Algorithm Masters

I just checked the page views on my blog and this is what I saw. The little graph that tells me how many people are coming to my blog to read my posts about the books I am writing, or the TV shows and movies I'm watching, or even the comic books I'm enjoying. You can see that I don't get thousands of visitors a day, but I do get a few tens of people, with three or four visitors per hour. This pattern has been pretty steady, and maybe even building, but at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, there was a sudden and inexplicable change.

Suddenly my visitors went from five or six per hour, down to zero. The only reason I can think of is that Google - the source of most of my visitors - was penalizing my blog because there was no post yet from this year. Obviously this is part of the search engine algorithm used to decide where search results featuring my blog posts appear in Google's results.

I am a sci-fi author and the books I write belong to a series called Dark Galaxy, which starts with Galaxy Dog. Here are the first two lines of Galaxy Dog's blurb on Amazon, so you can get a feel for the books:

What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy.

The entire series is ripsnorting space opera in the style of Doctor Who and Blake's 7, and they are available to buy from Amazon. Just click the link and take a look.

I have often noticed that Google pays a lot of attention to the time content was created. Content created years ago and still available is given more weight than recent content, as far as I can tell. I notice this most when I search for a fix for a problem with Windows 10. Google always presents me with a bunch of results relating to Windows 7, which are no use to me at all, because it prefers older pages.

I could write about my annoyance at the idiocy of algorithms and how they are ruling our lives more and more in just a few words, but I recently read an article about how Google now prefers pages and posts with lots of words in them. I believe it too, because pages now make you wade through three or four paragraphs of idiocy and padding before coughing up the information you are looking for. I just looked up the broadcast time of the Doctor Who New Year's special, for example, and I went to a page written by Amy Dunacn on Metro News. The title of the page is:
What time is the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special on tonight?

Read more:
Twitter: | Facebook:

What time is the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special on tonight?

So obviously this is what people are coming to the page to find out, so how far down the page is the information, finally, grudgingly, given out? You have to read through to the sixth paragraph to find the information, below a picture and an embedded video. It is Google's algorithms that are forcing proper journalists like Amy Duncan and simple bloggers like me to write wordy posts like this, and it is the Internet-searching public who suffers.

I'm not sure what can be done about it of course, because algorithms are in a constant war with spammers, Russian bots, alt-right conspiracy theorists and corporate influencers. These forces of disinformation are very skilled at getting the pabulum they produce high in Google results, and Google is constantly refining its search algorithms to try and keep the flood of this pap away from search results and confined to Facebook where it belongs.

I do not envy them, but I also don't have to like the effects of their heavy-handed algorithm tweaks, which often seem to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Hopefully, as soon as I hit publish on this post, providing content for my site that was produced this year, my visitor numbers will jump to their previous low, but acceptable to me, levels.

So, if you are a blogger and you haven't posted yet this year, hop to it. My guess is your visitors from Google have taken as big a hit as mine just did.