I got to speak this weekend at WordCamp San Diego. WordCamp is a big geekfest for WordPress developers. They’re put on in different cities around the world, and all kinds of topics are covered: design, technical development, business related, and just about any other aspect of using or running WordPress.
I’ve been wanting to discuss the benefits of establishing a business that is focussed on a certain niche since our work here at Flaunt Your Site is predominantly Photographer focused. When I discovered they had included a “Lightning Round” with 5 minute micro-topics, I jumped at the chance to get up there and blurt out what I could.
I talked to a few people afterwards and it seems it was pretty well received. I don’t know if the lightning round will make it to a video format like the other speakers, but here are my slides below.
There’s a misconception that gets around quite a bit in the photographic industry. And that’s that having your blog posts display on the front page of your website is better than having a static page. And I’d like to de-bunk that myth for you today.
Why is it a popular idea?
The whole idea about putting your blog on the front page of your site came about from three pieces of information:
- Blogs naturally attracted lots of search traffic do to it being based in actual text for content.
- Most photographers were using a Flash based solution for their main website.
- Google loves sites with fresh content. (Another myth, actually).
Based on this information, I could see why people would be flocking to move their blog to the front page. And your blog outperforming your Flash website would be cause for celebration. But, hey I could get an 6th grader to create a website that will outrank a Flash site.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that when you have your blog on your main page, it becomes more challenging to rank for one specific keyword. As I mentioned in an earlier post, you want to limit the keywords your targeting to one or two per page. This makes it easier to optimize that particular page.
But when you keep your blog posts on the main page, you get a mish-mosh of keywords coming through. One week it could be about weddings, the next about a high school senior you photographed.
With the blog on the front page, the content becomes volatile and you have no way to optimize it. You know the “O” in “SEO.”
Also from a site design/user experience, your users become lost all of a sudden. Your main page should help them find what it is they want to find, and a long stream of photos don’t do that.
And… I bet you have a solution, Mister Smarty Pants?
As a matter of fact… Yes!
Make your main page, a page that really helps your clients find out what they need, or what you would like them to do. Keep it simple and the hub for everything they can get from your business. Remember, for most, it will be their first impression of you and your business, so how would you like that experience to go?
Remember to think of your client first. SEO second.
That said, your front page will always rank better for the keywords you want to rank for because of the consistency. If your keywords never change or fall of the page, you will firmly establish that page as the page that Google wants to serve up to people looking for that term.
In a very special Friday edition of the Flaunt Your Site Blog, we’re going to do some video! We wanted to talk about Call To Actions for your photography blogs and what are good call to actions and what aren’t.
So we’ve enlisted some very brave participants to share their sites and take part in the critique.
So without further ado.
Tips to remember when crafting your Call To Actions:
- Have strong call to actions. “Look at my Portfolio” is not a strong call to action. After an emotional blog post, you want to leverage that and have them contact you to book a wedding or portrait session.
- Keep your call to actions uncluttered. Don’t distract people with other things on your site. Make every inch of your website earn it’s keep.
- Remove barriers. Make it easy for people to contact you.
- Use a contact form on a separate page. Don’t use Ajax dropdown contact forms, they can’t easily be tracked in Analytics.
- Test how well they work and modify if needed. Have a separate Book Me page, and see how many views it gets over 6 months to see if you’re call to action is working.
I hope that this was helpful for everyone. Please let us know in the comments below.
Photo Credit Lucas Cobb
Dec 6th – 2:30am PST
I’m about to call it a night. But I just saw a couple tweets between Lead WordPress Developers Mark Jaquith and Andrew Nacin that they just made there December 5th deadline for the much awaited WordPress 3.5. That was Hawaii time apparently
The new version hasn’t been pushed out yet. I guess there’s a whole behind the scenes thing that I don’t know about (maybe I’ll learn that process some day). I expect all of our Admin areas to have a bright blue Update button when we all wake up in the morning.
I know, I know, I’m a total dork. I’m sure it sounds like I’m reporting the preparation for the first Apollo mission back in the 60′s. But this release does have me feeling a bit like I’m 8 years old on Christmas Eve. And tomorrow when I wake up, I get to download, er I mean unwrap a present that I’ve been waiting months to get.
