Volume I, Issue 4 -- November, 2000
Looking for Geoff Dyer on the Internet
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2. Finding Geoff Dyer on the InternetThe mere availability of pages devoted to Geoff Dyer on the Internet by itself is meaningless: people must also be able to find these pages. Search engines are the primary means of finding information and sites, and the complete review Quarterly surveyed a wide variety of sites to determine how readily Geoff Dyer pages (in particular those on the complete review) can be found. The results are somewhat disappointing (as any efforts to find information via search engines tend to be), but anyone who uses at least two different search engines types is likely to find links to some information about Dyer.
Our initial survey surveyed search engines on Friday, 18 August, 2000. "Geoff Dyer" (and nothing else) was entered as a search term. The table below provides the following information:
- Search Engine: the name (and link to) the search engine surveyed
- Pages: the number of pages (or "hits" or "sites") returned. Note that some search engines count all pages, while some only count one from each site returning a hit. The default search on Yahoo is Google, and they both return the same results, but because Yahoo only shows one result from each site the total number of pages returned is lower on Yahoo.
- In top ten: the number of pages out of the top ten results that refer to the author Geoff Dyer. Since there are other Geoff Dyers (notably the Australian artist) not all results refer to the writer.
- Rank of Dyer page: The rank of the complete review's Geoff Dyer page among the results. Where the number is in brackets (Northern Light) this indicates that while the Geoff Dyer page can be found there it is not the top complete review page to be listed and that one has to follow the link to "more results from this site" to find it.
- Highest ranked other page: Gives the name and links to the highest ranked page listed that is not the complete review's Geoff Dyer page.
Geoff Dyer on the Search Engines Search engine Pages In top ten Rank of
Highest ranked other page Alta Vista 686 6 2 Pure Fiction overview AOL Netfind 10 6 5 FEED Direct Hit (50+) 4 -- UO Library Recent Acquisitions Excite 627 8 1 A Note on Photographs by Dyer FAST 767 8 7 Australian artist Geoff Dyer site GO Network 129 6 -- The Colour of Memory review 878 8 3 Australian artist Geoff Dyer site HotBot (200+) 9 -- A Note on Photographs by Dyer MSN Search 246 10 -- A Note on Photographs by Dyer Northern Light 876 9 (2) Paris Trance review WebCrawler 11 7 -- Light Flight WebTop 57,968 8 -- The Colour of Memory review Yahoo 467 9 2 Australian artist Geoff Dyer site
The range of results is quite astonishing. Inktomi-based search engines (MSN, HotBot, etc.) were particularly reluctant to return pages from the complete review, but generally returned some Geoff Dyer related pages. The poorest search engine surveyed was doubtlessly Direct Hit (looking more like "Aimless Miss"), which returned at least 50 results but managed to have it's highest ranked page one that returns a 404 Error page (i.e. it does not exist) -- and which would have been a fairly useless result even if it were available.
Note also that the AOL Netfind results refer to "web sites" (perhaps explaining the low number of returns). Their default search engine is also Inktomi-based, and so if "web pages" are searched there are many more pages available (but again poor placement, if any, of complete review pages).
Among interesting results are those from GO Network (formerly the marvelous Infosearch) and WebTop. Both returned the complete review's review of The Colour of Memory as their top result -- but did not have the complete review's Geoff Dyer page anywhere in their listings. Not really how search engines should work, we think.
Australian artist Geoff Dyer's good showing seems entirely reasonable, as does the high ranking of a piece by Dyer, A Note on Photographs. WebCrawler's top result (of a very small total) -- Light Flight -- on the other hand is baffling.
A number of search engines returned multiple hits from what is essentially the same site -- numerous hits from FEED, Nerve, or Salon -- and include pointless pages such as indices or the like. A number of search engines also gave links to Amazon.com pages
Overall it is clear that information about Geoff Dyer is relatively easy to find on the Internet. Regardless of what search engine is used, a search for "Geoff Dyer" yields at least four results out of the top ten that in some way refer to the author. Ignoring the basically useless Direct Hit the minimum number is, in fact, six out of the top ten. Inktomi-based search engines, as well as the Go Network won't show the most useful Geoff Dyer page (the complete review's Geoff Dyer page) but will point to other sites and pages. Those search engines that do list the complete review's Geoff Dyer page all place it in the top ten results.
