Some time ago I thought it would be cool to apply some SEO principles to some of the images on my sites, to see whether or not I could rank them in the Google Image search results.
Well, I managed to get a number one result, and it has been holding steady there now for a month or two.
Which was all fine and dandy, until just the other day when all of a sudden that particular term became a super hot news item, and everyone started looking for pictures of this particular thing! (No, I’m not giving specifics, though it is a fairly common item)
I first discovered this when I logged in to create a new post, and found the admin screen acting rather incoherently. I checked the server logs and discovered I was using up a crazy amount of bandwidth – 10 GB in 15 minutes!
At that point I let the bandwidth exceed its limit, and the site went offline for a few hours. I honestly thought I was being hacked.
Anyways, turns out this was all due to a crazy amount of interest in one particular picture I had on the site.
So I jacked up the bandwidth allotment, and watched the traffic flood in.
This particular site normally gets around 20,000 visitors a month, which isn’t bad at all; however as you can see, the 2-day traffic spike from the Google image search results blew that away completely.
The next morning, it was still going, so I figured I might as well try to get something out of this, so I put a 300 x 250 Adsense block right beside the picture. Over the course of the day, I collected $25.05 from that adblock, and an additional $74.82 from some other Adsense on the page.
Not too shabby right?
Well…. wrong. In my humble opinion, this just demonstrates the quality of Google Image search traffic.
In total, for the two days in question, I got 69,281 visitors to the site, nearly all from that image search.
In exchange, I pocketed a shade under $100, though admittedly this could have been better had I been a bit more proactive on the first day. Also, the second Adsense block was in a rotation with other banners, so it wasn’t getting full play.
Now although $100 might seem like decent coin for doing nothing (and to be fair, I’m happy as it nearly covers that hosting account for a year), let’s break it down and look a bit more closely at the numbers.
69,281 / $99.87 = 1 dollar of revenue per every 694 visitors!
Now, take it a step further. The real purpose of the site is to collect subscribers, and during those two days I got a grand total of 30 opt ins from that URL.
30 / 69,281 = 0.0004% opt in rate! Put it the other way around, that’s 1 opt in per 2309 visitors.
Can you imagine if you were paying for that kind of traffic?
Interestingly, another outcome from this little traffic spike is my Alexa ranking jumped from around 510,000 pre-spike to about 390,000, a few days after.
The Bottom Line
Google Image search results traffic is not easily monetized.
The real upshot of this traffic spike for me was that it really put the spotlight on a particular type of free traffic that I’d not really taken the time to try to measure before. Normally, it takes a bit of work to figure out how much of your traffic comes from a source like Google Images, and it would be extremely difficult (as far as I know) to really figure out how much that specific traffic was worth.
Having a massive spike such as this made it fairly easy to approximate the value, and in the end, it came up lacking.
A while back I was considering buying a website on Flippa that showed some decent stats, however looking through their analytics, I noticed that a lot of the traffic was from Google Image search results. At the time, I didn’t know what to make of that. Now, I know better.
PS – Traffic stats are from GetClicky – an awesome alternative to Google Analytics. Do you really want them looking over your shoulder all the time?