So How Did I Find You?

@Twitter_Tips 2nd time this wk somebody has asked me how I found their website… know any tools that can help me figure out how I got s/w?

I posted that on Twitter January 2, 2010.  When asked to elaborate, I recognized that any response would take several tweets, so rather than consume T bandwidth, here’s a little more on the subject…

Let’s say I click on a url that somebody (possibly @HubSpot or @GuyKawasaki, @MarketingProfs, @WBUR or other folks who regularly point me to interesting things) has posted on Twitter.  When the topic is interesting, I follow through by clicking on related urls at the target site.  Once in a while that leads me to a site where somebody has a Twitter-follow button.  So I decide to look through that person’s T profile, and that includes checking out their website.  Remember this is all presumably in a related area of interest.

At some point I e-mail or tweet to this last person who, in the reasonable spirit of understanding their audience, asks how I found them.

Beats me.

By then I’ve wandered through a Byzantine pathway, been distracted several times by legitimate work, and returned to an open webpage tab which prompted a response.  How I arrived there I have no idea.  While I don’t care, I concede that it is of interest to the other person or company.

There are lots of analytics tools out there and a webpage can capture where you immediately came from, but it can’t give you the pathway that lead to the website.   (Can it?)

“It would be nice if….” it were possible to capture the entire route.  Yes, there are obvious problems: how do you identify the beginning of the chain?  The data would have to travel with your clicks somehow, you surely would not want folks grabbing data off your machine.  But wouldn’t that be a useful tool?  I would be willing to turn on some tracking mechanism for my own use if I could clear it regularly or have it automatically clear after some number of days.  Since that tracking would have economic value to web advertisers and organizations seeking attention (like who isn’t?), perhaps there might be some offsetting value that could be offered to folks willing to participate.  Web users could review their own routes whenever they like, which has modest value.  Web users could also ok the access to that information by “all” or by one or more “specific” sites.  (It would be nice if you had to OK access to that data, but I suppose if it’s there somebody will figure out how to get at it.  Technical detail.)

I’m simply suggesting an optional but valuable set of data that could be collected and made available.  The trade aspects would be determined by the market and by whatever security protocol could be devised.  Personally I just think it would be nice to be able to tell someone whose work I appreciate how I found them.

PS:    By the way, the photo above was taken from http://artslink.wordpress.com/2009/05/ which is a Seattle based, University of Washington affiliated arts blog found by using Google image search for “travel.”  (Serendipity:  That page has a wicked awesome huge metal dog sculpture.)  I would not have found that soaring image without a Google image search.  I tried a Bing image search, found many of the same images I’d seen with Google, but the Google search found the type of image I sought, at least higher in the search returns.  (Neither site gave me anything I wanted to use if I search for an image related to the word “soar.”)  So the question is…. was this PS of any value?  Would there be any value in knowing that I went to Google image search first?  Etc., etc.

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