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How To Cheat Your Traffic Web Stats & Sites Like Alexa (or your SEO client)

I really wavered on writing this article but after some deep thought, it occurred to me that this secret is used by vendors to cheat stats of clients.  I am writing this in no way to attack anyone’s integrity, but maybe if I point it out, Google will level the playing field. 

If you really want to cheat one’s traffic stats, one only needs three things- time (age of site) an image (any pretty picture) and a name of a major city (event, building, or anything famous) as the image name.

After reading this thread over at BHB, I decided to use the site in question and would ask you to open another window and go to google images.  At Google Images, type in ” long beach real estate”  and what do you see?  You see this same site ( listed multiple times in the top page results.  Now, that may seem pretty harmless, but think globally with me.

In my own hyper-local blog, I innocently captured a picture and named it our city.  I had no idea what ramifications this would have.  Three months later, checking my stats as I do daily, I began noticing huge bumps in page hits.  We typically disregard page hits and pay more attention to page impressions.  Hits often count how many images are loaded as well, so it really simply depends on the counter.  So in watching the page impressions, I noticed the spike was happening there as well, meaning, whoa, we’re famous- what are we doing right here?

Now, the next obvious step (if you really want to know the source of the traffic) was to begin closely watching referring urls, and the above image is what I see- 1,748 impressions of this one image from one country alone in the last 90 days.  This list of referring google traffic reaches into at least the 10s of thousands since January.  I wanted to post the list of numbers, but our backend provider does not give us a way of downloading a file so here is a screen shot of the one image reference.  If you look above the highlighted line you can see the traffic generated off of the same image and others from all around the world. 

In one day, I remember a single image counting for over 600 impressions.  Granted I was disappointed, I got over it and still tag my images in hopes that folks in the US are just as interested and maybe they’ll move here and call us, but honestly, I get more international traffic on Austin images than nationally. 

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So, if an SEO guru wanted to fluff numbers to impress his or her client, they would simply insert lots of rich, colorful, well named images to the site- totally legal in the Google world of law and completely hidden to most clients as referring urls have not always been so easily provided by most site designers in their backend. 

After realizing this phenomenon, I began looking deeper and deeper into sites with high Alexa rankings (some, not all) and learned that this is not uncommon at all.  So before you tout numbers, one must always know where that number comes from.  I would imagine the site so earnestly debated over at BHB gets just as much traffic for a simple image times seven in a single week from folks looking at beach pics, beach homes, sunsets, and a whole lot more. 

If for your own vanity you wish to partake in the image hit game, one must only place a well named image in their blog or site, wait for google to crawl images (takes about 60 to 90 days) and voila!  You too can boast 1000s of hits in a single day!

For the record, I am sure that Laurie has every bit of 1000 hits a day over at her place.  Her site is lined with lots of rich wonderful content that her buyers surely love, as well as contribution from our favorite guy in suspenders, Brian Brady and a whole lot more.  This is more advising folks to ask lots of questions of their vendors.

Just a side note:  I took this screenshot at 8am, and the image in question already has referred 17 folks to our site.

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Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Lani

    August 10, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Great point. It shows how vendors can politicize numbers to show “traffic” or “leads” as some will call it.

    Like others have said before, a “lead” is only a single person who has implicity expressed interest. NOT the Swedish dude named Nuunie who wants pictures of Austin for his *sexy* grad thesis on world travel.

  2. B. R.

    August 10, 2007 at 9:17 am

    I looked a little deeper into google images at the site in question and there is an entire file library of images. I thought this was worth a mention.

  3. Laurie Manny

    August 10, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Interestingly enough, I am remiss in tagging the photos I use on my site. While I do tag several, I forget more often than I remember. As you have displayed in your jpg above the incoming hit shows it coming in from, my site displays the source of all hits as well. I receive few if any hits from the images, probably because I have tagged so few of them. I really need to get better at doing that on a regular basis.

    I can also see where my hits are coming from geographically. While I do get a few international hits, almost all of my hits are domestic. The guy in suspenders has complete access to my back end stats and can see all of this as well.

    What I do find interesting is the disbelief and the desire to tear down my success.

    Contrary to what other web bloggers would like to believe, the hits are genuine. I understand that it must be difficult to believe that somebody else got the hits, perhaps you would like to know why and how it was done.

    Long Beach Real Estate Home is dedicated to the niche market of Long Beach. There are few if any posts written to the blogging or Realtor community, unlike most other web blogs. The focus on the community combined with keyword rich text and titles, relevant tagging, excellent automated SEO provided by combined apparently make for success soup.

    I began blogging in December 2006, until these last few days I had no idea what kind of hits other bloggers have been receiving.

    The first hint that my site might be doing extraordinarily well was about a month ago when I asked a couple of well known bloggers what kind of hits they were getting so that I would know how far away I was from where I needed to be. These 2 bloggers also mentioned that their sites were a bit messed up at the moment, they were trying to fix them and were expecting their numbers to go up when the repairs were completed. I didn’t think about it again.

