Innocent in Australia

A Scot down and under in Melbourne

Blogging’s best kept secret: when you look at me, I look at you

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So you’ve learnt some top SEO tips, whacked the words Britney Spears and sex into every second headline, gained your first million subscribers and hyperlinked loads of cool stuff. People are falling over themselves to visit your site, right?

Well … WordPress, as I’ve written about before (click here), gives you the search terms people use en route to reading you. When I see “Innocent in Australia” or my name I sigh with relief and then say: “Go on, son, well done, mate, she’ll be right, we can do this! We can!”

But I see many other terms, too. Every fifth or sixth term these days is Stanford Who’s Who thanks to the post: Oprah Winfrey and the Stanford Who’s Who (click here).

I receive comments and messages from people – usually tales of woe. They find me because, when they type in “Standford Who’s Who”, I’m right up there, in third spot.

Go on, son! Go on!

But the biggest revelation is this: the search terms people use, and subsequently find you by, don’t relate to your headlines.

If you load your headlines with top search terms – Google is typed in 618 million times a month; Lady Gaga averages 25 million; Oprah gets 5 million – you’re facing extreme competition: unless your piece gains immediate momentum it will be swept to page 199 on Google, the end of the internet.

Far better to use terms people are looking for, but not in huge numbers. On average, 3,600 people a month search for Stanford Who’s Who and, when they do, I pounce on them.

Cracking the Shits is even less popular. Only 14o people search for this expression each month, but when they do, I’m waiting.

=

Well, done, mate, she'll be right.

Blogs are a two-way process. What I write gives insight into me; and the search terms people use to find me give insight into them.

The terms below – all from the last quarter – have stuck in my mind, and not always for good reasons. For the sake of illustration, I’ve divided them into character types, and present them complete with original spelling and syntax.

Many, as you would imagine, deal with sex – depraved, disturbing sex. I actually worry some of these sick bastards have become subscribers (although, if you have, woo-hoo!).

If you get the boak easily, skip the next few lines: they’re gross.

 Sexy beasts/ beasts

* teen boys giving milk to other by his cock

* dad shits in boys mouth

* visible g-string above jeans edge youtube

* middle age nudewomen and younge rmen horse leg

* melbourne house party orgy when please

* spanking with pan

* massive piss flaps

Medico-curious

* sick people snot

* snot and sneeze in your face you

* why do they call snot crows

* ahh right on my coccyx

* drop dead in australia

V-J Day curious

All of these relate to the picture, reproduced below, by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Though merely mentioned in passing in a post about the SNP victory in Scottish elections (click here), it’s been a nice little traffic driver – certainly more than the SNP has been (ungrateful bastards).

The "broken-back" move is a clear winner.

That said, no-one has actually searched for “Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Times Square photo”, but rather things like:

* man woman snogging after war lovely

* kiss nurse wars over

* kissing nurse stops war

Scotland curious

* bawbag

* gaun yersel

* your a bawbag chimp

* deck him

* why im proud to be from scotland

Australia curious

* is life in australia like neighbours

* is better australia or scotland

* bogan as

Seeking instruction

* how to break into holden nova

* how to get out of going to your dad’s

Sartorial

* where can you buy rastafarian hat in sydney

* cat flap british haircut

* rasta hats melbourne

* grey fitted blazer adelaide

Miscellaneous

* getting married at 8pm

* saltwater combover

* middle age man melbourne

* psychiatrists christmas card

* maroon bedroom ideas for kids

There’s one I rate above all others, though. I like to imagine the person who wrote it on their back in a driveway, a monkey wrench in one hand, a can of oil in the other. Though sweating and dirty, this person feels pretty pumped.

He or she stands up from the driveway and walks into the house, stepping out of the filthy overalls. Those biceps look pretty good in the mirror, don’t they?

Now, what shall I type into Google? I know:

* working on my car feeling manly

Go champ!

Thanks for reading.

