Inadvertent SEO Traffic: Good Practice Drives Extra Impressions

F**k no! This is not the meme you're looking for. Use Keywords in Your Title Tags, and Don’t Forget Your Image Tags. You Never Know Who Might Be Searching, Or for What

I’m beginning to think that search engine optimization (SEO) is a matter of luck, to a certain degree, in addition to being conscientious in tailoring a page or blog post for SEO. It’s always the things I least expect that seem to bring in the most traffic.

Once again, it is the image tags that bring in unexpected traffic from search engines. I’ve remarked on the importance of image tags – and luck – before, on more than one occasion. Indeed, if you read up on the advice of SEO gurus, image tags are one of the things they harp on, and with good reason.

Let’s look once again at my personal blog, The Gecko’s Bark. Now you may be thinking, “this is just an excuse for backlinks.” And while it is an opportunity to do just that, just bear with me. Lately I’ve been blogging a lot about my torn quadriceps tendon and the recovery process. I’ve been diligent with those posts in terms of SEO. Aside from the obvious reasons, I know from having researched it myself, a quadriceps tendon tear is pretty rare, and there’s not a lot of information out there; perhaps I can help some other poor wretch in the future who suffers the same injury and takes to the Vast Series of Tubes for relevant data.

Of course, given the rarity I wasn’t expecting those posts to generate a ton of traffic. On the other hand, it’s that much easier to get pages ranked high on search engines when you optimize for terms that aren’t looked for as often as others. And over the course of the past month or so, I’ve seen those posts on my blog start to generate traffic off of related keyword searches.

But what’s generated the most traffic, lately, aside from searches for construction gifs, which still drives more traffic to GeckosBark.com than anything else, is a gif I chose pretty much at random for one of my latest posts about my recovery. I unwittingly chose an image that is part of a popular and current Internet meme – really, I had no idea; I’m not nearly that hip.

A month or so I began to be able to walk without the aid of crutches, for the first time since Christmas. Needless to say, I was pretty happy about this. After composing a post about it, I wanted an image of something other than my leg. On a whim I typed in “f**k yeah” into Google image search. No, I’m not going to spell it out, nor am I going to post the image — although you can see a cleverly altered one above — but I think you can figure it out, yes? If not, just check out the “Ha ha! Screw You Universe, I Can Walk.”

I should warn you, while JeffChappell.com is family friendly and pretty much G-rated; I give myself free reign on The Gecko’s Bark; sometimes I swear when I think the topic or related feelings warrant it. Sometimes it’s not even safe for work (NSFW), as in the case of the f**k yeah image. I didn’t know it, but apparently it’s a “thing” – a full-fledged Internet meme  – and I inadvertently tapped into that.

I just chose it because it more than adequately summed up how I felt at that time; being able to walk is a glorious thing when you haven’t been able to do it for two months without the aid of crutches and braces. Frankly, it makes you feel like shouting F**K YEAH!

Of course, being the good little webmaster and SEO maven, I filled in those image tags, which included the aforementioned four-letter word. Even the image was named “f**k yeah.”

SEO Happens

Google Webtool screen grab showing how well The Gecko's Bark ranks for f**k yeah.Guess what happened next?

Yeah, that post has become the second most visited page at The Gecko’s Bark, driven by people searching for things related to this meme. This is even though the words “f**k yeah” don’t appear in the text of that post, only in the image tags and file name.

In fact, according to Google Webmaster tools, out of 200,000 impressions for The Gecko’s Bark, in the month of March – the post in question is dated Feb. 29th – searches for “f**k yeah” generated 5,500 search impressions on Google and 500 clicks.  Webmaster Tools says the site even ranks an average of 15 – on the second page of results – for that search term (although when I just searched for it, I didn’t see my site anywhere in the first 100 results). According to Google Analytics, it is the second most popular landing page on my site this past month; the post with the under construction gif is still the busiest.

