Sunday, January 24, 2010

South Shore Bird Club- I'm a Member!

On the advice of my neighbor John (Bird Man of Bridgewater) I recently joined the South Shore Bird Club. I attended their annual member's dinner last night, held in Norwell.

It was a lot of fun to meet other South Shore birders, and it was certainly inspiring to watch the slide shows of the pros.

There was a short presentation from Joan Walsh, Coordinator of the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2, and I have to say her speech was motivating- I would love to participate and help them finish the breeding atlas. I'd definitely need to go out with a pro and have some coaching on how to look for breeding behavior, but the biggies (like if they're carrying sticks/nesting material, and obviously if you see them going back and forth to their nest) I think I've got down.

Has anyone participated in a breeding atlas before?

Friday, January 22, 2010

SEO Tips for Birders- Image Optimization

This week's SEO tip for Birders (image optimization) is an important one since most bird bloggers like to post pictures of their sightings.

Many of you have noticed that when you search on a bird species there are image results blended in with the rest of your search engine results.
Example of bird species image results:

SEO Tip for Birders: Optimize your images for bird species names.

Bird Blogger Image Optimization Tips:

Always use the species name in your image file name- do this when you are reviewing and editing your digital images for your blog post. To rename a file simply right-click on it in the folder and choose "Rename." If you have multiple images of the same species use a - (hyphen) or a _ (underscore) to add a numeral to the end.

For example: female+common+yellowthroat.bmp and female+common+yellowthroat_2.bmp

If you are unsure of the exact species name then get as close as possible- "sparrow.jpg" Every little bit helps when it comes to SEO!

•Include captions or descriptive text- As a best practice I try to precede images with the species name:

That way they get indexed nicely in the image search engines:

Use smaller images for optimal download times- If you have lots of huge images on your blog, these will take a long time to load, which will make the entire page load slowly. Page load time is one of the factors search engine ranking algorithm take into account, so this could hurt your chances of showing at the top of results.

My solution? When I import images I usually go with Blogger's "medium" size. That way my pages will load quickly, and users interested in seeing the larger version can click on the image to view the enlarged (full-page) view.**

•Include keywords in the Alt Attributes (sometimes mistakenly referred to as "ALT tags")- ALT attributes are meant to help users who are having trouble viewing pictures since the image is replaced with text. You can view ALT attributes by mousing-over an image when you are on a website.

Here is an example of an image with an optimized ALT attribute on the 10,000 Birds website:

If you don't see anything, then the image does not have its ALT attribute optimized. Some content management systems will automatically optimize the ALT attributes, so if yours does great! If not (which I just realized is the case with Blogger), there is a way to do it manually by editing the code, but it's probably more effort than its worth.

In my opinion it's a nice-to-have, but if you're also optimizing the image file name and are using good captions immediately before the image you don't need to optimize the ALT attribute. If you want that extra search engine ranking boost- go for it. Email me of you would like more information about how to do it manually.

**Important note about including enlarged pictures in Blogger- my friend Larry from the Brownstone Birding Blog was the first to point out to me that in blogger when you add a picture and drag it to the point in the post you want it to appear, it loses its hyperlink to the enlarged view. That's why when you first import it you have to click on the hyperlink button, copy the URL for the enlarged picture, move it, then click the hyperlink button again to paste and add the hyperlink back in.

Next week's SEO Tip for Birders will be about external linking.

Friday, January 15, 2010

SEO Tips for Birders- Keyword Research

In my last post I covered the titles of your blog posts and how you should include the most important words at the beginning of your titles. However, I didn't mention how to determine what the most important words should be. That brings us to my next SEO Tip for Birders- keyword research.

SEO Tip for Birders: When doing keyword research identify words that a lot of people are searching for, but that you also have a chance of showing up on- it's a fine balance.

There are many ways to generate ideas for your primary keyword phrase (the word/phrase you want to put at the beginning of your blog post title, and include in the body of your post), and your secondary keyword phrases (related terms that should be sprinkled throughout your blog post).

Here are just a few ways to generate ideas for your targeted keyword phrases:

1. Your content: If you have a picture of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker then by all means choose it as your primary keyword phrase! In addition to the names of rare species, popular birding spots, birding clubs, and "celebrity" birder encounters all make for good primary and secondary keyword phrases.


2. Bird news: Subscribe to RSS feeds for bird-focused blogs and websites, follow birders on Twitter and ChirpTracker, and generally be on the lookout for bird-centric content in mainstream news outlets. I'm fortunate that my daily paper, The Cape Cod Times, has a dedicated bird columnist, Vernon Laux, and bird-centric stories outside of his regular column often make it into the paper. Join the Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp group to connect with other birders active in the Web 2.0 community.