    While at Inman I asked Mary McKnight if her other customers were having the same success with their web blogs. She told me that nobody was doing as well as I was. When I asked why she said “You did EVERYTHING we told you to”.

    And that is why is having the success it is having.

    There is no secret, there is no plot. I have worked my behind off on making the site successful and have done everything that can be done to make that happen.

    What a shame that the blogging community has chosen to try to tear my site, my provider and myself down.

    Like I told Lani over at BHB, I wish everyone the same success and the same response.

    Laurie Manny

  4. Laurie Manny

    August 10, 2007 at 10:52 am

    When Brian joined me on we realized that we each had a talent that the other didn’t. Brian is viral to the extreme on the internet, I understand how to apply keyword rich text, titles and tags for maximum results.

    Brian and I have been teaching each other these talents. We work extremely well together, the partnership has been an amazing success. I both admire and respect Brian.

    Through Brian I have discovered ways of placing my posts on an assortment of other relevant and highly rated sites, as lead in’s.

    This has been very effective, not in driving industry traffic, but at driving consumers.

  5. B. R.

    August 10, 2007 at 11:20 am

    The probable reason you aren’t getting the intense traffic I get, both nationally and internationally is because the search for california beach or long beach is highly competitive- Austin has no beach and searches for images often field few good results. In saying that, I would imagine by the reply I got at images with the string I used for your site returned numerous results so I know you are getting found in the web results which is the truly benificial factor of using images to boost rankings. Now, that isn’t cheating if the image really conveys the meaning of the post. I would imagine the viral affect of images has many other affects than just drawing random traffic, but still, if you want to cheat the system- it works and can mislead consumers of seo services.

    I think it’s a shame that a simple debate had turned into such a personal cluster****. Having said that, Brian asked a very specific question about how one can cheat stats in the general comment she made- not even realizing the person in question was you, nor did she realize Brians involvment in the said site so his direct questioning caught her broadsided. When we dicussed it that evening together as the conversation began to heat, I asked her not to publish suggestions on how to cheat as we were not sure why Brian had taken to vet Lani’s general statement. Now realizing that posting the answer in no way defames you or anyone but simply points out an seo vendor tactic I felt it was safe to publish my own findings on the subject in general. I really enjoyed your sites approach to re and can see why you’ve had the success you’ve had and wish you even more. I just wanted to point out what some of us already know about the bs that goes on in the SEO mega business and people should dig to make sure their traffic is sincere. As Lani pointed out here today, 1748 hits from another country that could be anyone about anything including site scrappers is meaningless. However, in Austin most pictures are protected and unshared, so when we find one that isn’t or one we take ourselves we publish for everyone. There will surely come a day when my own son or daughter does a report on State Caps. and will get to use photos that are free. In my opinion, it’s just good community.

    Having said all of that- it is no wonder many are picking apart anything anyone might say that is perceived as bragadocious (which I dont think you were being) will be vetted. For example those who use the word revolution. You can expect someone, somewhere to ask serious questions. Another one that will surely get vetted is saying you’re a billion dollar producer- this one always gets a headline. And even bigger than that one (because folks really are desperate for affirmation of their endless blogging) does all this really work. Obviously you hit the nail on the head. At the tradeshow I mentioned yesterday in a class on blogging that very question was asked every way from sunday in different ways and the answer was no, there are no real stats yet. So to say you are getting leads will obviously perk the interest of onlookers. My thoughts are none of this was personal, it just sort of got that way very quickly and that is unfortunate.

  6. B. R.

    August 10, 2007 at 11:59 am

    By the way, you mentioned your site has refering urls, if you really want vendication, maybe posting your last 90 days would demonstrate your point to doubters. I dont think you have to, but if not for vindication, I think many would enjoy some real numbers on what a blog can do, especially one that is well over a year old. As I said, there are no real stats on how well blogging can work. You could be the first. I also think you would agree it would be a healthy conversation and turn this into a more constructive conversation. But I’ll leave that up to you- we weren’t at inman so we weren’t privy to what has been seen already. But I’ll leave that to you, maybe a Sunday read on your own blog.

  7. Laurie Manny

    August 10, 2007 at 1:33 pm


    I have shared samples of the back end of my website with anyone who was interested at Inman and several people in the blog-o-sphere. I will not be posting my back end results for the entire world to see, anymore than any of you have.

    How about some of the rest of you out there start posting some of your traffic results? I didn’t know that mine were considered high. I could use a morale boost right about now.

    There are posts today all over the internet, just coming short of calling me, Brian and my provider liars. I realize that you have not done that here, which is the only reason I am still communicating at all.

    Brian and I just finished up a conversation. We are done. When the industry turns on the very success it has been waiting for it is dooming itself to failure.

    The traffic on Brian’s blog is over 5 x’s what it was before he met me. Perhaps if you are nice to him, he might be inclined to share how he did that in the last couple of months.

    Nobody will be able to blame rsspieces for that. He did that doing the things I suggested to his blog and his posts.