Part 5 of 5

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Written by Paul Dalgarno

July 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hyperlinks (and tits)

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The way hyperlinks are anchored or seeded in copy causes consternation in certain circles.

Essentially, it boils down to whether it’s better to say “click here“, thereby giving readers clear direction (a bit like someone shouting “jump” really loudly when your at the edge of a cliff), or to embed your links subtly as you go.

For sure, the constant clamouring of blue or purple lettering in an otherwise monotone text can be off-putting.

But it depends what’s being linked to: if it’s amazing tits or a big red dong, people are more likely to click.

A passing link to Synthesis of lamellar niobic acid nanorods via proton-exchange and their conversion to T-Nb2O5 nanorods is way less appealing – especially in an article about tits.

Because so few people read them, links are a labour of love on the part of the writer.

Getting to links means cracking through the ice of a text, rescuing those pages and pictures bobbing helplessly under the surface? – it’s an inconvenience, and generally you can’t be arsed.

They’re simply footnotes, or those little numbers in modern editions of Dickens next to “cutting the throats of the Graces” and other obscure phraseology. Who actually flicks to page 487 to get the full explanation? Erm, I dosometimes.

In their defence, hyperlinks do a few important things:

1) They show there’s a primary source, whether or not you choose to verify it, even just to make sure the author’s not having a laugh at your expense.

2) Well thought-out hyperlinks give you more than the link to some crappy Wikipedia page or a some gigantic, scholarly tome. Done well, they add real value.

3) As the writer, if you can’t be arsed, they give you an opt-out from explaining sexual selection or macropodidae, or even describing something as simple as two kangaroos shagging in front of stunned boy.

One less obtrusive approach is the Easter egg link – seemingly random gifts that take your most diligent readers in new directions. Whether a word or a single letter, they’re saying: you won’t see me, but I’m here, blue and waiting, like the undead …

Sometimes links can lead you down a dirty black hole or to a horrific dead end, and that’s frustrating

By the way, did you see the previous three posts in this series?

Click here to read How I got my first million blog subscribers
Click here to read Sex gives SEO a spanking
Click here to read Gaga Lady Spears Britney Claiming: Charlie Bit My Finger

How valuable have the insights been so far? What are people really looking for online?

More of that later … maybe tomorrow.

Part 4 of 5

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Click here for part 3

Click here for part 5

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Written by Paul Dalgarno

July 7, 2011 at 8:42 am

How I got my first million blog subscribers

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Whenever you see this headline or its many variations be very wary – they get you when you’re least expecting it, when you’re feeling needy of 1,000,000 readers. And beyond … the headline promises not just a million subscribers but your first million. There will be more. More!

This headline comes from the same stable as Get 1 Billion Twitter Followers in 4 Easy Steps and the like – it’s a confidence trick that’s by no means new.

We all know that, to make a million dollars, you write a book called How to Make a Million Dollars, Get Rich Quick, or Anyone Can Do it.

Not one of these books features a section by the author/ghostwriter explaining how they made their million(s) from reading this kind of book.

There’s a technical name for this kind of headline: wank.

It plays to the shortcut gene, the same one activated by Become a Judo Black Belt in 10 Minutes and How to Learn French in Five Short Lessons.

Have you ever met anyone who did this?

It’s far better to get up early in the mornin’, tryna make a move, like my good friend Fiddy, who offers practical, everyday tips on getting rich (or dying in the process). I find I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy particularly instructive.

I speak Spanish as the result of six years formal study and year-long/months-long chunks in Spanish-speaking countries, enormous dedication, prolonged, you know, trabajo.

When it comes to writing, the implication is that having more readers is better. And I agree. Anyone who writes would agree.

But subscriptions are not a guide to readership figures, only to people who have clicked on “subscribe”. Inboxes around the world creak under the weight of subscription emails never opened and never deleted, that have become, in a sense, invisible.

My preferred rule of thumb is this: if people get past the first four words of your piece you’re doing well. Anything else is a bonus.

