In Which An Image Tag Boo Boo Drives More Traffic

Heeeey! Boo Boo Bear! What's in that pick-i-nick basket? Aw, Yogi, it's a conflict with a WordPress plugin causing my xml sitemap to be missing in action.
No, not that kind of boo-boo.

Image Tags and Title Tags, Even for Unrelated Terms, Help People Find Your Pick-i-nic Basket

In this previous post I talked more about search engine optimization (SEO), image tags, title tags, and how they can drive a lot of traffic that one might not expect and otherwise wouldn’t get. As a dear, departed TV pitchman used to say: “But wait! There’s more!” Even this website, JeffChappell.com, is not immune to this accidental image tag-driven traffic phenomena.

Now bear in mind, this site exists as a repository for my journalism clips. Essentially I wanted one place where I could preserve the highlights of my journalism career, one that spans both print and online mediums, as opposed to a list of links that frequently changed or broke as publications changed owners, web servers and content management systems. I wanted to be able to point other people to this place when necessary, along with my resume and whatnot. I also wanted to have it as an example of my web skills.

As such, unlike my personal blog, which follows my whims all over the place, this site is tailored and optimized for specific terms, namely Jeff Chappell. Type in “Jeff Chappell” into Google and many pages here are among the first links that appear. Type in “Jeff Chappell” and “writer” or “journalist” and virtually all of the first several pages of results are links to this site.

And yes, I can see from Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools that when people search for these terms, they find me, or rather this site. Just the other day someone from my hometown was searching for “jeff chappell writer,” and it lead them here – I assume this must be one of my erstwhile Facebook friends.

And recently someone from Russia was searching for “jeff chappell agilent.” Why someone from Russia is searching for articles I wrote years ago about a U.S. semiconductor test company that no longer exists, at least not under that name, I can’t imagine – but then that’s why I created this site.

While I do update this blog from time to time, I don’t do it frequently, and even less so since I began teaching ESL again. As such, this site doesn’t generate nearly as much traffic as The Gecko’s Bark and Barking Book Reviews.

Furthermore, one would think that what traffic it does generate would be from searches on topics that I wrote frequently about in the past, along with the odd search here and there for my name. And one would would be wrong.

 SEO Image Tag Boo Boo: You’re Doing It Right

Google Webmaster Tools reveals that a Boo Boo image tag can be a good thing, in terms of driving impressions. No, the number one traffic driver to JeffChappell.com these days is “boo boo” and derivations of that term, including “boo boo bear.” What’s more, this involves a single post from more than a year ago.

How is this? Once again, it’s the image tags.

Not long after I first started using what is still the best SEO plugin for WordPress that I’ve found – and I’ve tried others before and since – I had a problem with an update of the WordPress SEO plugin by Joost de Valk. I used that experience to write a post about software upgrades, and how one should be careful, and not just always upgrade for the sake of upgrading.

As you can see, it wasn’t so much a problem with the plugin upgrade as the way I had it configured; in prior versions the configuration was fine but with that particular upgrade the configuration caused a … wait for it … a boo boo.

To find some art to break up an otherwise big wall of text, I chose Boo Boo Bear, of Yogi Bear cartoon fame, which you can see at the top of this post. In fact the title of said post, as you can see, included the words Boo Boo, as in a problem or error.

At the time I did this, I thought I was just being cute and amusing myself. But, as it turns out, there are a lot of people searching for boo boo, not to mention Boo Boo. Who knew?

Not I. Apparently a lot of these searchers – I’m guessing – are related to one Boo Boo Stewart; search Google Images for “boo boo” and lots of pictures of this young actor pop up. Seems he was in one or more of the Twilight pablum movies. Or perhaps they are searching for Boo Boo TV. I don’t know. The only other Boo Boo I knew of before this, other than the eponymous bear, was blues musician Boo Boo Davis.

But I digress. As you can see from the screen cap of Google Webmaster Tools above, these terms result in more page impressions in Google than anything else on this site. It doesn’t generate oodles of traffic, but then this isn’t a high traffic site, nor does it need to be.

But once again it shows the importance of image and title tags and SEO. If you have a site that’s monetized through advertisement as opposed to selling memberships or actual products, then you want as much traffic as you can get; the more impressions you get the better, obviously.

And yet, you still see so many sites that fit this description that don’t have image tags, or are poorly optimized in terms of titles, subtitles and links. And the thing is, it’s such a simple thing; it only takes a moment. If you are using WordPress, I’ll plug the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin; it really does simplify SEO to a large degree. In fact it’s pretty amazing for a free plugin.

