the complete review Quarterly
Volume III, Issue 1   --   February, 2002

State of the Site

Annual Report for
complete review - 2001

  1. Overview:
    1. The Site
    2. Traffic, Search Engines, Search Queries
    3. Links from Other Sites
  2. Popularity and Interest:
    1. Reviews
    2. Links to Amazon
      1. - US
      2. - UK
      3. - France
      4. - Germany
    3. Indices
    4. Author Pages
    5. Articles from the complete review Quarterly
    6. Other Information-pages at the Complete Review
  3. Critical and Popular Response
  4. Other
  5. Outlook

I. Overview

       i. The site

       The complete review went online, at, on March 31, 1999. By the end of 2000 a total of 529 reviews were available, and growth of the site increased steadily over the course of 2001:

Books under Review
Month Total
January, 2001 544
February 562
March 581
April 602
May 625
June 649
July 664
August 674
September 697
October 706
November 724
December 750

       The goal of adding 200 reviews (to make a total of 729 reviews available by the end of 2001) was exceeded by 10.5 percent.

       Eight author pages were also added over the course of the year, bringing the total to 27 at the end of 2001.

       While the number of books reviewed remains fairly small, coverage was still quite broad. The focus of the site remains on fiction, but a significant number of works of non-fiction, poetry, and drama were also reviewed at the complete review. Growth in certain areas -- science and technology and philosophy -- was weaker than anticipated. Certain geographic areas (notably the Far East) and time periods (anything written before 1945) also received less coverage than we had hoped. Other areas grew as planned, especially coverage of European literature. Perhaps the most resounding success was the expansion of coverage of Africa-related titles (and specifically African literature).
       Another continuing success was the complete review's coverage of foreign literature that has not yet been translated into English. Several foreign titles under review at the complete review were finally published in translation in 2001, including: Harry Mulisch's The Procedure, Cees Nooteboom's All Souls Day, Amélie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling, and Per Olov Enquist's The Royal Physician's Visit. Our users knew about them long before their first US or UK publications -- just as they know about still-untranslated works, including Mulisch's Siegfried and Nothomb's Métaphysique des tubes (to be published as The Character of Rain in April 2002).
       The complete review also continues to provide coverage of titles available only in either the US or the UK, making users aware of a number books available only on the other side of the pond (most sites focus only on one or the other).

       Access to the site was available throughout the year with almost no disruptions.

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        ii. Traffic, Search Engines, Search Queries

       Traffic to the complete review was considerably greater than in 2000, the site receiving roughly twice as much traffic (and twice as many unique visitors) in 2001 as it had in 2000. Given that the site itself increased in size (i.e. in available material) by just under 45 percent, this isn't quite as impressive as it sounds.
       A banner January was followed by two very slow months. Usage peaked in May, then stayed steady through the fall, rising rapidly again from October through mid-December (after which, in the expected Christmas lull, it plummeted).

       New highs were reached in every conceivable page-view category. Single-day highs in page-view totals were, for:
       The complete review continued to rely solely on search-engine coverage and word of mouth in publicizing the site, to the extent one can call it that. The vast majority of visitors found the site (or rather: specific reviews, author pages, and articles on the site) through search engines. Amazingly few used Internet-directories, links at other sites, or other means.

       The search engine that produced by far the most traffic was, not surprisingly, Google. The complete review is well-represented there (as of 3 January 2002 there were 890 pages from the site listed there) and it is a very popular search engine. (The most popular remains -- bafflingly -- the utterly mediocre Microsoft-product, MSN Search (which only appears to list about 100 pages from our site). (Despite having roughly twice as many users as Google (see e.g. Jupiter Media Metrix report for June 2001), MSN Search only sent one-sixteenth as many users to the complete review as the basic Google site did.)
       The search engines that provided the most traffic -- and the most popular searches leading users to the complete review from them -- in 2001 were:
  1. Google.
    Most popular searches leading users to the complete review:
    1. "invention of love"
    2. "the invention of love"
    3. "iain sinclair"

  2. Yahoo's Google-based search engine.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "king leopold's ghost"
    2. "King Leopold's Ghost"
    3. "invention of love"

  3. AOL Search.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "charles darwin"
    2. "big women"
    3. "lolita"

  4. Alta Vista.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "a prayer for owen meany"
    2. "harry mulisch"
    3. "discovery of heaven"

  5. MSN Search.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "book of lists"
    2. "big girls"
    3. "john berger"

  6. Google-Germany.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "sonnenallee"
    2. "Sonnenallee"
    3. "lolita"

  7. Excite.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "White Patrick"
    2. "Bail Murray"
    3. "a prayer for owen meany"

  8. Dogpile.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "a prayer for owen meany"
    2. "A Prayer for Owen Meany"
    3. "yasmina reza"

  9. HotBot.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "a prayer for owen meany"
    2. "lolita"

  10. Ask Jeeves

  11. Netscape.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "the origins of species by charles darwin"
    2. "charles darwin"
    3. "lolita"

  12. Metacrawler.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "Literary Review"
    2. "A Prayer for Owen Meany"
    3. "Stoppard The Real Thing"

  13. Northern Light.
    Most popular search:
    1. "Georges Perec"

  14. Google - France.
    Most popular searches:
    1. "amelie nothomb"
    2. "amélie nothomb"
    3. "annie ernaux"
       (Note that the main Google-search engine was by far the biggest provider of traffic, sending three times as many users as Yahoo's search engine and eleven times as many as AOL's. The listed search engines (and others) did provide a considerable amount of traffic -- but only a fraction of what Google did.)

