Increasing click-throughs from YouTube

Five months ago I posted a video to see what results a YouTube video would produce compared to a static HTML page on the same subject. The results were dramatic. While my WordPress page on dividing Agapanthus has floundered with a handful of hits, the video has been viewed over 1,600 times! (You can read about how I set up this experiment here (internal link).) Briefly, I paid close attention to the captions Google produced, cleaning them up to make them more sensical to Google’s search engine. And while I am pleased with the number of plays, this success hasn’t resulted in any more hits for the website you are at now. What follows are ideas that might increase traffic; I’d be interested if they work for you.

screenshotYouTube

Originally, I so concentrated on producing my video that I didn’t look around at all the options YouTube has to offer. As you can tell by this screen shot, there are at least 12 different choices to explore. The first one, marked by the pencil, calls up the “Info and Settings” menu, which leads you down the main rabbit hole of YouTube. But first things first. Notice how I ran the two words together? When I first posted the file I wasn’t sure if a space would prevent its uploading. In The Old Days you had to have a character between file words names, even a dash or an underline, lest a server reject it. Now, however, after seeing countless files with spaces on YouTube, I went back today and separated the two. I am sure this will help Google index, now that the two are properly separated. Having located the navigation points surrounding my video, and having done some light housekeeping, I was ready to tackle a goal that made perfect sense: find a way to produce a clickable link from my video to my website.

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As you can see from the above screenshot, I was able to make that clickable link happen, although it took many hours. The captions at the bottom of the frame are what I first worked on when I posted the video, the link above is the one I just made. I will probably go back and edit it. Make it say something like “Visit my website” instead of just giving out a URL. Before I outline some of the steps I took, I would advise you not to go through with this process if you have just a few videos. It’s far easier to upload a video to YouTube and then embed it into your website (internal link), than going through what is a long process to produce a clickable link. But if you have an entire channel of YouTube videos, well, I think you are committed to going the whole route.

You’ll need personal accounts at Google and YouTube to get things going. You’ll also need to identify your website to Google and eventually YouTube will have to verify your ownership. All of this means keeping track of codes and ID numbers. You’ll probably deal with both Google’s Webmaster Tools (external link) as well as Google Analytics (external link). Get to know them. I think YouTube wants to make sure that videos linked to sites only go from video posters and site owners who are the same. This process is harder at sites hosted by WordPress.com. People who can access and manage settings at their servers directly will have a much easier time. Just to give you an overview, let’s say you’ve uploaded a video to YouTube. I assume you’ve already corrected the captions to get your best chance at proper indexing. Now then, you:

1) Select Video Manager.

2) Click on Info and Settings.

3) Select the frames in your video where you want your link to appear.

4) Pick Add Annotation.

5) Select Spotlight. There are other choices but that’s a good one.

6) Choose the style you want your text to appear in. This is what people will see when deciding to click on the link. Don’t forget to put a blue border around your caption.

7) Click on the Link box.

8) At this point you will have many choices. You will usually want Associated Website. This means a click will take a person from the video to the website associated with your video. Don’t see this option? You won’t if you haven’t properly identified your website and yourself to Google and YouTube.

9) Your caption text won’t appear unless a person hovers over the caption area with a mouse. Use the link capability around something you want people to click on, like your website address. In other words, at some point in your video, have a frame that clearly and boldly spells out your site. After you upload your video you can use the linking capability to tie that title page to your site.

Unfortunately, according to Google, the annotations will not show up on tablets or mobile devices. More on annotations here (external link). I am aware that some people say that, in fact, annotations do show. Not on my iPad.

In closing, I think this process is worth the time if you have many videos and a single site for them to link to. Otherwise, try imbedding. Also, be sure to create a link in the caption or comments box that accompanies a description. Simply type out your URL like this: http://www.thomasfarleyblog.com. No brackets or HTML needed. YouTube will recognize the link when you type it out.  Lastly, I am thinking of taking the text of my captions and including them in the video’s description box. I’m not aware of any limitations on length. It may further help Google to index. Good luck.