Yogi Bear and Boo Boo discuss the merits of proper SEO over a lunch pic-i-nic basket.To then as you can see to a certain extent it’s luck, of course; I had no idea that by using an image of Boo Boo Bear with proper image tags that I’d drive this extra traffic here.

But that’s my point: you just never know who is going to be searching for what.

Ain’t, that right Boo Boo?

Of course it is Yogi.

Update: Now this is amusing; I thought something like this might happen, but I didn’t really expect this big of a jump. In just the few days since this post was put up, this site’s impressions for the term “boo boo” have jumped from 8,000, with 16 clicks, to 12,000 impressions and 60 clicks as of April 9th.

I’ve also jumped up a notch in average position in search results from 11 to 10, which probably accounts for the jump in impressions in just few days’ time. I feel kind of bad, as this page is probably not the boo boo they’re looking for; although I’m sure a majority of that is coming through image search, in which case I do provide some Boo Boo.

On the other hand: lulz!

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.

SEO Plugin Boo-Boo

Always Be Careful With Software Upgrades; WordPress Plugins Are No Different

Heeeey! Boo Boo Bear! What's in that pick-i-nick basket? Aw, Yogi, it's a conflict with a WordPress plugin causing my xml sitemap to be missing in action.
No, not that kind of boo-boo.

Ah, WordPress and plugins.

They can be wonderful additions to this open-source blogging platform, adding functionality that either doesn’t exist (yet) in vanilla WordPress, or else simplifying other things that one would normally have to code or otherwise do manually. As such, plugins can be particularly useful for those not familiar with HTML and CSS, or Java, for example.

But plugins can be a hassle sometimes, namely when one doesn’t work like it should. Sometimes it can be a conflict with another plugin, which is why it’s a good idea not to use any more plugins than you have to. At other times, it can be because you’ve upgraded WordPress, and the plugin isn’t compatible in some way, or otherwise conflict with, the latest version.

Sometimes it’s just an upgrade to the plugin itself that may not always workout like the author had intended – but such is the nature of all supported software. And sometimes it may be something peculiar to the user’s configuration that the original author of the software didn’t foresee.

A case in point of this latter phenomenon is the latest version of the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, developed by Joost de Valk. If you’ve used WordPress and studied or otherwise worried about search engine optimization (SEO) at all, you’ve probably at least heard the name.

I’ve used this plugin for awhile now; it’s very comprehensive – one might even say a bit complicated, at least for someone new to all this – but it works great and simplifies SEO chores considerably. An example: with this plugin you can easily manipulate the SEO post title and meta description so that they are different from what a reader may actually see when they come to a blog post or page. You can do this by hand in the code, of course, although it’s kind of problematic with the way WordPress dynamically serves things up – thus the beauty of an SEO plugin.

Of course any SEO plugin that’s any good will let you do this; the Yoast SEO Plugin does many other things as well – a dizzying array of things, in fact. Yoast actively supports this plugin, along with several other plugins he maintains for use with WordPress, and his blog and Website feature a lot of information on SEO.

Recently he updated the plugin into version 0.4.1 – officially it’s still in beta, but it works fine (this is the first time I’ve had any problems with it) – and changed the way xml sitemaps are generated. If you’re not familiar with sitemaps as they pertain to SEO not to worry; they are just things that search engines use to help their spiders crawl (as in navigate) and index your site. You don’t have to have a sitemap, but it can help, this ability to control how a search engine indexes your site, particularly when it comes to search optimization.

To make a long story short, with this version the Yoast SEO plugin dynamically generated sitemaps, as opposed to creating an actual sitemap file (i.e. sitemap.xml). So whenever a search engine goes looking for a site’s sitemap, it is generated when called upon, as opposed to being cached to a disk on your server.

You can read more about why Yoast changed the way his WordPress SEO plugin handled xml sitemaps on his blog. As you can see from the comments on that post, though, some people had problems. I was one of those people. I had actually upgrade the plugin a few days before I noticed, but when I was checking my statistics in Google Webmaster Tools, I noticed their were crawling errors and a big red x next to the sitemap entry for all of my sites.