The complete review's Geoff Dyer page is also listed on numerous directories -- though not on the most-used one (Yahoo, who have not accepted the page despite repeated submissions). The superior Open Directory lists it, and many directories copy that one. It is generally the only Geoff Dyer listing of any sort available on most directories; Yahoo does not have any Geoff Dyer listings in it directory..
It seems reasonable to infer from these results that a considerable percentage of Internet-users looking for information about the author Geoff Dyer would find and visit the complete review's Geoff Dyer page. The page is one of the first three listed on Yahoo, Google, Excite, and AltaVista, and two other search engines have a complete review review of a Dyer title as their top hit. It is remarkable, then, that the actual number of visitors to this page is so small, and leads to the conclusion that interest in finding information about Geoff Dyer on the Internet is extremely limited.
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3. Finding Geoff Dyer's Books on the InternetThe complete review Quarterly also surveyed search engine results for individual Geoff Dyer titles (also on 18 August, 2000), though this survey was restricted to the better search engines -- Alta Vista, FAST, Google, and Northern Light. Only the title of the respective works was typed in (e.g. "Ways of Telling"), and the complete review Quarterly recorded:
Obviously better results would be obtained by entering both the book title AND the author name; nevertheless, it is surprising how good the results are using just the title. (The one exception is, understandably, the hopeless The Search -- a search term that yields far too many results, and where the most popular ones obviously have nothing to do with Dyer's book.)
- Pages: the total number of pages returned
- complete review review rank: the rank of the complete review's page on that book. "n.a." indicates that this is not applicable (i.e. the book is not under review at the complete review (The Search, The Missing of the Somme)). A result in brackets indicates that the page returned is not the complete review's review but rather the complete review's Geoff Dyer page.
- Top ten pages devoted to title: the number of pages (out of the top ten) that refer specifically to this title.
Geoff Dyer Titles on Search Engines Title/Search Engine Pages complete review
Top ten pages
devoted to title
Ways of Telling: . . . Alta Vista 67 5 2 FAST 2,035 1 1 2,800 1 1 Northern Light 9,384 1 1 The Colour of Memory: . . . Alta Vista 33 (4) 3 FAST 50 3 3 454 2 1 Northern Light 2,281 3 1 But Beautiful: . . . Alta Vista 3,101 7 3 FAST 17,740 198 1 23,400 3 3 Northern Light 16,398 14 0 The Search: . . . Alta Vista 118,632 n.a. 0 FAST 1,618,576 n.a. 0 63,700,000 n.a. 0 Northern Light 1,547,245 n.a. 0 The Missing of the Somme: . . . Alta Vista 15 (5) 2 FAST 54 n.a. 2 85 n.a. 1 Northern Light 76 n.a. 1 Out of Sheer Rage: . . . Alta Vista 76 1 10 FAST 210 4 8 190 1 10 Northern Light 285 2 10 Paris Trance: . . . Alta Vista 70 (9) 9 FAST 224 1 9 184 2 9 Northern Light 204 1 10 Anglo-English Attitudes: . . . Alta Vista 18 1 8 FAST 32 1 8 29 1 10 Northern Light 40 1 9
Dyer's three most recent titles all produce excellent results -- at least eight out of the top ten hits refer to the book in question, regardless of search engine. The earlier titles do not do quite as well; they are also not as distinctive.
The complete review's reviews were ranked exceptionally high -- remarkably so this was true even for the early titles. Again one can safely conclude that Internet-users seeking information about specific Geoff Dyer titles are extremely likely to come across reviews posted at the complete review. And again the sad truth is that the visitors are few and far between (single-digit daily totals are the norm, a double-digit visitor total a rarity for any of the Dyer reviews at the complete review).
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