‘YouTube,’ ‘Iraq Videos’ Searches Lead to MediaShift

    by Mark Glaser
    December 4, 2006

    i-1ace03a3145ac9ef4c6bb755709268f9-Google Image YouTube soldier.jpg
    Back in January, not long after I launched the MediaShift blog, I wrote a blog post about soldiers in Iraq uploading their videos to YouTube. When I made that post, I included a screen shot from one of the videos, which I casually titled “YouTube soldier.” Now, nearly 11 months later, that picture is bringing in the most referred traffic to my blog.

    The proof is in my traffic logs, as well as some Google Image searches. I noticed this phenomenon right around the time of Google’s announced intention to buy YouTube. If you did a search on Google Image search for youtube, my screen grab of “YouTube soldier” was the first result (as seen above), and it linked to my blog post. Over the past five or six weeks, most of my referred traffic is from images.google.com, as well as images.google.es, images.google.de, images.google.fr and images.google.ca — the international versions of Google Image search. For instance, last week, I’d say that almost half of my referred traffic — meaning visitors linking through to me from other sites vs. those who typed in my web address by hand — came from Google Image searches.

    Lately, I’ve noticed that I come up a little lower on searches for “youtube” on Google Image search, but the YouTube soldier pic still comes up in the No. 4 slot on most search results. Why is that? Should my soldier screen grab be the most important and relevant result for people searching for an image associated with YouTube? Other images on that first page of results seem more relevant: media pictures of the YouTube co-founders mugging; screen shots of YouTube web pages; stories about YouTube yanking Comedy Central videos.


    I was one of the first people to write about YouTube and soldier videos there, so I deserve some authority on the subject. But to be THE authority on YouTube that comes up at the top of Google searches? That seems like a stretch… My guess is that because I named the picture “YouTube soldier,” it probably helped push up the picture on image searches.

    I also have become the go-to source for web searches for youtube CEO after doing a brief five-question email interview with YouTube CEO Chad Hurley in April. I’m in the No. 1 slot for that Google search, rather than, say, a bio page for Chad Hurley or the page describing the founders at YouTube itself. During the big press bonanza when the GoogTube buyout was announced, I received a boatload of traffic to the old interview because of people searching for “youtube CEO” on Google.

    Authority on Soldier Videos

    Midway through the year, I started getting media inquiries for interviews on the subject of soldier videos online, as the mainstream media (MSM) started paying attention to the phenomenon. MTV did its special on soldier videos, and NPR did a story on soldier videos on MySpace. So I decided I might as well do a special online guide to soldier videos — where to find them, the changing stance of the military brass, the increased attention of the MSM.


    Now that post is getting Google love from searches for soldier videos (No. 2 result) and Iraq videos (No. 3 as long as you don’t use quotation marks). According to my server logs at PBS, “iraq videos” was the top search term that brought people to my blog in November, largely from Google.

    Of course I’m happy to get all the traffic I can from Google, as are most people who run news sites or blogs. But I have to wonder if the people who are finding my site this way are happy they’ve found me. My guide to soldier videos does help them find videos from Iraq, though I’m not sure if these are the types of videos they’re looking for.

    The top search results for “iraq videos” directly above my link are from LiveLink and The Nausea, both of which highlight graphic and gory videos from Iraq. Should those sites be the authority on Iraq videos? Are they really the go-to sites?

    I post all this information here in the interest of hearing your own logic for why my blog posts have moved up so high on Google searches. (No, this isn’t a tawdry play for even more Google love…) I doubt Google would tell me why this has happened, and I fear that when they read this, they will manually change the search results. (That happened in the past after I wrote about Quixtar searches in Google bringing up a prominent Quixtar critic’s site at No. 1 instead of the company site.)

    So use the comments to tell me your theories on why my soldier pic and blog posts have received so much Google love, and also share your own stories of blog posts or photos receiving Google love for unknown reasons. Perhaps we can find a pattern to the search-engine madness, and become search engine optimization (SEO) experts.

    Tagged: soldier videos traffic videos youtube

    4 responses to “‘YouTube,’ ‘Iraq Videos’ Searches Lead to MediaShift”

    1. Thank you Mark for the post.

      Mystery will always be part of the wonderful world of Google ranking.

      In this case I believe its a combination of a sensitive subject matter from a source like PBS, and people’s constant search for alternative forms of information about the war.

      See an example here:

    2. Sometimes you never know how Google will take one of your posts and make it “authoritative.” For example, if you look up “punishing students” on google, the number one result is a post I wrote regarding the debate over allowing students to carry mobile phones in the classroom. Hardly the focus of my blog, but it sends tons of irate young people to join the conversation….

    3. Andy,
      That’s an interesting case with your blog post. I wonder how much it has to do with your first two words in your headline being “Punishing Students…” That’s why I’m guessing that my YouTube image charts so high because I named it “YouTube soldier” and I also chart high for “YouTube CEO” because those words are first in my headline. A lot of headline writers now must think in terms of including key words in their headlines rather than being clever…

    4. tish grier says:


      I got some HUGE traffic, and was #1 for serveral days, then remained in the top ten in Google, for this post on Fox Faith’s “One Night With the King.” My post beat out the official website (which was the most popular exit page as that’s what folks were really looking for), the MySpace page for the film, FoxFaith’s own homepage, and pretty much anything connected with that film for a couple of weeks. It kept my traffic higher than normal for at least two months.

      Why? maybe it’s the way the keywords were positioned? maybe it was because the post was media-rich (gave two YouTube trailers for the film)? Maybe it was because when people came to the post they stayed for 20 minutes or more? I don’t know. I don’t know if they were happy or appalled–none left comments. I don’t know if Fox found it–but if they did, they weren’t offended either, as I never received a cease-and-desist letter and they eventually got the traffic anyway because I linked out to them.

      All I really know is that is was fun to write (I got to use my vast yet obscure knowledge of Biblical Epic filmmaking) and that probably a lot of folks were highly disappointed by what I said about it and that particular genre(it died for a reason–let’s let it rest. But I know that’s not about to happen…) If anyone thought what I said was genius, I haven’t heard anything to that effect.

      Another recently popular post was one on the Sara Lee/Ren & Stimpy collaboration. That one made Google Finance for anyone looking for info on Sara Lee. I think most readers came to it not looking for investment info, but looking to see why I was “traumatized” by the ad campaign (moreso by the Chicago Sun Times’ totally off the wall interpretation of the campaign.)

      The other odd thing about that particular blog of mine (the Constant Observer), though, is that the traffic is normally very low, unless I get some sort of link from some very odd place. I’m not an official, annointed A-list authority–just a fairly amusing and astute writer on pop culture (from time to time.) When I do it right, I never quite know which post is going to *hit* with the blogosphere (I’ve been linked by both Instapundit and Daily Kos–go figure) or with the search engines. I write with little intention to game the search engines by stoking my headlines with keywords or to curry favor with the A-list or any particular blogging in-crowd, so I doubt my blogging will result in valuting me into the magical sphere of the A-list. Any “authoritative” voice I develop will be gained in other ways, perhaps with my blogging, but who knows.

      So, my advice–just go with it! it’s fun! Some of us can over-think things out here and lose that joie de blogosphere. If Google is seeing your blog as authoritative on something, that’s cool. It’s driving traffic to you and, because of your overall content, you’ll probably gain more readers. I think that’s the best thing lots of us can take from observing our incoming traffic. It is what it is :-)

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