Sadly… There are some less fortunate little boys and girls that don’t get to experience this Christmas joy for quite some time. Those little boys and girls are the professional photographers that use the ProPhoto theme. On a statement on their blog NetRivets indicated that they would not be making their theme compatible with WordPress 3.5′s radical new media uploader. You will be able to upgrade, but they will prevent the new Media Uploader from working, leaving you with the old one and those itty bitty thumbnails.
Yes… it’s true (not really). ProPhoto killed Santa. (Pure speculation – I have no proof).
Why Lord? Why is ProPhoto killing Santa?!?!?!
Oh… I know. I’m being a wee bit dramatic.
But here’s the thing. ProPhoto does quite a bit to lock down key functionalities of WordPress in order to control things their own way. It’s supposed to be a theme that you place on top of WordPress, but it’s not a theme, it’s a framework with it’s own agenda. You know when Loki turns Hawkeye into a bad guy in The Avengers? Yeah… It’s kinda like that. It won’t let you create Custom Page templates, you can’t use WordPress’s beautiful menu system, and now worst of all, for many photographers that would LOVE to use the new system, they won’t release the strangle hold they have on WordPress.
They’re even bold enough to say that they are “the most well-respected photo blogging tool in the industry.”
No You’re Not. WordPress is!
At this point, I’d drop the mic and walk off stage, but there’s a dilemma for those that use ProPhoto and have that Siren sweetly singing to them to press Update to 3.5 in the Admin area of their WordPress sites. Do you upgrade?
Aside from the Media Uploader tool, a lot of what was worked on were enhancements to the behind the scenes stuff. If you have a Retina MacBook, the Admin area is designed to look good (I haven’t seen this in use), and if you use Multisite it’s easier to use subdomains (although I highly doubt many ProPhoto users use multisite).
The backend enhancements were things like upgrading jQuery, and other external scripting libraries, which could have a significant impact on ProPhoto. With all these changes taking place, I would be willing to put some money down on ProPhoto having to scramble to release a fix for people that want to use 3.5 in the next couple weeks. This happened when 3.1 (or 3.2) came out, and I expect it to happen again this time around.
So… My dear unfortunate ProPhoto users,
My verdict… Don’t Upgrade Yet.
Wait a few weeks… Keep an ear out for what other early adopters are saying. Then when ProPhoto releases their patches, go for it. It’s always important to stay up to date with WordPress. But when you use a third party solution like ProPhoto, it’s even more important that they work together.
Update Dec 6 – 2:00pm
Just a heads up for those looking in their Admin area. It looks like there were a few bugs left to squash. I’m keeping up with the updates from the Development Team as they come through on Twitter, and will post again when 3.5 goes live.
Photo Credit Michael Connell under Creative Commons license.http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdconnell/4843035847/
I know you’ve been working hard on getting your photos ready, culled them down from the 3,000 you took at the wedding, to the 40 you’re going to put up on your blog post and have the world see. You’ve spent a little extra time in Photoshop cleaning up the files to be portfolio worthy, you’ve added Alt Text to each one, wrote a great story about the Bride and Groom with excellent keywords and you’ve got the Yoast SEO plugin filled out with a good Title Tag and description. You’re so proud of yourself… You hit Publish, throw up a link on Facebook, and call it a night ’cause it’s 1AM and you just finished it.
Whoa, What time is it???
The time of day you publish makes a difference?
Yes. It really does. When you posted that blog post you were so proud of, who did you think would see it at 1AM? Sure the Aussies are up, but are they your clients? Are the people that read and follow your blog up? I highly doubt it.
So… When is the best time to post to get the most traffic?
How to find the right time to post
You can listen to what all the “experts” say, but why not find out what works best for yourself? It’s not that hard. I’ll show you how, and it will only take a few minutes. It’ll be cool too.
Step 1. Log in to your Google Analytics account. (Don’t have one? Bad dog! You totally should go sign up right now).
Step 2. Select a date range like 3-6 months.
Step 3. Go to the Custom Reports tab (don’t be scared).
Step 4. Create a New Custom Report.
Step 5. Use the settings in the graphic below to fill out the new Custom Report.
