Google Goggle

By David

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with “Google Analytics”, its near cousin “StatCounter”, or any other web stats / analytics package. I’d never heard of them until Jane visited Florida in September. However the void in my computer knowledge was not particularly surprising. A few years ago when we were setting up Swimwatch, Edward Yardley, the technical brains behind the venture, nearly wet his new corduroys when I called Google “Goggle”. For a swim coach I thought it was a perfectly understandable mistake. With his degree in computer science, Edward thought I’d helped Noah build the ark.

These statistics and analytics programmes tell you all about the visits to your website each day – how many, where from, how often and what they put into their computer to end up at Swimwatch. I have say, it is bloody amazing what some people ask Google to find. I mean most visitors are sensible and stick to “Swimwatch” or “swimming news”. You probably don’t know that Swimwatch ranks on page one of Google for “swimming news”. How’s that for SEO status, right up there with the BBC, ESPN and the New York Times. And if you don’t know what SEO means, you were probably helping Noah as well.

However there are some strange buggers out there who Google all sorts of stuff. Someone wanting “Ian Thorpe naked” arrived at Swimwatch the other day. They weren’t looking for our story on Thorpe’s swimming feats. Instead they were after a site that boasted a picture of Thorpe’s head on the unclothed torso of Mr. Puny America.

It is a mystery what anyone finds on Swimwatch to justify looking for “sexy swimmers team girls pictures” or “uploaded images female swimmer” or “the seven hottest female swimmers of all time“ or even “naughty Indiana girl pictures”. Those four occur quite often from all over the world. The four most recent inquiries using those referrals came from the United States, or to be more precise Cambridge, Massachusetts, Westport, Indiana, Union, New Jersey and San Diego, California. Our reader in San Diego must have found what he was after. He spent a constructive 21min and 49sec reading two of Jane’s posts. Sadly he appears to have had little interest in my literary efforts. I do not want to give the impression that the United States has a monopoly on strange Swimwatch searches. Just today someone from Lane Cove in New South Wales, Australia felt the need to find out about “swimmer red Speedo hard photo”. I doubt there is anything on Swimwatch that would satisfy this Australian fantasy.

Some of our swimmers get more than their fair share of attention. Rhi Jeffrey and Jane Copland are the most popular. Both have personalities well suited to managing their internet attention. In fact their popularity on a swimming website, well after both of them have retired, speaks volumes for their larger than life personalities. While searches for Rhi and Jane may be understandable and even normal, there are some strange ones as well. For about a week recently our best female swimmer was Googled every day by someone in Maryland. The swimmer has never been to Maryland, doesn’t know anyone in Maryland, but clearly has a determined admirer up there somewhere.

There is one interesting national characteristic. Google searches for “coach yelling at athlete” almost always come from the United Kingdom. There is obviously a whole lot more distress about this subject in the UK than anywhere else. The Brits clearly have a thing about being yelled at by swimming coaches. Americans, who revere their swim coaches, initiate very few searches on the subject. It seems that the most concern in the UK is centered in the south. For example, today’s inquiries came from Bristol, Coulsdon in Surrey and Martock in Somerset. Parents and swimmers north of Manchester and in Scotland are not nearly as concerned about a few poolside verbals.

I was delighted to see that a Google inquiry for “Ohura Beacon Wanganui New Zealand” was directed straight to Swimwatch. The Ohura Beacon is a flight navigation beacon on the west of New Zealand’s North Island. It played an important part in my life. Twenty six years ago, at 9000 feet almost directly above the beacon the engine of my Piper Arrow burst an oil pipe and stopped. A little south of Ohura I found a friendly paddock and managed one of my better landings. I wrote about the incident in a Swimwatch story. It looks like Google enjoyed the story and are now directing all aviation inquires about the beacon to our blog. I wonder how many Air New Zealand captains have discovered an Arrow’s forced landing instead of the technical details of the Ohura Beacon.

Other fun searches that have ended up at Swimwatch include “empty pool” from someone who lives in Gin Gin, Queensland, Australia: a strange request from a strange town. A search from New Delhi, India asked “is it possible to swim in New Zealand in May?” Someone from San Jose, California wanted the opinion of Swimwatch on “cotton chicken candy nuggets”. None of these are as odd as the reader in Valdosta, Georgia in the United States who wanted our opinion on the “monte food mart in Wellington New Zealand”. It would not be fair for us to comment. We left New Zealand before Del Monte arrived. I have relations however who tell me the stores aren’t too bad: where I come from that’s pretty high praise.

It is off the subject but you may be interested to know that in the past four days Swimwatch has received 500 visits from 40 different countries. That number, spread around the world is bound to result in readers with all sorts of emotions and motives. I even heard of a reader last week who said we had insulted some of her friends. Of Course that’s not true: just Google it – “insulted my friends” – see, I told you, no mention of Swimwatch.