Now, having noted this, in a follow post about my quadriceps tendon rupture, dated March 27, one of the things I talked about was this unexpected traffic to the site. This time, I liberally sprinkled the paragraph with those terms – because I know the SEO drill.

As you can see from the Webmaster Tools screen capture, The Gecko’s Bark also gets a lot of traffic from yet another colorful search term. I’m going to go ahead and go out on a red limb and use this term without any ***: it’s dumbass. Sorry If I’ve just offended your sensitivities.

The post in which I use that term is all about a considerable misadventue on the eve of the Tet holiday in Ho Chi Minh City last year. You can follow that link if you want to find out about how I deal with getting my wallet and phone pickpocketed just before the entire country of Viet Nam closes for a week. I’ll warn you: there is more colorful R-rated language in that post, to be sure.

Once again, that page wasn’t tailored for that keyword, at least not intentionally. But it shows up in several title and image tags, as well as in the body of the post, and thus Google apparently offers that Gecko’s Bark page often when people are searching for the term “dumbass.” Why that many people would be searching for that term, I don’t know. The only time I’ve ever searched for it was looking for images to use in that post; perhaps that is what they are up to.

In fact, I don’t really think much about The Gecko’s Bark in terms of SEO, beyond the basics – site meta tags and the like, and the individual things for each post, like image tags. Unlike this site, or Barking Book Reviews, there is no overall SEO focus; I don’t worry about which keywords Gecko’s Bark ranks for, or things like that. It’s there to amuse myself, and that’s pretty much it.

But as such it’s a pretty good indicator of what good SEO practices can achieve in terms of site traffic. Just using good keywords in title tags, filling out image tags, and including outbound links when it’s useful to the reader – very basic stuff.

Image Tags, Keywords and SEO, II

Image tags can provide you with a nice SEO boost sometimes ... For the past several months now, and particularly since I left the States to return to Southeast Asia back in September of last year, all of my web sites have largely lain fallow. As the ESL teaching career ramped back up, I didn’t find much time to post stuff – actually it was kind of a conscious decision; I didn’t want to spread myself to thin, and frankly I was ready for a break from the keyboard.

Now that I’m dipping back into this hobby/pseudo professional endeavor, it’s been interesting to look at what’s happened with these sites in terms of traffic, search engine rankings and whatnot. Traffic of course dropped off considerably, as one would expect. Each one however, including this one, seems to have maintained a certain level of minimal, consistent traffic – fruit born out of diligent search engine optimization perhaps, but in the case of my personal blog, The Gecko’s Bark, it’s partly due to luck.

As noted previously here, when I first started tracking The Gecko’s Bark through Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, I learned that some accidental keyword optimization drove a lot of unexpected traffic to my site. While “seximondo” is not the big traffic driver it once was – although it still drives a measurable chunk of traffic – my under construction gif still is. In fact, while the site lay dormant for months at a time, it became the major driver of traffic to the site – all because I had taken the time to do the image tags and labeled them things like “under construction” on my “coming soon” post way back when, when I renamed the site.

If you type “under construction gif” in Google (just a regular web search, not an actual image search); one of the gifs I used on my site is one of the ones that pops up under the image search results at the top of the page (or you can just click on the image above). If you look at the actual page rankings though, Gecko’s Bark shows up at no. 97. So it’s safe to say that the several hundred visitors a month coming to my site over the past six months or so that are driven there by “under construction gif” searches on Google are coming through that one image that pops up ahead of the initial search results.

This still kinda boggles my mind. It’s not like I have pages and pages of content all optimized around “under construction gif” – just that one page and a few posts over the years that comment on this traffic-driving phenomenon it’s become. I suppose it’s just the fact that people keep clicking on it, so much so that now it’s become self-fulfilling; those click-throughs keep the image high in the rankings. Last time I looked at this, when you did an actual image search for “under construction gif,” the gif in question on my page was still pretty low in the actual rankings. Not so now; it is among the first five shown in the image search results, as well as web search results.

All because I filled in the image tags.

Of course it helps that the image I chose is a bit naughty. Sex sells, I suppose.