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!

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.