Screen scraping and Web Real Estate

Man cleaning a window with a squeegee
As mentioned previously, I’ve started a new blog elsewhere. Still in its infancy, so there are only a handful of posts up yet.

I noticed early on that I was getting quite a bit of traffic though, even though I hadn’t pushed articles to social media; a blog with only one or two posts isn’t that attractive, so I figured I’d settle in and get the furniture arranged, so to speak, before seeing what sort of audience gravitated there. But the numbers were odd.

The Numbers

By the end of day one of my first post, I had over 300 hits. With no publicity. Day two? 26. Similar for day three, low double digits. And so it continued, until I made my second post. Again, multiple hundreds. Then it struck me: Recent blog entries are linked from the front page of the corporate blog site, and being a big company, it’s probably got a lot of automated attention pointing at it.

In fact, not only is it automated attention, but it’s automated content slurping too. Look at this search for the first sentence of my first post at that blog.

At the time of writing, mine is the top entry, as you would expect. But look at the rest, and look at how many there are.

From Corporate to Personal

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when I started jeremysmyth.com I thought it’d be useful to try to attract some reciprocal blogging community attention with perhaps some sharing of contet or at least links, so I experimented by writing a “pillar post” and submitting it to a bunch of blog syndication places. Here’s a search for the first sentence of my first post on here.

Still quite a few hits with copied content, but far fewer, and with a different structure; most of the sites are syndicated content sites, with fewer claiming to be news or press-release sites. The article reproduced in full rather than snippets dressed up as journalism.

Compare this with a search for the first sentence of my second article on here:

Not much time in the difference between the two articles, but certainly a huge difference in the number of hits. It’s possible that the second article just isn’t as “sexy” as the first (it’s not), but it attracted a real person’s comment, whereas the first article only attracted what look like automated comments and certainly aren’t attempts to engage meaningfully (as an aside, I completely failed to engage in return with the guy who commented on the second post. My bad.) Rather, I reckon the second post wasn’t slurped because I didn’t send it out for syndication like I did the first, and it’s not linked to from a large corporate front-page.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. If you make it, they won’t necessarily come. And if they do, it might just be down to footfall; they may be on their way elsewhere. If you’re going to write content, make sure it’s worth coming for. And you can always find ways to measure something, even if what the numbers tell you isn’t what you thought it would be.

Image cropped from “Cleaning Windows” courtesy of JanneM, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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