Maybe you’ve finally decided to make this photography thing official, and you need a more professional web presence than your current Flickr gallery. Maybe you’re undergoing a complete rebranding, with a snazzy new website to boot. Or maybe you like your current site just fine, but feel like you’re permanently buried on page 2947 of Google.
Whatever the reason, the day will inevitably come when you have to get in touch with your inner web designer and build a site that inspires clients to connect with you. Of course, the easiest and most effective solution is to hire an actual web designer. But -- much like professional photographers -- good web designers don’t come cheap, and you may have to wait a year or two before your biz can afford a professional redesign. Until then, you’ll likely have to take matters into your own hands. Luckily, even the biggest HTML-phobe can put together a simple, clean website that draws clients in and ranks respectably on Google. Here are a few tips to help you hang your online shingle.
1. Start with the basics.
When prospective clients visit your website, they should be able to find your company name, your tagline or specialty, AND YOUR LOCATION. Yeah, we just shouted that. You wouldn’t believe how many photographers forget to include their location on their website. Just about every client will include their location in their search, so for SEO’s sake, don’t hide your hometown pride. Let people know where you’re based and how far you’re willing to travel, whether it’s 20 miles or across the globe. Include it in the intro on your homepage, in your “about me,” on your contact page, in your blog post titles, and in your photo tags. It’s a crucial keyword.
2. Make it easy.
Fancy is nice, but functional is more important. Want an easy way to find out if your site is user-friendly? Ask your parents to poke around for a few minutes. Did they have any trouble browsing your portfolio? Were they able to find your packages? (Hint: Every photographer knows that “investment” is a code word for “pricing,” but clients may not realize that.) Did they accidentally click away from your page at any point? Could they figure out how to contact you? Did they see your most recent blog post? Sending someone not-so-tech-savvy to your site is a great way to find out how easy it is to navigate.
3. Make yourself accessible.
Visitors should be able to learn about you, get a feel for your style, and have an easy way to contact you. So make sure your About Me page is polished. Make it easy to find your portfolio. Be effusive on your pricing page, so people get excited about their investment. Provide a contact form they can fill out easily -- but also list your phone number and email address in plain text, so they can still reach you if they run into any glitches with the form.
4. Trim the fat.
Your galleries should reflect your absolute best work. So after you’ve loaded them up, send the link to the most brutally honest people you know, and ask them which images they’d eliminate. You have veto power if there’s an image you can’t bear to scrap, but be open to reassessing your second faves based on their opinions. Weed out anything lackluster -- it’s better to have ten phenomenal images in a gallery than 30 hit-or-miss images.
5. Freshen up.
What if, every time you walked into your favorite clothing store, they had the exact same stuff on display? You’d probably stop going. Likewise, you should never consider your website done. Keep it updated. Post regularly on your blog -- all the SEO “tricks” in the world won’t help you as much as having useful content that’s updated on a regular basis. If you have awesome products to offer, take gorgeous product shots and share them on your pricing page. (The Design Aglow Studio Look Book can help you build a custom catalog quickly, and the deluxe version even includes professionally photographed product images.)
6. Determine your most effective keywords.
To put it simply, keywords are the terms people use when they’re searching for a website. They’re the foundation for killer SEO. There’s more to know about keyword research than we could possibly squeeze into this paragraph, but for now, here are two essential things you can do to make your site easier to find in a search engine:
• Use Google Analytics (or any similar software) to find out what search terms have been leading people to your website. Keep using those terms, since they’re already working for you.
• Use “long-tail” SEO to establish yourself in a niche market by using narrower search terms. Basically, it’s a “big fish in a small pond” concept -- there’s less competition, and it’s more likely that the person searching is looking for someone like you. A search for “NYC photographer” turns up more than 50 million results; a search for “Inwood wedding photographer” cuts that down to just over 500,000 results. Just by specifying a neighborhood and specialty, you’ve knocked out 99% of the search results. Tag your posts with specific locations, your specialty, and the venue where the session took place. (After all, it’s a lot easier to make a bride fall in love with your work if her first impression is an amazing wedding you’ve already shot at her venue!)
7. Still stumped? Simplify the process.
If all this talk of functionality and SEO and product pages has you feeling overwhelmed, consider an easy-peasy software that walks you through the process. We’re big fans of Squarespace, which lets you build a complete website from the ground up -- including e-commerce, SEO, mobile display optimization, and all the annoying stuff you’d rather not think about -- for an astonishingly low monthly fee. They offer a 14-day free trial so you can experiment before you commit. Click here to check it out.
Remember, your website is your storefront on the web. (And for many of us, it’s our storefront, period.) Make sure it’s clean, updated, inviting, and true to your style.
Need some more resources for sprucing up your blog? See all of our Web & Blog Marketing Tools here!