 

 

Figuring out WordPress

The differences between a WordPress site hosted at WordPress.com and a WordPress site hosted somewhere else are significant. At WordPress.com, as in the case of this blog, you have limited options with which to format your text, but a less confusing interface in which to edit. At WordPress.com certain features are built in to your editor, whereas at a self-hosted site you need to add them through installing what are called Plugins. Let’s take an example.

The editor menu bar for my template or theme at WordPress.com is below. No ability to change text style or text size within a page. If I want a sans-serif font like Arial for my headings, and a serif-font like Times for my main text, well, I can’t do it. At least not with a text editor. If you know how to write code in the programming language called CSS, you can make individual changes within a page. But to my thinking, having to write code defeats the purpose and simplicity of WordPress.

screenshotwordpressdotcom

The editor menu bar for my WordPress site at JustHost.com (external link) is pictured below. In this case I have supplemented the built in editor, which looks very similar to the above, with a free piece of software called TinyMCE Advanced (external link). This allows options like Font Sizes and Font Family to be activated. Installing a Plugin is very simple. A built in search engine on your WordPress site allows you to pick which plugin you want. There are thousands, all to do different jobs. An “Install” button appears when you’ve made a selection and within a minute of clicking your site has a new feature. Not all plugins are compatible with all themes.

 

screenshotTinyMCE

As with everything on the web, things can break down in a hurry. Yesterday I battled with a problem at newmotorcyclerider.com (external link) that appears to be related to a  plugin. The solution was a combination of things, some of them old techniques.

Try as I might, I could not change photograph captions from italics to straight text. While trying to correct this I managed to wipe out the navigation bar at the top of every page. Eventually I had JustHost restore my site with a backup they had made a few days ago. Then I deleted the offending plug-in, cleared the cache on my browser, then reinstalled the plug in. Everything works now. What’s next? More learning. I’ve yet to figure out how to integrate background images to my pages. I’ll report back here if I accomplish that.

Update! I figured out the background image problem. Nothing in my Creativo 4.0 template (external link) had any language saying that selecting a background image would be a problem. Quite the contrary. Doesn’t this selection bar seem easy and hopeful?

screenshotbackground1

But no matter how I tried, no matter what images I selected, nothing would work. I even tried going away from the individual page and working on the problem from an overall theme perspective, whereby the background image would be displayed across all the pages at my site. No luck. It was only until I went to the developer’s website that I discovered this wording:

“Custom Background Image – this option allows you to upload / select an image for the background of the post page – this will only work for Boxed Layout”

Boxed layout?! Turns out that you have to select that option, buried elsewhere, before a background image will work. Nothing in the above selection bar gave a hint that making this choice was needed. Sigh. This is why I say that creating a website is not just about writing. At least half of your time will be spent in formatting, adding photographs, making illustrations, producing videos, and chasing across the web for solutions for adding same. Even with a simple blog, a website is not a novel, it is a complicated multi-media presentation.

Experiment with YouTube video and WordPress

I’ve managed to embed a YouTube video into my WordPress website at newmotorcyclerider.com (external link). Well, let’s see if it works here, where WordPress.com is doing the hosting. Hmm. I just did a preview. Maybe it will work.

For those that want to watch the video, it starts off very slowly. I’ll correct that with the next one. And for some reason, YouTube’s stabilization process made my video more stable, but my titles more shaky. Sheesh. Much to learn.

Not all video cameras are made the same

I recently bought a Sony Cybershot DSC-H400 (external link) to replace my broken Nikon. I’m happy with it to a point. The telephoto is outstanding, memory storage fantastic with a 64 gig card, and the battery life is excellent. But the video files it generates are unfamiliar to me.

Instead of the web-friendly and widely distributed MP4 format, Sony uses their own file type, something called AVCHD™. It was created to make Blu-ray Discs™ and, I suspect, avoid paying any licensing or royalty fees to Apple. (Although see this external link.) In any case, the files are difficult to work with and when finally processed, using every trick I know, exhibit video that is choppy and clunky. Sigh.

I bought the new camera primarily for still photos and it does that quite well. I think now, however, that it may be best to buy a dedicated camera just for video. Making a camera handle both still and motion is perhaps too much to ask. If I do get a special video camera I will make sure it is MP4 compatible. Let me know if you have a favorite camera for video.

