the complete review Quarterly
Volume II, Issue 1   --   February, 2001

State of the Site

Annual Report for
complete review - 2000

The Site | Traffic and Search Engines | Popularity and Interest
Critical and Popular Response | Other | Outlook | Summary

I. Overview

       i. The site

       The complete review went online, at, on March 31, 1999. At the end of 1999 a total of 284 reviews were available. Growth of the site increased steadily over the course of 2000:

Books under Review
Month Total
January, 2000 312
February 336
March 357
April 376
May 395
June 416
July 438
August 454
September 472
October 489
November 511
December 529

       The goal of adding 216 reviews (to make a total of 500 reviews available by the end of 2000) was exceeded by 13.4 percent.

       Ten author pages were added over the course of the year, bringing the total to 19 at the end of 2000.

       Quality control was improved on the site over the course of the year (fewer spelling mistakes ! fewer technical glitches !). There was also a systematic effort to update and check links, which has proven relatively effective -- though links still die out and are moved faster than we can keep track of.

       Access to the site was available throughout the year with almost no disruptions.

        ii. Traffic and Search Engines

       Traffic to the complete review increased dramatically during the course of the year: page-views in December of 2000 were nearly equal to page-views for the entire year of 1999 (from the opening of the site on 31 March to year-end). Growth was also fairly consistent and steady throughout the course of 2000

       The complete review continued to rely solely on search-engine coverage and word of mouth in publicizing the site, to the extent one can call it that. Most visitors found the site (or rather: specific reviews on the site) through search engines, while surprisingly few used Internet-directories or links at other sites.
       Search engine coverage of the site has improved throughout the year. Google has become the leading search engine by which visitors find the site, with Alta Vista a fairly distant second. Yahoo made Google their default search engine in the fall, and that also helped bring traffic to the site. The loss of Infoseek as a viable search engine last year was disappointing (they were the fastest in posting pages, and had comprehensive coverage); the successor Go has improved recently but is still not a particularly useful search engine. (The announcement on 29 January 2001 that Disney was giving up on Go comes as no surprise, as the site proved in so many respects to be a failure; certainly their greatest mistake was in destroying one of the best search engines on the Internet.) Inktomi-based search engines (HotBot, MSN) finally caught on to the complete review, which has helped coverage somewhat. Surprisingly, excellent (but apparently unpopular) search engines such as Northern Lights and FAST (both of which have excellent coverage of the complete review) were responsible for directing only small amounts of traffic to the site.

       Search-engine coverage varied throughout the year but generally improved considerably compared to last year (though no one has equaled Infoseek's former quick and comprehensive coverage). The status of the complete review at various search engines at the end of 2000 was as follows (the number of pages available listed is the number that were available on January 3, 2001):        Google remains the most useful and user-friendly search engine (and reviews from the complete review are readily found with it), the only drawback being that it still generally takes several weeks for new pages to be posted. Alta Vista was the most up-to-date search engine until late in the year but did not add any new pages from the site from early December, 2000 through at least the end of January, 2001. Note also that pages from the complete review tend to appear much higher on results lists from Google than on Alta Vista (which often does not list the most useful pages highest on its results lists).

       Directories have proven surprisingly disappointing: few users find review or author pages at the complete review through directory-listings. Our favourite -- the Open Directory, which lists all our Author pages -- refers a negligible number of users to the site. Among the few directories which bring in any appreciable traffic is Yahoo's Book Review directory.
       Other links did drive some traffic to the complete review, notably the excellent Arts & Letters Daily. Mentions in weblogs -- notably at Robot Wisdom -- were responsible for bursts of interest.

       A large number of sites and pages now link to the complete review. Whereas at the end of last year their were only a few dozen, there are now hundreds. The number of links to the complete review as listed at various search engines at the end of 2000 was as follows (the number of links listed is the number that were found on January 5, 2001):        (Search engines vary greatly in how effective they are in finding links. And note that many of the results refer to directory pages -- generally identical ones, but with different addresses)
       In addition, there were also numerous temporary mentions (links posted only for short periods of time) that did not register at every search engines.

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II. Popularity and Interest

       The complete review attracted a large amount of traffic during 2000 and even marginal pages and obscure reviews received a considerable number of page-views. The most popular pages (aside from the general pages, bestseller lists, top-rated books and the like) were, of course, the reviews, but several articles from the complete review Quarterly received 1000s of page-views during the course of the year, as did all but the newest author pages.
       The most popular articles at the complete review Quarterly were our Harry Potter piece, Harry who ?, and our examination of Borges under Review.