If you can go one better and encourage optional extras – if anyone clicks on those painfully-researched hyperlinks, say – you’re a frigging legend.

How do you get people to click on those? More of that later … maybe tomorrow.

Part 3 of 5

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Google makes me SEO happy

Written by Paul Dalgarno

July 6, 2011 at 7:52 am

Sex gives SEO a spanking

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Writing about sex is like painting sound – not easy. Edvard Munch tried to paint sound in his student-bedroom favourite The Scream, but that doesn’t sound like anything …

And yet the idea persists that sex sells in a written format. Why? Because it’s true. Just the mention of the word can get people’s legs twitching, regardless of how incongruous the link.

The UK’s 2002 Iraq Dossier, with it’s 45-minute claim, was racy; but the fact it was said to be “sexed up” gave it added frisson –  journalists everywhere had the horn for months, and any time “sexed up” could be used in a sentence or headline it was used.

Dr David Kelly, of course, who came forward as the source of the “sexed up claim”, committed suicide in woods near his Oxfordshire home shortly after the story broke – not hugely raunchy as an event, although people tried to sex even this up as a conspiracy involving MI5, oh, ah, ohhhh …

Why does sex play so well with readers? Because it’s way more alluring than famine, unless it’s a story about Teri Hatcher’s four year sex famine.

The keyword tool Google AdWords seems to back this up. The figures below chart the number of times words are entered into the company’s search engine. The numbers on the left are global monthly searches; those on the right are Australian monthly searches …


fellatio 1,500,000 165,000
sex 618,000,000 68,000,000
spanking 5,000,000 1,500,000
bum 7,480,000 673,000
blowjob 9,140,000 3,350,000
boobs 24,900,000 7,480,000
knockers 201,000 90,500
arse 1,500,000 201,000
earthquake 11,100,000 5,000,000
plague 1,220,000 550,000
drought 550,000 246,000
famine 1,220,000 550,000
orgasm 7,480,000 2,740,000

You’ll notice “sex” trumps everything, with 618 million searches a month, roughly 606 million more than “earthquake”; and that nearly 7 million more people search for “bum” on a monthly basis than “drought”.

Of course, the internet’s about more than reading. One recent study found 85% of males and 15% of females view porn on the internet regularly. Other sources suggest the female porn-ogling figure may be closer to 60%, with 17% of women describing themselves as “addicted”.

Stuff you read about sex online tends to be biological (fine, if you like birds and mice), instructional (way too challenging physically) or “erotic” (usually rubbish).

Why rubbish? Because the text is loaded with voiceless velar plosives – the K sound mostly – “cock”, “suck” and “fuck” being the obvious ones; but also “silk”, “cape” and the almost-instantly-orgasmic “croquet” – go on, whack some balls … On the page, these words get boring really quickly.

Feathering and flirting with the issue at hand is key.

T.S Eliot called this the objective correlative: a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula for that particular emotion

Sex can be earnest; or surreal and earnest; or surreal and earnest and sinister. It can be meaningfully surreal, even if you can’t quite grasp the meaning; or excitingly earnest. But can sex be earnest and sinister without dirt? That’s virtually unimaginable … and undesirable. There’s no poetry without dirt.

The following passage is one of my favourites: a barmaid and land surveyor have sex on a grubby floor under the jovial gaze of two male “assistants” while the barmaid’s “master” moves about in the next room.

[…] they embraced each other, her little body burned in K.’s hands, in a state of unconsciousness which K. tried again and again but in vain to master as they rolled a little way, landing with a thud on Klamm’s door, where they lay among the small puddles of beer and other refuse gathered on the floor. There, hours went past, hours in which they breathed as one, in which their hearts beat as one, hours in which K. was haunted by the feeling that he was losing himself or wandering into strange country, farther than ever man had wandered before, a country so strange that not even the air had anything in common with his native air, where one might die of strangeness, and yet whose enchantment was such that one could only go on and lose oneself further.

And then: Where were his hopes? What could he expect from Frieda now that she had betrayed everything?