Step 6. Hit save, and you’ll be presented with a breakdown to the most popular times for your website. The breakdown is in 24 hour time, so 1, 2 and 3 PM, are 13, 14, 15 respectively. In my report you can see that Flaunt Your Site’s most popular times are 11am, 1pm, and 12pm meaning that most people are on this site around mid-day, local time. Your results may vary.
OK, now you know what time to post. But did you know you can find out the same thing for the best Day to post???
Yep… You can. Guess what you need to do? That’s right, make another Custom Report. Repeat Steps 1-4, then use Day of Week instead of Hour. See below.
Once you’ve saved it, you’ll see something like this:
As you can see, it just uses numbers to represent the Days of the Week. 0 is Sunday, and 6 is Saturday. And in this graph you can see that over the last 6 months, Monday and Tuesday have been the best days for traffic for Flaunt Your Site.
Announce it! Schedule an announcement!
Schedule your posts silly! In WordPress you can actually schedule your posts to go out at a specified time. In my case, if I were posting once a week, I would chose Monday or Tuesday at 11AM to schedule my posts to get the most traffic and readers.
Schedule it in Facebook too! If you have a Facebook Fan/Business Page, you can actually schedule the time you want your status announcing the blog post you worked so hard on.
Poor Google Plus
Unfortunately, there is not a way to currently to schedule your G+ status updates. Keep crossing your fingers though. That place keeps getting cooler every couple months. Wait… I just found a Chrome Extension called Do Share. This extension is supposed to schedule your Google Plus statuses for you. I’ll test it out with this post, and provide an update to my experience with it.
What are your peak hours and days?
Now that you’ve gone through the SUPER EASY experience of finding out what your peak times are, why don’t you share with everyone else in the comments when you get the most traffic? Who knows maybe we’ll all find out that it’s the same for all of us, or maybe we’ll find out that every site is slightly unique… But you would never know had you not checked it out for yourself now, hmmm?
Also let me know if you are interested in posts like these. I’m a metric geek. Some might not be. I’d like your opinions.
In yesterday’s blog post I snuck a Pixies reference in there and asked people to see if they could find it. The first person that could would get a link in today’s blog post. Brian Kraft, a Wedding Photographer from Denver came through pretty quick with the answer (It was Paco Pico Piedra from the song Crackity Jones). Maybe I should do that in every post…
Not only is he getting a link, but I asked him if he had a request for a blog topic. Sure enough he did, and that will be today’s topic.
Stop it, seriously!
What Brian was asking about was keyword content on blogs and how having that on many pages sitewide impacted your rankings. And the simple answer is that the more keywords you have on your site doesn’t make your site any stronger than anyone else’s.
See the issue is that SEO is a Per Page phenomenon, not a Site Wide phenomenon. And the more you stuff your blog posts with useless keywords, the more diservice you do to finding unique opportunities. You know the “Your City Wedding Photographer” that you put in every post? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
So what’s the solution, you ask?
Well the first step is to really get the Per Page part of SEO. And to do that, you have to be willing to select one page to be your “Your City Wedding Photographer” page. Usually just one page will rank for a big keyword term like that anyways (and those types of pages often need many links to compete with others), so you want to chose one page and optimize that page very well to get it to be the one that ranks.
OK… So what to do with my blog posts then?
Well, blog posts are a great opportunity to diversify the keywords that you have across your website, increasing the volume of traffic you get from Search Traffic. So instead of using the big head terms, look for unique opportunities that people aren’t taking advantage of… Locations, Venues, Vendors, something unique about the shoot; You did a Walking Dead styled family portrait session? Well talk about it, and make sure you keyword that. There’s got to be someone out there that wants that stuff. And if it’s something you want to do more of, do it full on.
Conclusion, a short and sweet one
Use your blog posts to diversify your links.
Use one page to rank for “Your City Wedding Photographer.”
Building links to your website is an unfortunate necessity in today’s online world. If you’re going to get noticed, it’s crucial to have the web of the world crossing through your little corner where you’re selling your services. Not only do you need those crossroads to have the traffic come to you, but search engines are also dependent on links to determine what the most popular sites are. Obviously the more links to a certain page on the internet, the more likely there will be value provided.
