Like many bloggers, I adore Site Meter. This is a free service that tells me how many hits I've gotten, where they're from, and how many pages the visitors read. It tells me how long visitors stay on the site. It tracks visits by entry pages, exit pages, and outclicks. Every week, Site Meter sends me e-mail with weekly traffic statistics: visits and page views broken down by day and by hour. The service gives me the ISP and IP address of each visitor and will even tell me the resolution of the visitor's computer monitor, although I'm not quite geeky enough to know what I'd ever do with that last bit of information.
Site Meter has given me renewed and sobering respect for issues around Internet privacy. I know more about some of my visitors than they might wish. If you're a frequent visitor to the site, even if you never post a comment, I have a picture of you in my head. There are people who come here every day, sometimes several times a day, whom I recognize by city and IP address.
If you're in this category: hi there, and thanks for visiting, and please post a comment sometime!
Let me say again that the version of Site Meter I use is a free service. If I upgraded to the paid version, I'd probably know what all of you had for breakfast.
One of Site Meter's most useful features is the ability to track visits by referral. If someone else has linked to my blog and you clicked on that link to get here, Site Meter will give me the referring URL. This is why I submit so regularly to Grand Rounds and Change of Shift; my Site Meter stats tell me that hits from those carnivals produce most of my traffic. Site Meter is also a much faster way to find links to my blog than the Technorati "blogs that link here" service, which sometimes lags days behind.
But here's the kicker: If you got here via an Internet search, Site Meter will tell me what search engine you were using and what you were searching for. If you type a phrase into Google and my blog comes up and you come here, Site Meter will give me the search phrase.
There's someone in Rochester, New York who's visited every day for months after doing a Google search on "palwick rickety." (Rickety Palwick is much more apt, of course, and would also work.) Lately I haven't seen Mr. or Ms. Rochester on my locations list, but a visitor from Los Angeles has been coming here, about as often, after doing the same search. This makes me wonder if someone recently moved from Rochester to L.A.
Meanwhile, I've gotten visits from people searching for information about critical-care nursing, about the Kathy Augustine case, about knitting. Some of the Google search phrases are truly poignant and hint at much larger stories. I've gotten hits on my "Heaven Can Wait" post from people searching on "Do suicides go to heaven?" I once got a hit on my HIPAA post from someone dong a Google search on "How do you know if someone can keep a secret?"
Site Meter is not keeping your secrets. Know this.
And some of those search phrases are pretty skanky.
After I posted my "Gormless Brigade" story, I had a run of hits from people who'd been searching for information on a particular kind of medical examination done with a particular kind of instrument. (Take Elvis. Add a P in front. Remove the S at the end and replace with a C. Got it? See how I'm trying to avoid further Google hits on this phrase? As for the instrument: take speculative, cut the "ative," and add "um.")
Okay, so it was probably predictable that I'd show up in some unsavory searches after that particular post, but what surprises me is how many people are deeply fascinated by this piece of medical equipment. A disproportionate number of them live in Scandinavian countries.
I couldn't make this up if I tried.
I have the very strong hunch that most of the people doing this particular search were men. (And there were even less appealing search phrases, which I'll spare you.) All I have to say, guys, is that nobody who's actually had one of these exams enjoys it, okay? Some of us tolerate them better than others, but it's nobody's favorite ten minutes in a doctor's office. As for that piece of medical equipment, if I never saw another one in my life, I'd be a happy woman.
And then, a few days ago, I discovered a new and truly slimy form of spamming.
If I think someone has linked to my site, naturally I like to go there and see what they said. I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who does this. Sometimes people have just been working their way through Blogger and hitting the "next blog" button, but one quickly develops a sense for referrals in that category. If there's more than one hit from the same site, or if there's a hit from an archived site, it's usually an actual link.
So yesterday I found a hit from an archived site, went there -- and found myself on one of those corn-with-a-p sites featuring really improbable anatomical structures.
Yea, verily, I say unto you: Ick.
Bodies don't squick me, and I don't object on principle to corn-with-a-p sites, as long as they depict adults who want to be there, and as long as they label themselves clearly and provide a "click here to swear that you're of legal age" gateway. I do object to being blindsided by this stuff, and I think slipping it into somebody's Site Meter is unbelievably sleazy.
The ironic thing is that, of course, there's a large demand for this kind of material, which is why there's so much of it out there. There must be easier ways for these people to get traffic than sliming my Site Meter.