Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Come and get your "Erotic Stories, American"

Here are the the top 25 most popular Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) pages on LibraryThing, according to Google Analytics.

I'm guessing this makes someone at the Library of Congress blush:
  1. Erotic Stories, American
  2. Photography of the nude
  3. Erotic fiction
  4. Historical fiction
  5. Erotic literature
  6. Love stories
  7. Psychological fiction
  8. Fantasy fiction
  9. Mystery fiction
  10. Erotic art
  11. Detective and mystery stories
  12. Characters and characteristics in literature
  13. Sex instruction for gay men
  14. Sexual dominance and submission
  15. Humorous stories
  16. Symbolism in literature
  17. Murder
  18. Australia > Social life and customs
  19. England > Social life and customs > 18th century
  20. Social classes
  21. Allusions in literature
  22. Humorous fiction
  23. Sex instruction
  24. Short stories
  25. Religion
The explanation involves a paradox. Erotica does so well because LibraryThing is a non-erotic site. The top subjects all win because of search-engine referrals. Google likes a mix of sites, so that erotic searches turn up something besides erotica. (This is particularly true if you have "safe search" enabled.) And LibraryThing has relatively high PageRank (PR), Google's measure of a web site's authority. Put these factors together and LibraryThing turns up high for erotic searches. For example, we're currently Google's number one site for "gay sex instruction." Who would've thunk it?*

Of course, the "bounce rate" for these pages is astronomical. LibraryThing provides no actual sex instruction, just links to books about it—or rather links to metadata about books on sex instruction. That's not what the searchers were looking for, and they leave as fast as they arrive.

As a side note, it's sad to see so many top-level subjects in the list. I hope the bounce rate isn't too high. Top-level subjects are where LCSH falls apart. Take a subject like "Historical fiction," which has almost 8,000 works underneath it and no innate relevancy ranking. There can be little doubt–people don't want to plough through 8,000 links!

*Can we start running ads on just the erotic pages.

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2 Comments:

Blogger szarka said...

Great post!

Just check the http-referer on requests for those pages and serve an ad if it's a search engine. Subscribers (and other regular users of the site) won't even notice and LT's party budget will mushroom. ;)

8/23/2007 5:52 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hmm. Reminds me of the cards in the old subject catalog. They were all grimy and greasy in the Sex drawer.

8/24/2007 8:35 PM  

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