Source: Dawn Fine-

3. Keyword Suggestion Tools: There are many free SEO tools available online, including keyword research tools. Use keyword suggestion tools to explore a bird topic you're interested in blogging about. Tools like the Google Keyword Tool can generate ideas based off a single topic or a URL. Since birding is a very specific hobby, consider using a niche keyword tool like WordStream's Keyword Niche Finder. Simply type in a broad term like "woodpeckers" and the tool will suggest various "niches" and topic areas to explore.

So if the first phase of keyword research is generating ideas, the second phase should be vetting your keyword ideas, since you're likely to have a huge list at the end of your research. To do this:

1. Get the estimated search volume for the keywords you are considering. If you've been using a keyword suggestion tool you should already have this information. Sort the list from highest to lowest volume keyword phrases. This way you can focus your efforts on the what people are searching for the most.

2. Even better, search trends for the topics you're exploring. Google Trends, and Bing xRank will help you catch a topic while it's hot and lots of people are searching for it.

3. Scan the list for topic ideas that make sense for you and check out the search engine results. Use the major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! to evaluate the number of results returned for a keyword phrase (the higher the number, the less chance you have of showing up on it), and also what sites show up on the first page of search engine results (sites like Wikipedia,, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology make for stiff competition).

4. Pick your primary keyword phrase (to go at the beginning of your blog post title). If the competition for a keyword phrase is too great, get creative! Say you checked out "downy woodpecker" in the major search engines and doubt your blog will stand a chance. Why not choose "difference between downy woodpecker and hairy woodpecker" for your primary keyword phrase? I did, and I'm ranking above Cornell Lab of Ornithology on that query!

Next week's SEO Tip for Birders will be about image optimization.

Friday, January 8, 2010

SEO Tips for Birders- New Series!

Some of you may already know that I work in Search Engine Marketing. I shared a few tips when I met up with the BwBTC (Birders who Blog, Tweet, Chirp) group this past summer, but I thought it might be nice to reach out to the rest of my readers, and make it a regular occurrence. I'll be sharing one SEO tip, customized for bird bloggers, each Friday.

Some of you may be wondering, "What is SEO in the first place?" SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Other names for it are Natural Search or Organic Search. This is to differentiate it from Paid Search, also called PPC (pay per click) or SEM (search engine marketing).

SEO is the practice of crafting your content (in our case our bird blog posts) so that it shows up at the top of search engine results. And most importantly, so that you are showing up on the keyword phrases (things like "peregrine falcon pictures" "binocular buying tips," etc.) that you want to be found on.

The first tip I want to share is also the most important! I thought I'd start with the good stuff first to entice you :)

SEO Tip for Birders: Put the most important words at the beginning of your blog post title.

Why? Search engines will consider this your "primary" keyword phrase and therefore; the main topic of your blog post. It will appear in the URL of your blog post, which is crucial to showing at the top of search engine results.

Take a look at some of my blog posts for examples of how this is done. You'll notice that I'll often lead with the bird species name or the topic that I want to be found on in my blog post titles. You'll also notice when you hover over my blog post links the primary keyword phrase appears in the URL.

Stay tuned for my next tip, which will be about choosing the right words and phrases to target in your bird blog posts.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Carolina Wren Pictures- Bridgewater Snow Day!

I was so happy to be home this past weekend so I could do some backyard birding, and count birds for Project Feederwatch. Actually, I recently connected with another Bridgewater birder, the "Bird Man of Bridgewater," who also took pictures in the snow over the weekend. John is good at identifying the gender of birds in his pictures, something I blogged about last spring.

I love this picture- I'm excited to have my very own picture of a Carolina Wren at a suet feeder. It's such a common picture for carolina wrens, and I'm glad this guy came around on Saturday to pose for me. This suet actually was a Christmas gift from my mom- it's a Berry blend and the birds love it.

Carolina Wren and Downy Woodpecker:

On a related note- not sure how to tell the difference between a Downy Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker? I wrote a post about it nearly a year ago.

Red-bellied Woodpecker:

Winter Goldfinch:
Dark-eyed Junco (I like how you can see the darker feathers with its neck stretched):

Dark-eyed Junco (tossing up the snow!):

Northern Cardinal:

The birds love to hang out on our grape arbor. Especially in the morning- it's the first spot in the yard to get direct sunlight.

I thought this would be a nice closing pic since it's so sharp, you can see the falling snow, and there are so many birds visible in the shot.

Purple Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Carolina Wren:

Dark-eyed Junco Pictures

You can tell where I get my love of birding- my mom always takes good care of her backyard birds. You can see how she sprinkles bird seed on top of the snow for ground foraging birds like dark-eyed juncos.

These pictures were taken Christmas Day. I didn't need a bird blind- I just had to open a 2nd-floor window and my zoom lens did the rest of the work.

Dark-eyed Junco (with a mouthful of black-oil sunflower seed):

Song Sparrow:

There were also lots of black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, and northern cardinals. Great backyard birdwatching and great holiday! It was so nice to have some days off and spend time with my family.