No, my blog didn’t just get bought by Google (guys, the contact form is here…I’ll take a cheque). But the big G has, bit by bit, infiltrated this site.
In a good way, of course.
It started with the ads. What began as an experiment a couple of years or so ago now brings in more than enough to cover the site’s hosting bills (which was the original plan). What happens to the rest? I spend it on fast cars and loose women, of course. Oh and occasionally I donate to open source projects that I think are worthwhile. But mostly it’s the cars and the women.
Then I started using Google Analytics to monitor site traffic. To be honest, since the initial novelty wore off I’ve barely looked at it: traffic on this site has been following a very, very gradual upward trend (who are you people? don’t you have anything better to do?) for the last three years which doesn’t look set to change any time soon, so I lost interest. Of course it’ll all go through the roof when I add the social networking / video upload / mp3 streaming / microblogging / porn sections. But that’s all hush-hush for now.
Far more useful was the addition of Google Webmaster Tools — a collection of statistics and utilities designed to help you understand how your site is indexed by Google, what people who come to your site are looking for, what terms are used in links to your site and so forth. The idea is to help you ensure that you’re making the most of your site and its content. In short: an SEO‘s wet dream. By the way, if you haven’t created an XML site map then you should.
The final piece (so far) of the Google takeover is Feedburner. Way back when I first relaunched this site as a blog, I quickly became aware that a considerable proportion of the site’s bandwidth requirement was the result of people subscribing to the RSS feed, which was quite unexpected. Feedburner mitigates this by acting as a proxy: when anyone subscribes to an RSS feed on this site, the feed is in fact being served to them by Feedburner. Well, a couple of weeks ago, guess who got bought out?
So Google knows what sort of content I’m publishing, and who’s linking to it. It knows how many people are looking at my site and how they got here (and likely it can track those users across other sites that carry Adsense or Google Analytics, using a centralised tracking cookie). It knows what sorts of things they’re interested in paying money for. And now it even knows who’s so interested in what I have to say that they’ve taken time to subscribe to the RSS feed.
The mind boggles at the possibilities available to someone with access to all this data, along with the computing power and analytical skill to process it (and I have little doubt that Google has both). I know that my bosses would kill for such information. Occasionally it gives me the heebie-jeebies that one organisation has such widespread insight into user behaviour on the internet. However, I just need to remember the fast cars and loose women and everything’s fine again.