       Search-engine coverage was decent throughout the year, though most search engines proved relatively slow in updating their indices, occasionally only linking to pages months after these had originally gone up. Many major search engines provide excellent coverage of the complete review -- MSN Search being a notable exception (apparently only providing about 100 pages from the site).
       The status of the complete review at various search engines at the end of 2001 was as follows (the number of pages available listed is the number that were available on 3 January, 2002):        Extensive coverage doesn't always translate into producing much traffic -- the excellent All the Web search engine remains staggeringly unpopular, producing about as much traffic to the site as did Google - Italy. (Now that All the Web has been made the default-search engine for Lycos it should provide a bit more traffic, at least indirectly.)

       The most popular search engine queries that led users to the complete review were:

  1. lolita
  2. a prayer for owen meany
  3. the invention of love and invention of love
  4. arcadia tom stoppard and arcadia stoppard
  5. king leopold's ghost
  6. big girls
  7. big women
  8. icarus
  9. the professor and the madman
  10. spinning into butter

  1. amelie nothomb and amélie nothomb
  2. patrick white
  3. cynthia ozick
  4. harry mulisch
  5. charles darwin
  6. zbigniew herbert
  7. yasmina reza
  8. annie ernaux
  9. iain sinclair
  10. geoffrey hill
  11. alasdair gray
  12. miroslav holub
  13. cees nooteboom
  14. antonio tabucchi
  15. augusto monterroso
       The query-information offers some points of interest -- specifically on what results from our site what search engines return. Netscape and AOL lead users interested in Darwin to us, but there were some 100-odd searches at Google more popular than anything with "darwin" in it, for example.
       It is all a matter of what users are interested in, what information is available at complete review, and what results search engines return in response to user-queries -- a complex combination of luck and availability. Not surprisingly, looking for "Amélie Nothomb" at almost any search engine (even MSN Search !) will send users to the complete review, but with other authors and titles the odds aren't always as good. Other authors about whom the complete review is a leading source of information -- Geoff Dyer or Steve Aylett, for example -- aren't among the most popular search terms leading users to the complete review -- but then perhaps that is because people aren't very interested in them.

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        iii. Links from Other Sites

       A considerable number of sites link to the complete review. Many are directories of book review sites, but there are also many other sites and pages that provide links to specific reviews and author pages at the complete review (and articles at the complete review Quarterly).
       The number of links to the complete review as listed at various search engines at the end of 2001 was as follows (the number of links listed is the number that were found on 3 January, 2002):        (Search engines vary greatly in how effective they are in finding links (and how easy it is to determine how many they can find). Google seems particularly inept at this -- though the 34 pages in 2001 is up considerably from the 19 it found in 2000. Note also that many of the results refer to directory pages -- generally identical ones, but with different addresses)

       Most sites that linked to the complete review only provided a very small amount of traffic. In comparison to the traffic that arrived via search engines all link-traffic was almost negligible.

       The non-search engine sites that delivered the most traffic to the complete review were:
  1. Yahoo ! Book Review directory
  2. Arts & Letters Daily
  3. FunDance Dispelling Myth ! - The truth about the foot fetish !
  5. Yahoo ! Literary News
  6. - Le meilleur du web littéraire
  7. A Tom Stoppard Bibliography: Links
  8. Tom Stoppard
  9. Mesa Selimovic
  10. The Tom Stoppard Site - Links
       To deliver a lot of traffic a site must both have a lot of traffic and provide a link to the complete review -- apparently a rare combination.
       It was particularly disappointing to find how under-utilized many Internet directories are. Almost all the complete review's author pages are listed at the excellent Open Directory, for example, but not one of these links produced more than a few dozen page-views over the course of the entire year -- less traffic, in fact, than reaches most of these author pages on an average day. (Other than the main book review directory the few Yahoo ! directories which provided links to the complete review also didn't deliver any significant traffic.)

       There were several links to the complete review at major publications in 2001, most notably a link to our review of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation in a Daily Telegraph article on the book (resulting in several hundred hits). A write-up at surprisingly resulted in only a trickle of traffic to the site.
       The complete review was listed at a growing number of library-resource pages, and individual reviews and author pages were cited on a number of university course-pages. None of these delivered a large amount of traffic: only a few delivered more than a hundred visitors. There were also a number of weblog mentions in the first half of the year.

       Sadly, links to specific complete review-reviews are still rarely found at many other book review sites (though a number do link to the site's main page on their general links pages). The complete review's practice of linking to other reviews of books under review remains unpopular, with only a handful of sites doing the same. (The Brothers Judd site is a rare exception -- even linking to a number of reviews from the complete review. How many users reached the complete review via links from that site ? About one a month.)

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© 2002 the complete review Quarterly
© 2002 the complete review