Halt! My mistake. Completely on my own, I have discovered that the Sony is also storing my files in MP4. Great news but you have to look around in your file directory. When you connect your camera, in my case to a Mac, three icons appear on your screen. One is labeled Untitled. If you root around in there you will find movies in MP4. Take a look at the screen shot below. Perhaps when I first exported the files from the camera it delivered them in its native format. Now I know how to get around that. Much to learn.

screehsnhotfiledirectory

 

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Notes on Statistics

It’s agreed that statistics can be useful, perhaps invaluable to a website’s success, but I find they raise more questions than they settle. And are their statistics and keyword search results really valid to begin with?

According to Yahoo, 32% of the traffic to californiarockhound.com is from Semalt, a shadowy group thought to be Ukrainian spammers. Great. At railroadsounds.net, Google Analytics says that 29.4% of my traffic comes from people using Brazilian Portuguese as their language. Really? At newmotorcyclerider.com, 29.4% of my traffic is Brazilian. Of course, it is all a fraud. The average time these ‘people’ spend at either site in every session is exactly zero seconds. More likely this is all robot generated traffic, sent out to every website, for reasons only these web crawler companies know. I am now trying to find specific IP addresses for these groups so I can use Analytics’ filters to block them. But finding this information at Google Analytics is very difficult, indeed, I find Analytics so hard to use that I am discouraged from using it. Speaking of Google, have you used their Webmaster Tools?

Google’s Webmaster Tools is an adjunct to Google Analytics. You go there for more and different information than Analytics. I’ve registered three of my sites with this property, and I continue to mull it over with worry and wonder. Like, what does it all mean? For example, Tools says the second most used search term for people coming to my site is “hobbess.” I can’t remember ever using that word, whatever it means, and I can’t imagine Google providing a link to my site because of it. Yet there it is. On a more practical note, there are discussions worth having, something that keyword search results can foster.

Question. If the most popular search term used to find my plant site is “Colorado Blue Spruce,” should I be forever penning articles on our spiky mountain friend? Based on keyword results alone? I just did a Google search for Colorado Blue Spruce, and my site does not come up within the first four pages. My site is there, somewhere at Google, but obviously buried deep. And with thousands of sites mentioning blue spruces, I can see no profit doing more writing on the subject, especially since I don’t know why the Blue Spruce traffic was generated to begin with. Hmm. It is perhaps not enough to have the data, but to be able to interpret it correctly. I continue to work at that.

Search image

 

 

Lessons learned from my many websites

Simple business and personal websites are relatively cheap to build and maintain. Now that I have four active sites, it’s probably time to review them.

I started building websites back in 1994, with privateline.com (external link). It supported my hardcopy telephone magazine private line. The site grew to be wildly popular; in 2001 it had over two million page views. Even the United States Library of Congress recommended that people go to my site. I think about the sites’ success on days when my personal blog site has one, two, or sometimes no viewers. Oh, well. The site’s popularity led into writing hardcopy magazine articles as well as an appearance on The History Channel.  But the site grew so large, over 440 individual pages, that it became totally unworkable. The key downfall were broken links.

Links to external sites are absolutely essential to a website’s growth. People link to you if you link to them, and I think the major search engines use them as an indication of a site’s usefulness. But because websites are constantly changing pages at least 25% of my links died every year. With over a thousand external links it proved impossible to keep them all alive and well. If I did such a large site again I would get a service to e-mail me daily reports on dead links. And I would archive pages that I linked to, just in case the page in question was killed, and not just moved. Sound like a great deal of work? Certainly. Something best if you had staff or other team members. A site like this would have to make money or really contribute to your work portfolio. Unable to keep the site going, I sold it in 2006 for a few thousand dollars. It is now an archive.

