or repulsed, it is a picture of a monster without clothes. (Literally a monster, not Ann Coulter.)

This is one of the reasons I pay more attention to RSS subscribers than hits on the blog. Those who subscribe to the RSS feed are interested in the content of the blog. With search engine hits we get primarily people searching for meaningful comments, but there’s always a fair number of other searches. That is not to say that looking for discussion of Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace isn’t a decent reason to search for the blog. After all, there is a substantial amount here on non-political topics such as television, and Britney’s appearance on Will and Grace did have its political aspects.

It’s also interesting to look at search words ranked by visit length as opposed to visit number. As people looking for non-political topics generally visit briefly, the topics on this search are generally more serious ones. Current top searches include “growing libertarianism among the liberals” and individuals such as Ron Paul, Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani. However “poodle balling” still leads this list, indicating that people searching for “poodle balling” wound up reading much more of the blog.

The portion above was already noted in the comments, but this raised more questions regarding RSS readers as opposed to stat counters and the strategy of using RSS readers. Some argued for only placing a portion of a blog post on the RSS feed, forcing readers to click through to the main post. In contrast, I have preferred to place the entire post on the feed. My feeling is that I would rather have 3000 people reading the entire post on in their RSS reader, as opposed to stopping at the end of a brief excerpt, and it doesn’t matter whether they click through and are seen by the stat counter. Of course those who hope to maximize ad revenue by increasing hits may have reason to limit what is on the RSS feed.

Another topic of debate was the value of page loads versus unique readers, and there was really no clear answer. On the one hand, fifteen separate people who come to read the blog might be more meaningful than one person checking the comments to a post fifteen times during the day. On the other hand, one person who follows the links and reads fifteen old posts is more meaningful than fifteen people who quickly come from a search engine but wind up not reading much on the blog. Even that is difficult to determine since, as I noted above, even many of the people searching for “poodle balling” wound up sticking around to read more of the blog.

It’s almost a running joke in the blogoshere that if you put up a picture of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan the hits will increase. We seemed to have figured out a little more as to why that sometimes happens and sometimes does not. The major variable appears to be how the picture comes up in search engines such as Google and MSN which allow searches for pictures. There are typically multiple copies of each photo on line, and some sites with the picture wind up coming up earlier and some several pages back, obviously determining whether this results in a flood of hits. Nobody involved in the discussion was clear on how this worked, but most likely it involves the usual web search karma which determines what winds up higher in a search.

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8 Comments

  1. 1
    karen says:

    Bravo, Ron, Bravo!

    In one fell swoop you blow out this spurious attack and also get up a post which will bring in more traffic. Britney, Lindsay, and Poodle Balling. 🙂 Maybe you’ll even steal away Democratic Daily’s links for “Ann Coulter nude”–a thought which makes me want to vomit but it would serve them right for all their attacks. I do wonder what type of reader that wold bring in. And I do agree that people search for poodle balling to read more about liberalism on television (well, at least some of them.)

  2. 2
    KerryDemocrat says:

    Best post ever. Filled with great tips for bloggers with tiny bits of traffic like myself. Of course, it would help if I was a more consistent poster instead.

    Other than that, perhaps my only hope is to glom on to threads like this one and hope for the runoff of hits for those who would click my name to get to my link…hint, hint…

    LOL, poodle balling…I had not heard of that before. Of course Hilton and Lohan, sure…

    I definitely need to change my shameless tactics to generate trafiic by writing spurious posts about Congressman Rick Renzi and just what a corrupt bastard he is…

    Regardless, I truly enloy Liberal Values and I don’t use a feed. I cme here because I enjoy the content, including the SciFi. Please don’t discount me because of that, as I am into politics and would never “ball a poodle”.

    Thank you.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Wow, best post ever.

    You even get a link in the Recent Comments section of the main page for that!

    Posting consistently does make a big difference. With travel plans coming up, it will be interesting to see how traffic drops as my posting probably will temporarily decrease. Of course there would be less people reading blogs around the 4th even if I was around posting all day.

    Britney Spears made poodle balling famous when she mentioned it on Will and Grace.Otherwise, I know nothing about the subject.

    I certainly don’t discount you, or anyone else, who comes here directly instead of from a RSS feed. I hope I didn’t give that impression. I was speaking purely in the context of measures of how the blog is doing. I find counts of RSS reader subscribers more meaningful than search engine hits but both types of readers are of value.

    Of course I’m also biaed by the results. Before the weekend when it typically drops due to some office computers being turned off, I had just over 4000 subscribers (with this increasing by about 100 every week). In contrast, typically we get 400-1000 unique visitors a day, with twice that number of page loads. That number was increasing durin the spring but now seems to be levelling off as the weather gets better. I suspect that number is now staying fairly constant as a certain percentage of new readers every week add my feed to their RSS reader and then continue reading that way as opposed to continuing to visit.

  4. 4
    KerryDemocrat says:

    LOL….heya Ron, I was goobing mainly because I enjoyed your post and found it pretty funny. I am thrilled that this little location has blossomed so well. My “lowly” site was bringing in around 600 hits per day prior to the election, but then tapered off dramatically, and I mean dramatically. Now it is primarily a vessel for me to express my own little view, which is shared among my few subscribers.

    I have made my blog much more State oriented, although the news here is a bit thin at the moment. Once the elections fire up, traffic is going to be very interesting for you here.

    I hope you kick butt.

    Cheers

    Oh yeah, and I got a new post link 🙂

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Elections certainly make a big difference. For now summer makes the biggest diffeence, with traffic probably dropping until September. I also figure that we’ve gone for a few months with the early primary battles to the point where people are ready to reduce reading on that until fall.

    Besides elections and seasonal differences, there’s a lot that is out of our control. For example, Technorati has been messing up again in both not picking up my posts and not showing a few new links I picked up. Losing Technorati cut into traffic, but it was probably primarily down due to being a summer weekend.

    Fortunately this is only a hobby and temporary drops don’t really matter all that much.

  6. 6
    typo i guess says:

    mkay, lets get the quote right.
    “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch BLACK girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”

  7. 7
    Anonymous says:

    ok, ok, ok…enough of all that…..so what is poodle balling?????

  8. 8
    Michelle says:

    Poodle Ballin is two lesbians pleaseuring one another by rubbing their “who ha’s” together!

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