How to Master Your Online Marketing Strategy (Plus 10 SEO Need-to-Knows)
June 24, 2014
We’ve all heard terms like “paid placement” and “SEO strategy” bandied about, but what do they really mean for your photography business and how can you put them into practice?
Photographer and online expert Rob Greer breaks down the basics of good online marketing and explains how to put them into practice today.
Because of his venue-centric search engine marketing, this engagement photo was discovered by a reporter who interviewed Greer for a story in the local newspaper. “SEO is the gift that keeps on giving,” says the photographer.
There’s no perfect strategy for online customer acquisition, but in this article—as in my seminars—I teach photographers to use a blended approach.
Effective online marketing starts with fully understanding your customer; take a moment and jot down the information you know about your last five clients. Does it match what you want to see in your next five clients? What about the clients you hope to work with next year? Examine client demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, profession and income) as well as psychographic characteristics (interests, behaviors, attitudes, values, esthetics and lifestyles). This allows you to develop a granular and customer-focused marketing message.
Think about where you want to be and start moving your online marketing efforts in that direction. What I’ve found to be most successful is a formula that includes social media, paid placement, publishing buzz, search engine optimization, mobile optimization and proper presentation.
Social Media Basics
Even if you’re not a fan of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, many of your customers are, and the most basic level of engagement starts with social media. (Other photographers explain how this works for them in "How to Convert Instagram Followers into Dollars.")
When you post a photo to your wall or feed, always include a link to your website. Make sure the photo is “public” if you’re posting to your own private Facebook page. For apps that don’t support live URLs in the comments—such as Instagram—include the suggestion: “Check out the link in my profile for more info!” You can’t assume that potential customers will actively look for your website, so make it easy for them.
Also, in the photo’s description, ask your clients and everyone viewing it to tag their friends. You’ll see an exponential increase in interaction for that photo than if you didn’t suggest tagging. With those tags, your photos will show up in friends of friends’ feeds, even if they’re not directly connected to you, which can mean greater exposure for your studio. I’ve booked several large jobs because a friend of a friend saw a sneak peek photo I had posted to my personal Facebook wall.
Finally, make sure that you include a watermark on every photograph on your website, on social media and on your blog. If your photos are ever widely shared, your watermark can point to your website—even if there’s no direct URL link from the shared image. Adding a watermark also adds legal protection to your work beyond the basic protections afforded by copyright.
There are various online outlets for placing yourself where potential clients will see you. Although paid advertising requires capital upfront, if you examine your man-hour costs related to generating traffic in other ways, it’s often more cost effective.
First, check out online directories; for wedding photographers, advertising in popular paid directories such as The Knot and WeddingWire is one of the best ways to receive maximum website exposure. If you’re considering advertising on either site, purchase a featured listing, which showcases photographers on the first page of search results, and thus garners you the lion’s share of customer exposure.
A photo featured in a Lawn & Landscape magazine cover story. The photo editor found Rob Greer by searching Google for “Los Angeles Photographer.” “My website was listed on the first page of search results, and that was enough to get her to call and book my services,” Greer says.
Social media sites also offer effective methods that can help you acquire valuable website traffic. With just a few clicks of your mouse, you can create a highly targeted Facebook advertisement that is only shown to the users meeting your specifications. For example, it’s quite easy to create an ad that is only visible to engaged female users who are between the ages of 25 and 30, who live within a certain radius of your zip code and who are also fans of Beyoncé. With proper research and testing, and by using varied demographic and psychographic information, you can fine-tune your advertising to the point where it will yield amazing results.
All search engines also offer paid placement advertising. For example, with Google AdWords, you can bid on popular keywords and phrases. Operating like an auction, if you have one of the highest bids, then your clickable advertisement is shown in Google’s search results right next to the organic search results. But, before you set aside a budget and start experimenting with keyword advertising, use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to do your homework. Make sure that you’re using science rather than guesswork when you start bidding on your favorite keywords.
If you’re interested in a strategy that involves minimal monetary investment, receiving recognition for your photography can also generate significant website traffic. One way to receive targeted traffic is by getting published on wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty, Wedding Chicks or Offbeat Bride. Two Bright Lights is a great portal that wedding blog editors use to find photographs to use on their sites. In exchange for the use of your photos, blogs provide valuable backlinks to your website.
Website popularity can be a great indicator for search engines like Google. Greer’s weddings site saw a big surge in traffic after his engagement album was awarded First Place in this year’s 16x20 WPPI Print, Album and Filmmaking Competition.
Likewise, for the small cost of an entry fee, receiving awards and recognition from well-respected sources like Fearless Photographers or Junebug Weddings’ “Best of the Best” creates long-standing links that last for years.
Search Engine Optimization
Although search engine optimization (SEO) is often thought of as the best place to start with online marketing, SEO has become one of the most challenging ways to market your website. In fact, it’s so difficult that photographers looking for short-term results should first explore other marketing methods before spending much time and effort on SEO. That being said, if you’re moving forward with SEO, some of the factors you may not have considered include content, website speed and mobile accessibility.
As search engines become more sophisticated at recognizing and understanding text, content has become one the most important ranking factors. It’s crucial to create quality content that is compelling, fresh, interesting, lengthy and—most importantly—unique.
In order to achieve the best possible results, you should strive to include a minimum of 200 words per page, with 500 words being a better target. And if you really want to grab attention, create pages with 2,000 or more words of original content. Simply said, if you’re sharing lengthy information that is valuable and unique, Google will often rank your pages higher than similar pages featuring less content.
Search engines also track dozens of factors that are directly related to website speed. Put simply, faster websites will often rank higher than slower sites. Did you know that 47 percent of consumers expect a website to load in under two seconds and 40 percent will abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load? Use Google PageSpeed or Pingdom’s Speed Test to check your own website.
Make Sure You’re Mobile
Mobile compatibility is more than just a nice-to-have option for websites—it’s tied to search results and placement. Search results for phone and tablet users actually take into account whether or not a website is optimized for mobile devices. Photographers can now expect 20 to 30 percent of their website traffic to originate from mobile devices, so if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s time to rethink it. This online marketing consideration can’t be overemphasized.
For all of your social media outlets and portfolio, make sure to present yourself in the best light. Use profile photos that stand out (striking colors typically work best).
Finally, when visitors click through to your site, make sure that they’re immediately wowed with amazing photos presented on a modern website. Although portfolio presentation warrants its own article, some providers to check out include 4ormat, Good Gallery, SmugMug, Squarespace and Zenfolio.
10 SEO Need-to-Knows
1. Google uses more than 200 different factors to determine your search engine ranking and position.
2. The page title is the single most important factor in SEO. Choose wisely.
3. Google knows how long it takes your website to load and gives precedence to faster websites.
4. A hugely important SEO factor is the number and quality of websites linking to your website.
5. Only use a keyword two or three times on any single page. Avoid unnatural repetition.
6. The amount of content on every page matters. Don't create pages featuring thin content.
7. 30 percent of all website traffic comes from mobile devices. Google prefers mobile-optimized websites.
8. Establish credibility with search engines by providing a physical address on your contact page.
9. Don't create duplicate page titles or textual content. Google doesn't like duplicate content.
10. Search engines change algorithms daily. What works today may not work tomorrow.
Rob Greer specializes in wedding, portrait and product photography. Based in L.A., he is also the founder and managing director of Good Gallery, a company that makes better websites for photographers.