The problem option in the permalinks section of the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin that was causing my xml sitemap boo-boo. Fortunately a lot of people weighed in on Yoast’s blog with their problems and what they did to get things to work; Yoast chimed in often, as you can see (and this is one of the things that’s makes the open source community, and WordPress in particular so wonderfully awesome). It didn’t take long for me to narrow down the conflict. One part of the Yoast SEO plugin deals with permalinks; one of the options was “Redirect ugly URLs.” This actually redirect links back to the site that contain errors or junk at the end of them – unwanted parameters, as Yoast says. The plugin also notes that “this is not recommended in many cases” as it can conflict with other plugins.

I’ve used it in the past without any problems that I could discern though, so I always left it checked. But actually it was this redirect option that was causing a conflict with the dynamically generated sitemap in the latest 0.4.1 version of the same plugin, which creates a sitemap at http://exampleurl.com/sitemap_index. (The sitemap index actually contains links to several different sitemaps corresponding to pages, posts, etc. Again, if you read the related post on Yoast.com, he explains why it does this.)

Anyway, I should note that just about a half hour ago (about 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, June 8 – I’m nocturnal, don’t you know) the plugin has already been updated to 0.4.2. I don’t know if this update addresses the sitemap issue some were having, but I would presume that it does – although it doesn’t seem to have changed the dynamically generated sitemaps, at least on the surface. I just know that I’m not having any problems so far with 0.4.2.

So there you go. Just a story about WordPress plugins and how problems can arise. Of course as problems go with software, this was pretty painless. And let me just offer props once again to Yoast and his WordPress SEO plugin.

Image Tags, Keywords and SEO

They Are More Important Than You Probably Realize
Or, What I Learned from Spam

I’m cross posting this — at least a bit of it — from my personal blog the Gecko’s Bark. As I note in the post over there, for most of the past four years, that blog has been a part-time personal hobby and nothing more; I never really cared whether anyone beyond my circle of friends ever read it.

But lately, as I’ve developed this site and other sites, I’ve begun applying what I’ve learned in my professional life to my personal sites. This lead to some interesting discoveries about what drives random search engine traffic to the Gecko’s Bark, as determined by Google Analytics. To wit:

You’d think all of that content, where I ponder such varied topics as death, politics, cycling and what it’s like to be an expat in Southeast Asia, that there would be wealth of different things driving traffic to http://geckosbark.com.

You would be wrong.

This is not the case. In the two months since I’ve been keeping Google tabs, so to speak, on Gecko’s Bark traffic, the terms that drive search engine traffic here are searches for, in order:

  • seximondo 21.24%
  • www.seximondo.com 19.03%
  • under construction gif 14.60%
  • seximondo.com 9.73%
  • under construction gifs 2.21%

Here are two completely accidental and inadvertent examples of keyword optimization driving traffic to that site that I wouldn’t otherwise get.

In the case of sexi mondo, it seems that the title tag for this post about spam on the Gecko’s Bark shows up in the top ten rankings for those search terms. The title of said post is Porn spam no. 2: sexi mondo spammo! (blue deep something).

If you’ve never looked in your spam filter, you should; it can be enlightening with regard to what may be drawing  traffic. At the very least, some spam also makes for entertaining reading; it is these more entertaining ones that I will actually copy and post on occasion on my personal blog. In the aforementioned case, the line after line of keywords from this porn spam reads like some kind of postmodern existential poem on sex, love and loneliness.

At the time I didn’t know that there were lots of people searching for sexi mondo. Now, thanks to Google Analytics, I do. Needless to say that’s a must-use tool for people administering websites these days, and it’s free. As for what exactly sexi mondo is and why people might be searching for it, well you can read all about it over at the Gecko’s Bark; just follow the first link above.

Lesson Learned: Fill Out Those Image Tags

Original poster for the Italian movie Mondo Cane, the movie that lends its name to the mondo genre of film.As for people looking for under construction gifs, well I have image tags to thank for Google driving them to my site. It seems that when you Google those words, under construction gifs, an image I’ve used on a post at geckosbark.com shows up right there in the first page of the results where Google lists suggested images underneath the first two search results.  This is because I used “under construction gif” in the image title and alternate text tags. Back when I was working for GPS World, posting daily news on its Web site as well as serving as webmaster for its consumer electronics site, GPS Maniac, parent company Questex Media had a person who’s full-time job was basically to serve as an SEO consultant and analyst for the various publications in the company. One of the things I learned from her was that you should always tag your images with relevant keywords, as it drives traffic that you might not otherwise get. Hover that image to the right for an example. Now that’s a good image tag with relevant keywords. This traffic being driven to my personal blog is an excellent case in point. No, it’s not thousands of extra hits a day or anything, but it is a measurable amount of traffic that I wouldn’t see otherwise.