Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Wonders of the Internets

A Series of Tubes
A Series of Tubes
After writing about my Twitter encounter earlier in the day with Wil Wheaton I sat back and waited with morbid interest to see if web traffic would increase. Sure enough it did, but in a way that's baffling and a little bit concerning.

I use Google statistics to track site hits. Most of the time the statistics make sense. For example, several of my posts about the Olympus E-P2 and E-P3 generated quite a few hits. But there are times when I look at the statistics Google is generating and they make absolutely no sense at all. Today was one of those head-scratching events.

I've been writing in this blog since May 2005, and at this point it has over 1,000 posts (1,056 including this posting). The subjects range all over the place. And its popularity has varied widely over time. I know, for example, that during 2007 and 2008, when I was writing pretty extensively about Linux, my site was in the hundred thousands as far as popularity was concerned. It's since dropped down to the low millions, which is where it sits today. My site isn't one of those that will make any kind of money based on page views. Consider Kirk Tuck's Visual Science Lab. Kirk's site easily gets more hits in one week than I'll see all year, sometimes more hits in one day than I'll see all year. Kirk deserves that kind of traffic because he's that good of a writer. My little blog isn't an internet powerhouse by any stretch, and I can live with that.

But today was one of those days when the traffic count spiked after publishing said article and the traffic was coming from sites and domains I'd never heard of. What's more, the counts weren't going to any particular post. From what I could tell they weren't going to any post at all, just to the site address itself.

The top-level domains (TLDs) where these hits were coming from were interesting. All of the top ranking sites were coming from .tv (Tuvalu, an island somewhere in the western Pacific due east of Indonesia and Australia) and .tk (Tokelau, another tiny island in the south Pacific that is part of the territory of New Zealand). And they had such interesting site names, such as 777seo (search engine optimization), profitsites, and lethal-commissions. Just out of curiosity I clicked on some of the links in an isolated VM sandbox, and sure enough all those links pointed to a bunch of come-ons for software and services designed to drive traffic to my site and Make Me Rich. It's a funny way to advertise that kind of crap, but it must work enough that it's being used, such as against my site.

What makes this annoying is these kinds of shenanigans, where these sites want to place high enough in my site statistics to get my attention, inflate and distort the traffic numbers. If I had the tools I'd block any site from either of those domains, but Blogger's capabilities are simplistic at best. All I can do right now is ignore it. More's the pity, because I really would like to honestly create the kind of quality content people are genuinely interested in, rather than use gimmicks to attract clicks. And the only way to do that is to pay attention to what generates genuine hits, not something generated by a spammer site trying to sell digital snake oil.

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