And then: He had spent a whole night wallowing in puddles of beer, the smell of which was nearly overpowering.

And then: There on the bar counter sat his two assistants, a little heavy-eyed for lack of sleep, but cheerful. It was a cheerfulness arising from a sense of duty well done.

A masterful piece of writing? Incontrovertibly! One to get your rocks off to? Probably not.

But if straight, Route-A sex vocabulary is the way to search-engine heaven, why are there not more articles with the headline Tits Tits Tits?

Because most writers are looking for your love, not a one-night stand? Even lowly bloggers such as this one.

How do you build loyalty and move towards your first million subscribers? More of that later … maybe tomorrow.

Part 2 of 5

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Click here for part 5

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Google makes me SEO happy

Written by Paul Dalgarno

July 5, 2011 at 9:26 am

Gaga Lady Spears Britney Claiming: Charlie Bit My Finger

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Chances are you’re not even reading this. Online, it’s been said, people are “flat-out less likely to read funny headlines”. Not that I’m saying the headline’s funny; because it’s not; but I’ve seen far worse.

The “flat-out” quote comes from the article Google Doesn’t Laugh: Saving Witty Headlines in the Age of SEO by David Wheeler.

Wheeler attends the American Copy Editors Society’s annual conference, where delegates are workshopping headlines for a story on Leonard Nimoy’s move into cooking:

“Spice: The Final Frontier” is one; “Spice me up, Scotty,” is another.

Because I write headlines for a living, I can’t help adding, at least in my head: “It’s a knife, Jim, but not as we know it,” and the more laboured: “Star Shifts Enterprise”.

But Wheeler’s article suggests that, in the age of search engine optimisation, funny headlines – such as those with puns – are an endangered species, almost certain to go extinct. The following should give you an sense of the tenor:

“Sharp, witty headlines that stray off the ‘literalness’ line will live, barely, for a little while longer […] As the veterans of newspapers are gradually replaced by younger copy editors who grew up with the Web, we will see such headlines less and less.”

Hands up if you dig really funny headlines.

In a magazine or newspaper, the headline “It’s a knife, Jim, but not as we know it” across a double-page photograph of Leonard Nimoy chopping a carrot would work fine.

But in the cold light of internet, where actual search terms are king, you have to mention Leonard Nimoy, or at least Spock, and somehow communicate the story, ideally in eight words or less. “Spock takes to the wok?” might work, as might the double-barrelled: “Spock and wok: Leonard Nimoy moves into cooking.”

Identifying what people look for online is the goal of content farms, where people work like battery hens, taking words that perform well in SEO terms and weaving them into some kind of (gobbledygook) narrative: they file up to 10 stories a shift, hitting deadlines every 25 minutes.

The sole purpose of such farms is to attract high readership figures – or click-on figures – which in turn are used as leverage to sell ads.

Is this good news, bad news, or neither?

And what happens if you load headlines and copy with sex? More of that later … maybe tomorrow.

Part 1 of 5

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Google makes me SEO happy

Written by Paul Dalgarno

July 4, 2011 at 7:31 am

Smoking in Australia: why Bach is the new black

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These days I wake up in darkness, fumble my way down a Fallopian-tube corridor, hair sticking up; I bumble into the office room, collapse into chair and whack “bach g string” into the YouTube search box.

I hit the arrow and sit back, just for a second, to let the music wash over me … Then Son-One shouts “dad daddy daaad”, and Son-Two … oooohhhh, yawn; and so the day begins, spilling over with pathos, bathos and whoever the third Musketeer was …

I’m not normally a man for Baroque classics, but I do like Bach’s Air on the G String. These past few early mornings, at least. It’s the blackness, the rain pelting against the windows (what do you think this is, Melbourne? Fricking Aberdeen?). I need something to soothe.

The G string, I’ve found, goes well with muesli and is incredibly family-friendly (Johann Sebastian Bach had 20 kids, incidentally, although 10 died in early infancy).

