About My Work Journal

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 02/29/2012

It’s interesting watching the search trends on my personal website. Even though HitTail, my creation, has been sold to a micro-preneur, my interest in using it has gone up. For sites with low traffic, there’s just no reason not to look at every single search hit to let your intuition glean from that list what it can. Traditional analytics software just so depersonalizes the data. For example, after posting my daily work journal on Monday, I saw search hits come in on it from Argentina, the UK and US within an hour. I clicked to reproduce the searches, and lo-and-behold, there was my Google Author headshot next to my entry in the results. It just keeps you so plugged into the pulse of your site.

Before combining my highly technical site, ShankServer.org, with MikeLev.in, my biggest search drivers were Reeder vs. Byline (in my eternal search for the perfect phone-based news reader app) and my name, Mike Levin. Once I merged sites, QEMU on Mac skyrocketed to the top. But a relatively new article on the advantages of the Python programming language has trumped everything. I know all this by just going into HitTail every few days and, in addition to checking the addictive search hits button, checking my HitTail long tail diagram. It’s like watching a keyword horserace.

I cannot help being drawn towards the siren’s song of pandering to where I know the search traffic resides. I know where there are kinks in the armor of existing results, because clicks “slip through” from determined searchers who trip off the HitTail suggestion algorithm, and their clear topical grouping with things I already wrote about tells me it wouldn’t be a stretch. In fact, you might even think you are reading one of those HitTail-seeded articles, but you are not. This is just me pontificating and pondering my next move in this tumultuous field of mine—search engine optimization.

I publish my own website to keep my foot in the game. I choose to theme it as a public work journal so that I can apply the self-discipline principles of commitment and consistency to influence my actions and keep working towards goals.

I use my commute time riding back and forth on the NYC subway to minimize the impact of this journal on time at home with the wife and baby. However, I do write fairly continuously at work. It is after all my work journal. Writing is a secret weapon for how it ferrets out deep thoughts and forces you to articulate them by processing through the prefrontal cortex and silently through your vocal chords. I.e. you think better when you write—even if silently.

Even though it prevents me from logging the time as billable hours (it goes in as dev work), it is what keeps me sharp and able to tackle the big problems quickly and correctly when they do occur. The process of: “write, publish, take some other action, write, publish…” mirrors do much of my field of SEO. It’s almost important to just keep that writing up, only stopping to highly edit or refine those things the monitoring data tells you needs it, and would lead to further benefit. So most of my stuff stays rough. The free-flowing stream-of-consciousness barely edited style gives this content a rough or raw edge.

Not all work journal entries get published, but that is a goal. When the do, I have left out the specifics of names of clients. However, a big chunk of my work is about to go public, thankfully making me more free to speak about it. The plan is to plant our flag in some certain clever workflow practice that is fundamental—dots that have been waiting to be connected for some time. We’ve been using that fact for a secret weapon advantage internally now for a few years. It’s time to tip our hands and make it a public resource.

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