September 22, 2020

Want to Know Who's Googling You?

Phil Libin at Vastly Important Notes points out a way to discover how often you’re being Googled. The trick is to buy a Google AdWords advertisement keyed to your own name. Whenever somebody searches for your name, your ad will be displayed. Later, Google will give you statistics about your ad’s placement, which you can use to infer how often people searched for you.

This does cost money, but it’s cheap enough that I can imagine many people doing it.

What Phil doesn’t say is that you can use the same method to learn search statistics about other people’s names, or other search phrases. This is impractical for popular search phrases, since they already have many advertisers, whom you would have to outbid for space on the page. But for a great many search phrases, it would be quite affordable.

I wonder what Google would think of this.

Comments

  1. referrer logs are enough most of the time right ?

  2. referrer logs only show when people click on a result for you that you happen to operate. This shows every time you’re searched for.

  3. I stayed away from search terms other than proper names because I didn’t want to open up a can of worms with Google (having companies compete for each other’s name searches, gathering corporate intelligence, etc.), but you can certainly put in pretty much any search string. Google should just make query strings publicly available for free or as a paid service (maybe paid for “live” data, free for week old stuff). I think lots of people would be interested in mining that data.

  4. This trick has been around for a while. I bought my own name months ago. Geek fun 🙂

    As far as I know, Google’s attitude is that as long as it doesn’t violate their TOS, an ad’s an ad.

  5. This assumes everybody is going to use Google for their searches exclusively.

    I find the new Yahoo search engine has more pages covered than Google.

    I think Google has enough business already, don’t you?

  6. It still doesn’t tell you “who” searched for your name, only the number of searches.

    I might be interested in the former info, but I don’t see much value in the latter.

    The reason I might be interested in “who” searches for me is that way I might look back what they are doing and find new interesting people. Which is exactly what I get from looking at a referrer log right now.

    As to what Google would think of people buying ads for random phrases: As long as they pay for those ads, Google probably won’t complain about the extra income.

    Now there might be a problem if someone buys the name of someone they don’t like and link the ad to some unpleasant page, or if someone buys a phrase protected by a trademark and does the same. You would need to look at the Google terms of service for ads to see if they adress that point.

  7. Doesn’t Google have rather strict rules regarding the minimum click-through rate? Meaning if your name gets requested often – which might just be a coincidence in some case – but people don’t click on your ads you’ll have a problem rather sooner than later …

  8. Doesn’t Google have rather strict rules regarding the minimum click-through rate? Meaning if your name gets requested often – which might just be a coincidence in some case – but people don’t click on your ads you’ll have a problem rather sooner than later …

  9. Janko Roettgers: You’re correct.

    This only works if you’ve got a relatively unique name. Mine collides with Madonna, Princess Di, and Monaca Lewinksi’s biographer and a famous kernel developer. I’d had an ad up but it ended up getting delisted because the click through rate wasn’t high enough.

    I think the rate is low enough that if just a few people click on the topmost link your ad will stay up.

  10. Cypherpunk says:

    Madona’s real name is Andrew Morton???