A search engine’s strange revelations

NaBloPoMo 2007


The first day of NaBloPoMo, which now has more than 3,600 participants, should start with a revelation. People seem to think search engines work in mysterious ways. This little exercise can expose the impact of word choice on search engine results. (By the way, the nerdist expression for a page of search engine results is SeRP.)

Here’s the test:

Which five phrases—when entered as Google.com queries—return your blog or website as the top-ranking result?

Tip: Enclose each selected phrase in quotation marks when you conduct the search.

This writing prompt was devised by David Ng, who co-blogs with Benjamin Cohen at The World’s Fair.

Here are my five hits:

  1. “lingering in the tiny garden”
  2. “befriend anyone anywhere”
  3. “Web habitué”
  4. “sustainable level of cognitive dissonance”
  5. “to rationalize cruelty”

Bloggers call chain reactions to these prompts memes, but for some reason, I’m uneasy with that use of the word. Analyze the aversion for me, won’t you? It has something to do with a lack of precision, I imagine.

If you try this experiment, I’d love for you to cross-post your five hits here. Just click on the word Comments and/or fill in the box labeled Leave a Reply at the end of this post. If you’d rather email the information to me, I’ll include it as an addendum. Be sure to leave a link back to your blog or website, so we can see what you’re all about, especially if it’s surprising.

9 Replies to “A search engine’s strange revelations”

  1. um…

    “real paper in my hands”

    “deana carter and cheryl tweedy”

    “hating on doug morris”

    “FEMA contracts foot-in-mouth disease”

    “splog forever on google”

  2. Well, I couldn’t actually find the box called “Leave a Reply,” so there’s a real good chance I played this meme thing wrong, too. Nevertheless, these five lines rank MY blog as #1 in Google:

    She’s trying to drive me mad

    I am a comma addict

    I’ll tell ya, these volunteers are brutal

    I am a MAJOR crybaby

    Hello Mutts and Moms

    LOL…see! That’s way too much info about me out on this internet.

  3. Hey, kid, you didn’t need those instructions. I wrote them for my brother. If he doesn’t get a blog soon, I plan to post a slideshow of his childhood photos. Any suggestions for the soundtrack? (laughing)

    Were you surprised by the search results? I was. I thought it would be much more difficult to come up with distinctive phrases. Now, I’m wondering whether Google’s algorithm factors in the sites I’ve previously visited and ranks them higher, as though there’s logic in assuming I’d want to return.

  4. This was a fascinating exercise. Words can be deceiving! I had thought these phrases were average, or at least just common words in familiar combinations. Who knew they were so unique to my blog!?

    “let your writing flow”
    “American mother ennui”
    “get down to your wild mind”
    “every writer must face it”
    “this ties you down”

  5. Okay, the phrase “get down to your wild mind” is scary, girl! (laughing) I won’t be trying that anytime soon.

    Does this tell us cyberspace is smaller than we imagine?

  6. LOL. “Wild mind” is Natalie Goldberg-speak. Letting your writing flow without interruption from your internal editor or self-doubt. I thought they might be more bloggers using this Zen approach to writing…

    This exercise was really interesting. I have heard before that more than four words the same means plagiarizing, and this little experiment proved that to me.

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