I find myself whistling it in the street when no-one’s around – the melody, the harmony, the droopy, descending bassline …

For purely auditory reasons, those old Hamlet cigar TV ads from UK have been on my mind, too; particularly the one with Gregor Fisher as the Baldy Man.

He goes into a photo booth, pastes his comb-over into position and poses mock-seductively for the camera; impatient, he leans forwards twice, missing the flash – kaboom – and getting increasingly riled. The third time, his seat collapses at exactly the wrong moment. PMSL, did you say? Next thing, he’s spitting a thick plume of smoke upwards to the strains of Bach.


The message is simple: sadness, frustration and carbon monoxide are all facts of life, but happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.

You have to wonder why Japan Tobacco called these cigars Hamlet. Was it to piggyback on the supposed greatness of will.i.am Shakespeare, or so that orange-fingernailed men in smoke-filled bookies could reflect upon the Danish prince?

And, if so, which aspect of his story? Procrastination (of the sort one employs when chewing a cigar and placing bets) will ultimately end in a premature, thoroughly avoidable, death, thanks to poison being introduced to one’s system; for good measure, your mum will ingest it, too, and your dad … well, he’ll get it in the ear. Happiness is an obscure poison called hebenon.

Jacques Loussier’s jazzy version of Bach’s G string was maybe just there to lift the mood.

Or could it be, as Freud joked to a student, that “sometimes a cigar is just a (mild) cigar”?

The UK’s ban on tobacco advertising in 1991 put paid to the Hamlet series, although it coughed its way through cinemas until 1999. That seems inconceivable now – such is the power of absence …

Ditto:

Smoking in pubs.

Smoking on buses.

Smoking in hospitals.

Smoking at the opera.

These high-culture associations still persist in Australia, where a pack of so-so smokes costs upwards of $18 (£12) – you have to be proper posh to maintain the habit. And a real art lover: the packs come with pictures to die for.

A close-up photo of advanced-stage mouth cancer, with blistered lips and pustulating sores, is one of my favourites; it’s a toss up between that and the socks-off, smile-for-the-camera gangrenous foot – who knew gangrene had such a rich colour palette? It’s quite extraordinary; those little black piggies hang on all the way to market …

Because the accompanying brand design gets in the way of these images, plans are now well in motion for plain cigarette packaging; the artworks, on a luscious backdrop of olive green and “poo brown”, will be far more connoisseur-friendly.

The brand name will still be there, but in a utilitarian sans-serif font. In time, smokes will be known only by their artwork, which (for copyright issues?) is hidden from sight in stores behind little black cat flaps. Can I have Brown Lung? Dying Girl? Clogged Puss Artery? Prized-open Eye?

The big wigs at Big Tobacco are less than chuffed, wheezing, sorry wheeling, out their big guns, smoking hot, to stamp out this move before it gets going. You’d think they’d struggle to find a consistent argument … And yet, there they go, emphysemasising the same point time and again, hacking up the same black gobs, spitting in the face of reason … Angry, did you say? They’re phlegming furious …

Plain packaging will, undercough, sorry, cut, the ability of responsible baccy merchants to price their wares fairly; in turn, we’ll see a deluge of “chop-chop” (illegal tobacco) in Australia, and, you know, cough, erm … oh yeah, young people will buy the fakes instead and … cough, cough, it’s just, cough, excuse me, it’s, oh … Oncolo … gee, wheeze, I mean whiz …

And this on the back of stupid TV ads that show people sneezing blood into handkerchiefs, crying snot. It’s a different way of doing glamour (a bit light on the humour for my liking) but, hey.

Not everyone supports the fact these ads are government-funded; they reckon they should keep their bloody noses out. When did repeatedly inhaling a potent cocktail of heavy, toxic metals ever hurt anyone? Sure, hydrogen cyanide was used in the Nazi gas chambers but FFS, hippies, war is war …

Actually, the nanny-state argument, especially coming from big smokey babies, is quite compelling: leave us to clean up our own chemo-induced mess; there’s nothing wrong with selling incontrovertibly carcinogenic products right next to the Chupa Chups; stop telling us what to do; where’s your Aussie belief in the fair glow?