    Anyone want to take a ride?

  8. Laurie Manny

    August 10, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Oh, by the way, my blog is not a year old. It was born January 29, 2007

  9. Todd Carpenter

    August 10, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Laurie showed me her back end system. I talked to John McKnight, did some math, and have come to the conclusion that Laurie does indeed get thousands of visitors every day.

  10. B. R.

    August 10, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    My mistake- I misread somewhere in the millions of words. But I can tell you, I could care less what my national stats are, blogging for money isn’t that attractive. My hyper local results are great which is why I invest much time in conversion but more for content, because I really feel like content almost insures return. I never really cared much for the entire conversation at all on BHB, I wanted to answer Brian because I have a lot of respect for him both personally and professionally and he deserved an answer, but there was no way I was adding fuel to that fire, especially realizing folks we know are sincere were under flame. We took a step back because it was obvious Lani stepped into a blog that could have used a little more foundation as to the who was in question. Lani was right in saying there are many ways of looking at a lead. To me, a lead is any person I can say hello to and plant a seed. That is the business in a nutshell. So traffic matters. As for other folks defination, a lead begins only at service, I disagree with that, and not only do I disagree with it, I think the word lead is disgusting.

    Someone asked me yesterday at the conference how I make time to blog. I answered that to blog is an appointment with a client, and that time slot should be as guarded as a seller or a buyer in front of you. I advised her to blog from her heart, who she is and provide exceptional solutions, thoughts, and exciting personality and soon enough the return will come. Waiting on a comment on a hyper local blog is like watching paint dry, but I know when Im speaking to my buyers and sellers over coffee what they say, and when they bring up a comment on the blog, that is my boost, that is my happy moment. Do I neglect realtor genius? sure I do, because I would end a conversation with my peers in a minute to go to work for a buyer or seller. I really do hope that folks can take the information youve provided and turn it into a howto. Our traffic is exceptional, I have no issues and not actively seeking advice, but after hearing those in the class yesterday, there is a hunger for it and a void for you to step in and fill, if you want too.

    As for RSSPieces. I don’t really care, they’re a business, they create some nice html, they blog what they preach so I really have no issue with them at all.

    Laurie, you are not on trial, everyone seems so tense lately, I know it isn’t you.

  11. Kris Berg

    August 11, 2007 at 8:31 am

    No drama here, just an honest question, since I am an SEO-tard. My counter service gives stats on “visitor sessions”, which is very different from “hits” or “page views”, yes? This may explain why I am feeling like a total failure in the numbers game. (This, and the fact that I very well may be). Also, is it true that my counter does not pick up feed reader readers?

  12. B. R.

    August 11, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Yes, it is true, feed readers (and I know your site has a lot of national traffic as I for one read you by feeder) do not mark any sort of impression or so-called hits to the site itself unless they come and comment.

    As for a session- your website does not always count each page as a user uses the site or re-mark the same ip numerous times. So when it collects the user ip your site begins a session. This variable times out at 30 minutes of no activity (normally). So what you will want are reasonably high averages or improving averages.

    When I log onto your site today, your site will say good morning Benns ip address, and I will begin browsing- the session begins. As I browse the pages my session is running as begin reading the 45 minute long post complete with comments.

    So with that example, so long as you see your averages improving, good for you. One can help the session times by writing quippy reads that force the user to click comments more often etc… This would not be a cheat, this is just letting your system know that the user still has a pulse.

    As for content of sites with no blog, this is a great way to know if your content is really supporting the type of marketing you are driving to it. Target market – draw reader – if content supports it your average will be high.

    This is why our national blog is no where listed near our hyperlocal site- I really want to know if the bread is getting buttered so to speak and sessions help us to know if users are happy.


    anyone else, feel free to chime in, I am not afraid to stand corrected!

  13. Kris Berg

    August 11, 2007 at 10:34 am

    That’s encouraging (I think). Since my “national traffic” (which by all estimation consists of… You :)) is typically not representied in my visitor numbers, that would suggest that I am getting a more than a fair number of the other kind. Now, off to work. I’ve got some sellers and buyers to tend to this morning.

  14. Jay Thompson

    August 11, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Laurie (and others) –

    Lot of people “publish” their stats to the world….

    You can see visitor stats and trends from many real estate blogs at:

    Topsites seems (for me) to count about 10% lower than Google Analytics. But every stat counter counts differently.

    Personally, I’ve given up counting hits, page views, unique visits, etc. Better to count how many times the phone rings or an email come in. Those numbers are far lower than visits, but far more meaningful…

    About the only thing I look at in my stats packages are trends over time. I hope to see traffic increasing over time (which it generally does).

  15. Mark

    August 12, 2007 at 2:36 am

    I have been facing the problem of geninity of statistics. I use the stat reports to make deals for advertisements on my side.
    Recently I have started using as a tool. The reports by them are considered genuine by most of the advertisers. I did not know this but do know now.

  16. B. R.

    August 15, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Jay, I found you in the spam catcher, what gives! you spammer!

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