With that thought in mind, I wanted to talk about the different kinds of links and which ones are best for professional photographers. I’ve brainstormed a handfull of different link types and I’ve listed them in order from flaming hot to warm bathtub. (I have left out links that have no value at all. So this blog post never gets chilly).
Getting your work featured on photo blogs are one of the best ways to not only get your work out in front of a larger audience, but also pick up a solid editorial link. Google can determine what part of the site your links are on, and when they’re in the body of the text of the page, as opposed to the footer or the comments section, you’re in much better shape.
With as many wedding blogs that are out there, like Wedding Chicks, Style Me Pretty and Rock N Roll Bride, you can be assured that your style of photography works on one of them.
Industry specific directoriesWedding Wire could be looked at like a dating site where Brides and Wedding Photographers find each other. There are other directories geared towards photo specific industries that do quite a bit to promote the photographers. Wedding Wire does this every year with their Bride’s Choice Awards. Fearless Photographers do their own Fearless Awards each year as well. The links you get from these directories tend to be pretty strong.
Social mediaFacebook is ridiculous, just share your content. You’ll get traffic.
Google Plus is something that people should really begin to think about sharing your blog posts on. It is a Google property, and we have seen that blog posts tend to get indexed quite a bit faster when submitting your content there.If your clientele is fairly techy, Twitter could be a good place to link to your content as well. It’s also a great place to trade jobs with other photographers.
Comments on other blogsComments create a very strong sense of community with other photographers, and at the same time when you leave praise for other people’s photographs, you get a link back to your site. Just a quick reminder… Don’t be spammy, don’t sign your comments as “Santa Cruz Wedding Photographer Paco Paco Picopiedra.” Just use your name and be cool.
Oh, and don’t forget, if you disable No-Follow on your blog comments, make sure you check out the Followed Photography Sites page and add your link there. Bet you weren’t thinking you’d pick up a link when you came to check out this post huh?
Business directories/Yellow PagesThere’s a TON of little Yellow Page type business listings. They help create some credibility for your Google Local Listing. If you can get these for free and not a ton of work, grab em.
Profile pagesAny sites where you’re a member often provide you with a Profile Page. If you’re on Flickr, click on your name and you’ll see you have an area to customize your profile. Add a link there, and you’ll be stylin!
OK, there you have it. Go out and get some links and provide some value to the internets. Leave us some comments if you had some success from our tips.
Have you ever been on someone’s site or blog, and clicked on a link only to find a page that says “Page Not Found – 404 Error”? They’re quite annoying when you bump into them aren’t they? Well, what if I told you that you more than likely have them on your site too? Yep, that’s right, the odds are not in your favor when it comes to 404 errors.
The problem with 404 errors is that it reduces the quality of your site. This is an issue for both:
- The people that visit your site (your potential customers leave when your site when they can’t find what they want)
- and Google (Google rewards sites that are well maintained, if you don’t maintain your sites, your sites will suffer)
Would you like to know how to find and eliminate them? I thought so…
Finding 404 – Page Not Found Errors
In order to find your 404 – Page Not Found errors you’ll want to log in to your Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT for short). If you don’t have GWMT set up, you should (sign up here with your Gmail or Google Apps account. You can read a little bit more about GWMT in our free ebook Photographers Web Marketing E-Book.
Once you’re in GWMT look at the left side and click Health, then Crawl Errors. You’ll see the trend of errors over a few months. It could be growing or shrinking, the goal of course is to shrink them. Here’s a view:
As you can see you can see the current number of Errors, and down below you can see the actual addresses that have the errors so you can find out which ones are the problem. Once you fix them (keep your britches on, we’re getting there in the next session), you can check each one, and click the red “Mark As Fixed” button, and Google will confirm you fixed it, and remove the error.
I would check this every few months to ensure that your website quality is always maintained. You can easily schedule this as a recurring calendar item in Outlook or G-Calendar.
How to Wipe Those Pesky Buggers Out
Now that you’ve got a list of your 404 errors, it’s time to fix them. There are a few reasons why a page might be missing:
- You may have changed the url of a page
- You may have deleted a page that you didn’t need anymore
- You may have deleted a page by accident
- Misspellings (either from you or other people).
- You forgot the “http://” portion of a URL.