Simon Chapman, of Sydney University, wants to introduce a license to smoke, limiting people to 20/40/60 cigarettes a day and charging incremental fees for the pleasure. Smokers would also have to pass a test “not dissimilar to a driving test” (fag, mouth, manoeuvre; three-point-burn; emergency stubb).

It’s a wild idea, but not without its disciples. As with the wheels-version, there would be a theory component to the license, which chain-smokers are referring to as “a Soviet‑style re‑education campaign”.

You can just imagine the poor darlings, shovelling snow in Siberia, their comrades falling over, their purple chilblained feet squeezed into roughly-hewn clogs.

Our smoker looks wistfully at his comrades Malborokov/cough and Peter Jacksonkov/cough, chained together like frozen lungs, before clambering frenziedly over a snow-rotting mound of bodies, resolved to escape or die trying.

And then sun breaks through the cloud.

Our gulag-hound falls to his knees and pulls a pin-striped prison cigar from his pea coat. The striking of a match on his emaciated ribcage coincides with the langorous bassline of Bach, the opening strains of the G string.

For the briefest moment, happiness seizes his soul.

Scotland’s first day as a better nation (gaun yersel)

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I’ve always been sceptical of people who take pride in their country. Not in the cleanliness of its streets, say, or its flora; that, in itself, isn’t always suspicious.

I mean pride in a notion that’s political and, by definition, subjective.

Having said this, I feel proud of Scotland today: I’m proud of the vessel and all who sail in her.

I’ve been following the #sp11 hashtag on Twitter to almost no avail for much of the last day.

A quirk of living at the far end of Earth is that your social network suffers terribly. The nine-hour time-difference means I spend my days checking and posting on Facebook and Twitter while the lion’s share of people I care most about are tucked up in their beds.

Occasionally, at midday Oz-time, 3am UK-time, I’ll see a little flurry of activity, an old friend getting radge or loved-up on their iPhone. Fine. But that alone can’t sustain you. The rest of the time the UK stream is empty.

Today, walking home from the train station, studying my phone, I was already thinking about Scotland – because of the election, but also because I’d been watching Kirstie and Phil doing a TV show from Loch Fyne yesterday night.

It’s getting cold here now, and dark, and I’m pining more than I thought I would for the light-nights-a-go-go feeling of home.

I was reflecting on the lime-green grass you get in Scotland, versus the dull-green variety here, when I saw the #sp11 Twitter hashtag returning to life. Great, I thought, great.

Suddenly, there was @MalcFlemming giving it: “#FF for @NicolaSturgeon”; there was @RosieMKane giving it: “SNP wins Britain’s got Talent, X Factor and Post Code Challenge”; there was @JimMurphyTalks (oh please, let it be the real Jim Murphy) giving it: “FFS, have held ma boaby better than we’re holdin’ seats :(”.

There were some strong new-morning vibes, and Alasdair Gray-inspired riffing, of which these are just a handful: @STVRoss Garner: “Is that the sun coming up?”; @weesimon: “Off to work in the very first day of a better nation”; and @macdonke: “What a morning, what a country. Everything changes”.

Get a grip. Only joking.

It’s not morning here, but night time and rainy. I’m listening to Radio Scotland’s Election Special on my laptop. At the time of writing the numbers are:

SNP: 55 (estimated 68)

Labour: 26 (worst result since 1921)

Tories: 9  (cough)

Lib Dem: 3 (including Orkney and Shetland)

The worst bit’s not being part of it – all that wild, end-of-the-war snogging on Sauchiehall Street that will define (and this evening create) a generation: sailors kissing nurses, bunting on the streets …

The SNP winning Shettleston? As Jim Murphy would have it: FFS.

You just have to be proud, pull yer pudding at the other side of the planet, enjoy.

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