How To Know If Ducks Are Unhappy: My Google Analytics Adventure

Every writer needs a good website, so folks can discover your work, write you fan mail and maybe even offer you assignments. I’m a humor writer, and lucky for me, my son is a computer genius. For the special discount he offers to clients who have given birth to him, he set up for me back in 2006, when he was still in high school. It has served me well. From time to time, he’s suggested a redesign, but that site has sentimental value that a newer, flashier site would lack. Visiting my website never fails to make me nostalgic for the days when my son was still a teenager, living under my roof and ignoring all my sage motherly advice, as opposed to now, when he’s all grown up, living in Baltimore and ignoring all my sage motherly advice.

Tom recently added “Google Analytics” to the site, which lets me track who visits and where they’re coming from. While it’s no surprise that most of my readers are from this country, I was tickled to find that I’ve gotten traffic from as far away as the United Arab Emirates. Belgium! Bulgaria! Senegal! My reach is global. My readers are everywhere! (Of course there are only a few from each of these venues. But still…)

Google Analytics also turned up a few mysteries. I seemed to get a disproportionate number of visits from Mexico. And one of my stories, “Furniture Fights” was drawing way more than its fair share of traffic. It all became clear when I got an email from a Mexican language student who, seeking an English story to translate into Spanish, searched for “funny short stories“ and ended up with “Furniture Fights,“ which she returns to often as she works on the assignment. She’s promised to send me a copy of “Peleas de Meubles” when it is completed.

My favorite Google Analytics feature is the “key word search,” which lists the search terms that have brought people to Writers love words, and it’s fascinating to know exactly what combination of words brings readers to my work. Most search terms are, of course, just what you’d expect. “Roz Warren.” “Humorous short stories.” “Funny stories online.” But there are subtle and interesting variations: “Short short humors.” “Online small stories.“ And the rather formal “Humor of Rosalind.” I got a kick out of the fact that “Great short stories humor” brought me traffic. Google thinks I’m not only “funny” but “great.” I like that!

Some search requests are puzzling. For instance, “he took me to drive.” What was this searcher looking for? And why did their search engine bring them here? Not to mention “Wet his pants on the plane.” Really? There’s nothing in my work about incontinent fliers. Yet, somebody was searching for them and Google brought this searcher to me. Thanks Google! (I think.)

Whoever typed in “favorite sociology lesson ever” probably wasn’t looking for “Sociology Lesson,” a short story about a girl growing up in Detroit who learns how to deal with school yard bullies. But I’d like to think the searcher paused to read and enjoy the story anyway. Likewise, I’m sure the person who looked for “insensitive older brother“ didn’t expect to wind up reading a short story about two siblings who compete with each other to become the world’s best writer. Or maybe she did. Who knows?

The search “is it good to have blood pressure at one twenty over seventy” brought one reader to “Outpatient,” a story in which the protagonist happens to have her blood pressure taken and it is, indeed, 120/70. Although this fictional encounter probably wasn’t what the searcher had in mind, the doc in the story does conclude that this is a good, healthy number. So maybe it was all for the best?

Other pleasantly random searches which have brought folks to my site are “Linda obsessed with furniture,“ and the rather zen-like “she stops waiting.” But my favorite search term of all so far? “How to know if ducks are unhappy.”

My story “Good for the Ducks,” is about a group of Jewish ducks on a pond in Boston’s public garden who witness two suicides in one day (Go ahead — Google it!) So it makes perfect sense that a search for unhappy ducks would deliver someone to my site. And yet, search-wise, this is a total dead end. My story, while entertaining, will not tell you how to make an actual duck happy. Although I love knowing that somebody out there wants to try.

Another searcher came to the same story with the rather cryptic search: “pretend floating ducks to buy.” What exactly was her or she looking for? I’ll never know.

If you have a website yourself (and who doesn’t, these days?) I recommend Google Analytics. Not only is it fascinating to discover where your traffic comes from, but now that I’ve added GA, I find that the website my son created to entertain my readers often entertains me too. When I log on to check my stats, I can’t wait to see what curious and implausible searches have brought people from as far away as Iran and India to a site featuring humorous stories about Wildebeests, Segways, waterfowl and the GOP.

In conclusion, because this essay may well appear on line, I’d like to leave you with the following phrases. “America’s favorite humorist” “Hilarious short stories” and “Your duck will love this site.” That ought to bring me some web traffic. Perhaps it will even bring me the reader I most want to reach — you.

(This essay first appeared on

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