Determining what the error is takes a little detective work. But it should be pretty easy to figure out if you know your content.
The Easy Fixes
Easy fixes will be the ones that you obviously misspelled or forgot to put the “http://” in the original linking Page or Post. All you have to do is go into the place that you referenced and fix the URL.
The Not So Easy Fixes
Not so easy fixes are the ones that other people misspelled their links, or you removed content, moved content, etc. Or things that you just can’t figure out why you got a 404 in the first place. What I like to do is use a WordPress plugin called Redirection. Redirection is a great tool that will actually help you when you move content, change addresses of Pages and Posts, or even change your Permalink Structure.
In this case we’re going to manually insert the error URLs and provide new URLs to take the place of the old ones. This creates a 301 redirect which is a server code that tells Google and other computers and servers that the page you are trying to view permanently moved to a new location, and redirects the viewer automatically (all behind the scenes).
When you have Redirection installed, go to the menu on the left side of your WordPress Admin area, and go to Tools, Redirection is under Tools. Click on that, and you’ll see this:
If you’ve figured out WordPress, using Redirection should be pretty easy to use. Just enter your problem URLs, and your new URLs, and you’re good to go.
Here are a few tips on selecting the right URLs to send to:
- If you moved the Page somewhere, try to find that URL
- If you deleted a Page, try to find something similar to the Page you deleted (example: If the problem URL pointed to a Wedding Photography Promotion you deleted, you can have it point to your Wedding Photography Pricing page)
- If you don’t have something similar, you can redirect it to your home page (do this sparingly)
Bringing it Full Circle
Once you’ve gone through and fixed your problem URLs (whether it was an easy fix to a typo, or having to redirect an old URL to a new one), you’ll want to go back into GWMTs and check off each URL that you fixed, and hit that red button. That will get Google to re-crawl those links and check your work. If your URLs had great information on those pages, you’ll be rewarded with having those pages indexed again and generating traffic yet again.
Who knows you may have a huge bump in traffic and potential new customers that were trying to get your content for some time.
OK… Go forth and fix your websites! And as always, if you need help, we’re here for you as well.
If you use Twitter to share your blog posts and photos, you’ll no doubt have noticed that you need to use short urls in order to fit your content in the 140 characters and still get your link in. There are shortening services like Bitly, and Goo.gl that will automatically make short urls for you that you can use for your tweets. But I’d like to share a couple ways to customize your own short urls for Twitter.
Customize your Bitly Links
Did you know that you can actually change the URLs when you use Bitly? Yeah! It’s pretty frickin cool. Check it out:
- First create an account or login to Bitly.
- Paste your URL into the box that says “Paste URL here”
- A screen will pop up with your new shortened URL. If you hover your mouse over the new URL, you’ll see a link that pops up that says “Customize” Click that…
- Now you’ll get the customize screen. Now by default Bitly uses a 6 character url after the “http://bit.ly” portion, so you’ll want to keep your custom URLs as short as possible. In my example, I added just enough characters to make it somewhat recognizable what the page is about with http://bit.ly/wp-35-changes. It more than doubles the standard length, but it’s still way shorter than the original post URL.
- And there you have it! Your very own custom shortened URL using Bitly. You can use that as many times as you like since it will always be saved in your Bitly account.
Creating Your Own Short Domain
So you now know how to create short URLs with Bitly, but what if you wanted a short URL of your own to use? Well, you can use Domai.nr to create special short domains and use those instead of using http://bit.ly. All you have to do is go to Domainr and fill in your business name, personal name, etc. You’ll get a list of unique names/domains combinations with alternate TLDs. The green squares indicate whether or not the domain is available.
In my case I used my own name William Bay, and I get to choose which of the domains I would like to purchase and use for a shortened URL.
The other great thing is that you can use your new shortened domain name in Bitly, so Bitly will shorten your URLs when you want to paste them in Twitter. If you follow the instructions here you can see how to setup the domain to work with Bitly automatically.
While these techniques won’t increase your SEO, it will definitely bring a cool factor to your links in Twitter (plus a little more branded experience). And that “cool factor” could be enough to pick up a few extra click throughs each time you post a tweet.
Let us know if you do this. I’d love to see some of the short domains that you all create from your regular domains. We love that here.