Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / March 26th, 2008

Britney Spears to Blame for an Anomaly in our Site Traffic Reports?

OK, this is an interesting one, and I hope you’ll provide some feedback if you can figure out what’s up here. 

We use a program called ClickTracks to monitor our site’s traffic.  We’ve seen an increase in traffic since launching this blog.  It affects our overall number, since the blog redirects to a subdomain of 352media.com.  That was expected.  But here’s what we didn’t expect: Over the month of February, several months after we saw an increase in traffic from the blog launch, we saw a major jump in traffic.  Take a look at the chart below:

clicktracks report

You can see the peaks and valleys which represent the weekends, where our traffic as a B2B site obviously drops off.  But then you can also see the rise in February.  Very strange.  What’s also strange are the numbers that don’t seem to correlate to this rise.  Here’s an example. 

ClickTracks lets me compare time periods, so I’m looking at November 15th of last year to December 15th against February 15th of this year to March 15th.  The number of visitors jumped from 23,815 to 61,407.  More than a 100% increase.  However if I look at traffic from our major keywords like “website design company,” the changes are minor.  Despite that, I see from our referring site report that google referrals jumped from 6,655 to 38,444.  The numbers just aren’t making sense.

I finally think I figured this out last night.  There is one page in particular that jumped dramatically.  It’s a page within our blog for the marketing category of posts, found here.  It’s actually the category of this particular post.  It’s also the home to another post I made entitled “Our Search Engine Queries Paint a Sad Picture of America.”  In the post I talk about Britney Spears among other top queries for ’07. 

Looking at our search terms in ClickTracks, I see several terms that relate to blog posts we’ve made.  One of them is Britney Spears, which got us 110 visitors over the Feb 15 to Mar 15 period.  Nothing major by any means.  That’s why I didn’t put it together in the first place.  I tried searching her name in google, and we don’t show up on the first ten pages.  We’ve seen other traffic jumps for hot search terms, but only if they show up in the title of the blog post.  And even still, there was nothing like this.  So where are those hits coming from?  The image search.

Search for Britney Spears in Google image search, and you’ll see a frightening picture of her newly bald head from our site.  Like millions of other bloggers, I copied the image from another site, which I’m sure did the same.  But for some odd reason, mine floats between the first and third page of Google.  Yesterday it was about 15th, today it’s on page three.

Britney Spears picture

So, I think what I’ve found is a “bug” in ClickTracks.  Each time someone does this search, Google serves up the image from our site.  ClickTracks is counting this as a hit even if the person doesn’t click through to the page.  I’ve got to also imagine this one image is also putting some strain on our bandwidth!  But I’m going to keep it up, if for no other reason than to continue this experiment. 

Along those same lines, here are a couple of other pictures of hot search terms (based on this article), just to see if they yield the same weird, yet pointless to our business, results.  As long as I give them good alt-tags, I expect to see a similar result: a spike in traffic that is needless to say outside of our target audience.  Enjoy them. 

Apple iphone Myspace logoparis hilton

American IdolBeijing OlympicsWWE Wrestling

I’m very interested especially to see if we get a jump on the olympic image as we get closer to the games this summer.  I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop!  Also, any feedback would be greatly appreciated!  Oh, and the moral of the story?  Use Alt-tags.  They work.