       The bulk of the complete review is devoted to reviews, and it is these that also garnered by far the most attention. Here are the thirty most popular reviews at the complete review in 2000 (1999 ranking in brackets, with "-" meaning review was not in the top 150 and "n.a." meaning review was added in 2000):

       Most Popular Reviews - 2000

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1)
  2. Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (8)
  3. Big Women, Fay Weldon (75)
  4. King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild (18)
  5. 'Art', Yasmina Reza (-)
  6. On Love, Alain de Botton (16)
  7. The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester (15)
  8. Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss (39)
  9. An Equal Music, Vikram Seth (3)
  10. The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard (126)
  11. Amsterdam, Ian McEwan (5)
  12. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson (13)
  13. The Social Construction of What ?, Ian Hacking (-)
  14. King, John Berger (17)
  15. The Cannibal Galaxy, Cynthia Ozick (12)
  16. House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski (n.a.)
  17. The Story of the Stone, Cao Xueqin (-)
  18. An Erotic Beyond: Sade, Octavio Paz (2)
  19. Footsucker, Geoff Nicholson (108)
  20. The Flight of Icarus, Raymond Queneau (-)
  21. The Discovery of Heaven, Harry Mulisch (26)
  22. The Unexpected Man, Yasmina Reza (-)
  23. England, England, Julian Barnes (22)
  24. Stupeur et tremblements, Amélie Nothomb (-)
  25. Loving Sabotage, Amélie Nothomb (28)
  26. The Food Chain, Geoff Nicholson (118)
  27. The Mourning of John Lennon, Anthony Elliott (131)
  28. For and Against Method, I. Lakatos/P.Feyerabend (36)
  29. The Assault, Harry Mulisch (21)
  30. Zazie in the Metro, Raymond Queneau (86)
       Review page views were up by a staggering amount over 1999, but John Irving continued to hold the number 1 position. Otherwise, there was considerable movement in the top 30. The most remarkable fact is that only one title that was not yet available in 1999 broke into the top 30 (Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves). In fact, there were few reviews in the top 100 that had not already appeared in 1999.
       Several books rose dramatically in the rankings, notably Geoff Nicholson's titles and Big Women (Big Girls don't Cry) by Fay Weldon. (The success of Ms. Weldon's title is unfortunately attributable to a large number of people who were looking for something quite different, searching for large-sized women and non-crying girls.) Only one bestselling title from last year flopped terribly, dropping out of the top 100: Neal Stephenson's Zodiac, tumbling from 14th in 1999 to 334th in 2000.
       While there was only one drama in the top 30 last year (Arcadia) there were an astonishing four in the top ten in 2000. Poetry fared slightly less well in 2000, with Zbigniew Herbert's Mr. Cogito the highest ranked title (at 46).
       (For an additional analysis of Reviewing Popularity see this article.)

       A number of the author pages proved phenomenally popular (while a few also continued to disappoint). The top ten (of nineteen) in 2000 were:
  1. Zbigniew Herbert (4)
  2. Amélie Nothomb (7)
  3. Annie Ernaux (9)
  4. Patrick White (2)
  5. Iain Sinclair (1)
  6. Geoff Nicholson (3)
  7. Cynthia Ozick (n.a.)
  8. Geoffrey Hill (5)
  9. Harry Mulisch (n.a.)
  10. Geoff Dyer (n.a.)
       Herbert and Nothomb did particularly well, but the real surprise was Cynthia Ozick. Her author page was only added in June, and by the last months of the year it was ranking among the top three author pages.
       Harry Mathews, on the other hand was the greatest disappointment, finishing at the bottom of the pack.

       Authors with multiple titles under review fared better than last year, though having several titles under review (or even an author page) was no guarantee of success. At least seven authors with at least five titles under review did not place a single one in the top 100:

diverse Authors - 2000
Author Books
Steve Aylett 6 185
Jonathan Coe 5 85
Geoff Dyer 6 159
Annie Ernaux 6 40
Alasdair Gray 5 255
Zbigniew Herbert 5 46
Geoffrey Hill 9 57
Miroslav Holub 7 84
Hilary Mantel 6 166
Harry Mathews 6 368
Harry Mulisch 7 21
Cynthia Ozick 11 15
Geoff Nicholson 13 19
Cees Nooteboom 7 126
Amélie Nothomb 6 24
Iain Sinclair 7 58
Antonio Tabucchi 6 351
Peter Weiss 8 8
Patrick White 9 36
Jeanette Winterson 6 62

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