privateline

The second site I created was californiarockhound.com (external link). I thought it would be a good domain to support a rockhounding newsletter but when I ran the numbers the publication would not make any money. I kept the domain renewed, however, because it was less than ten dollars a month for hosting, done by yahoo. A lifetime plant enthusiast, professional and amateur, this unused site was an easy place to locate a tree tour I decided to make of my neighborhood streets. This site was done as a public service. If I wanted more traffic I would get a domain name that matched the mission. Done years ago, I sized all the photographs to display well in either a iPhone or an iPad. I don’t have to pay as much attention to sizing anymore with sites using WordPress technology. In those, you can resize your photos within your browser, instead of having to redo them using Photoshop. I also found californiarockhound.com a good place to post large files to be downloaded by others. Dropbox.com (external link) today does that much more efficiently. One last lesson: get a website that is compatible with your favorite browser. This yahoo based site only let me create in Firefox.

planttour

My third site, the one you are at now, is essential to me as a freelancer. To better sell my writing skills I needed a site that could show off my portfolio. To make things simple I went with WordPress.com as a host. The alternative is to use WordPress technology at a site you host yourself. Having WordPress as a host allows you to easily enable features like statistics. And certain things are only available through Wordpress.com. All in all, though, unless you are an absolute beginner, I see no reason to limit yourself to WordPress.com. Common to all WordPress products is an overall simplicity of use with major exceptions. While it is amazingly easy to change a font across all pages, going from Times to Arial, for example, it is agonizingly difficult to change just a few sentences here and there. Like putting your photo captions into something different than the site-wide text., say changing the normal 12 point Times to a 10 point Helvetica.

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Railroadsounds.net (external link) is another WordPress site I built. I thought it might make some money by selling audio clips but so far there has been no interest. I’ll let it grow on its own and treat it as a hobbyist website. I bought an expensive template (around $100) for the site but I won’t do that again. If you are building a simple site you should start with a free WP program and upgrade later. I like simple sites and an uncluttered look to pages; there really was no need for me to buy an expensive framework. And although I am not making any money with the site, putting it together taught me a great deal about handling audio files, a skill I am sure I will use once again.

railroadsoundsscreenshot

And now we come to my latest site, newmotorcyclerider.com (external link). This is a site I am slowly building, using what I’ve learned in the last year about WordPress sites, audio, and video. I’d say I am two months away from launch. Done on pure speculation, I hope to get a motorcycle related sponsor in the future. Each day I think about new content to add to the site, and each day I get lost in details about making pages in WordPress. The template I am using here cost $50 and, again, it has more features than I probably need. But if I learn more perhaps my site can be more stylish, functional, and easier to read. At some point I would like all I’ve learned about creating sites since 1994 to come together to make something marvelous. In the end, though, good content, solid writing, must be the first priority. What good is lousy writing wrapped up in a shiny package? That is probably the most important lesson I have learned.

newmotorcycleriderscreenshot

 

 

 

Back from vacation

I’m back from a few days in the Redwood country of Humboldt county in California. The highlight was Fern Canyon, once used as a shooting location for the second Jurassic Park movie. Quite incredible scenery. I return to a broken website which I must somehow fix.

Before I left my new motorcycle website was having numerous problem loading images. Two hours of tech support help failed to achieve a solution. I may now have to have the site restored, by using a backup copy made by hosting company. But I want to make sure I have a copy of my site on my own computer before they restore what is now an older version of the site. I know this sounds confusing.

Websites like the one you are viewing are commonly created on a browser. Right now I am typing in a text window at WordPress.com. I got to the site using Safari as my internet browser. I did not first create this post in a word processing program, although many people do that. To make my own copy of the site I will copy each post and page and then paste them into individual documents in Word. I have never had to do this before.

Since the motorcycle site is so small this whole process should take less than an hour. I will loose the formatting of each page but I am not concerned about this. I can recreate the simple look of the site without a problem. The real problem is loosing my writing. Perhaps along the way I will figure out a better, easier way to create a back-up copy of my site on my computer. I will report back.

Update: Problems solved. WordPress sites often use various Widgets, which are short pieces of code used to enable different features. I was using an incompatible widget. Removed, my images load as they should. I did look into a backup website tool. It’s only $18 and allows you to update your site to your computer once a day. I am still thinking about it. Here’s the new site if you want to see it: http://www.newmotorcyclerider.com (external link).

Click on the photo below for a larger image.

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Fern Canyon. Humboldt County California