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Likes for Likes Sake

10 February
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Illustration credit Sam Michel

What is a Like on Facebook?

Well, not literally “What is a Like on Facebook.” I’m going to assume you know what they actually are. But what value do they bring to your business and are they really worth the effort to actively try to get them? Wouldn’t you be better off treating each Like as a special thing?

Natural Growth vs Steroids

I’ve always been a major proponent of growing your business organically. Find clients, then those clients will tell people, and your business will grow. This applies for website clients as much as it does to people in your life.
Treat those clients amazing and some will Like you, some will refer you, less will talk about you to everyone they know that need a photographer, and even less will be your shouting billboard for how amazing you are at everything. That’s just the progression of Word Of Mouth. Not everyone spends the time to tout you. Some just needed the service you provided and were happy.

Not all your clients will like you on Facebook. That means a Like is a special thing. Let’s start treating them that way. Treat them as an endorsement, rather than just a collection that needs to be bigger than the other persons.

If a Like is special, why invite everyone and their mothers to Like your page on Facebook? Why buy ads to get people to like you?

Screw Likes. Engagement is where it’s at!

“What?!?! You just said Likes are special?”
Well, yes. They are and I believe we need to retrain our thinking to un-commoditize the idea of Liking.

But it all starts with knowing who your target audience is, and who will engage with your page. The Likes are kinda surface. To grow your business and develop the kind of people that will be those rare few that are shouting billboards for you, you’re looking for more than Likes, you’re looking for people to engage on your page.
But you can’t do that when you’ve invited everyone in the universe to Like your page (or paid for Likes) just to get your numbers up. In fact when people don’t engage with your posts, it decreases the reach your posts get.

Trying to get as many likes as you can actually hurts you.

Facebook Fraud!

I’ve seen people raising these points lately. But this video is just starting to make the rounds on Facebook today. Hopefully this puts pressure on Facebook to start being accountable. It’s worth watching all 9 minutes.

And I think it reinforces the idea that Likes for Likes Sake is pointless, and you should really be focusing on real Likes and Engagement.

And… don’t forget to Like Flaunt Your Site!

But only if you really want to. 😉

Google Ranking Factors

05 February

Did you know that Google has over 200 Ranking Factors?

“Wait a minute… WTF are Ranking Factors?” You ask.

Great question! Let’s talk about that…

You know when someone says “Google likes XXX.” Well, that XXX is what’s called a Ranking Factor. Maybe it’s “Google likes fast loading websites” or “Google likes sites with low Bounce Rates.” Those are Ranking Factors.
And yes, there are over 200.

OK, Got it… Why are there Ranking Factors?

Well, search engines like Google and Bing want you to come back to their site to use Search over and over again. In order to do that, they’ve become very interested in delivering the best Search Results for the term you searched for. And for that to happen, they created these factors that contribute to returning results. The more factors a website complies with, the better the chances are for it displaying higher than other sites.
(It’s important to note that the Factors that we talk about are only guesses as to what they can be, since the search engines keep these very secret. But the people that are guessing what these factors are, are incredibly bright people, using very sophisticated methods of determining these types of things).

Each factor is given a certain “Weight” (For example “Links from other sites” Weighs more – or has more value than “Age of website”).  Those Factors are put together with the other 200-ish Factors in a very complex Algorithm that the search engines uses to compare websites to each other in order to display the best results for a given search term.

No Website is an Island

Ranking factors about a website by itself doesn’t really mean anything. In order to give it some context, we have to compare websites to each other. So we’ll look at 2 imaginary webpages both wanting to rank for “Timbuktu Wedding Photography.” And we’ll compare just 5 of the ranking factors we think Google uses for it’s algorithm.

Ranking Factor Diagram

If we look at each of the 5 ranking factors, we can see why Page A would rank better than Page B.

  1. Use of the Keyword (or Keyphrase) in the Title of the page: You can see the phrase “Timbuktu Wedding Photography” in the title on Page A, and Page B making them equal in this factor.
  2. Use of the Keyword (or Keyphrase) in the Content Body: Here is where Page A gets an advantage over Page B. The actual term is used in the content area.
  3. Number of links to the page: Links are an important strength metric, and in our scenario Page A has more links than Page B giving Page A a better chance of ranking for the keyword.
  4. Not using Meta Keywords (or using them sparingly): Meta Keywords is an outdated method of putting the keywords you want to rank for in the Meta section (the behind the scenes area). Page B happens to be using them in our scenario. In this instance, it’s a negative ranking factor for Page B.
  5. Finally Page A has been around a lot longer than Page B, and has a greater trust factor.

Putting It All Together

Just looking at the 5 factors we looked at here, you can see that Page A scores better than Page B in 4 of the 5 areas. This would give it a tendency to rank higher than Page B when someone searches for the term “Timbuktu Wedding Photography.”

Of course there are over 200 ranking factors in the real world. But I hope this gives you a sense of how webpages are ranked.

Is Your Bounce Rate High?

28 January
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Photo Credit: Shaun Amey from Flickr 

One of the things that we focus on in the world of SEO is not only how to get traffic to your site, but also how to turn that traffic into actual paying customers. In the world of Analytics, the measurement of the traffic on your website, we call the people that turn into a paying customers “Conversions.”

Having a website is like on an online business and the sales or Conversions are your goal.
Many photographers want to make their site very pretty, but they don’t give much thought to how efficient that website is when it comes to Conversions. Often times we think from our own perspective of what our site should be like, rather than how potential customers actually use websites or what would support them in the process of hiring you as a photographer. When there’s little to no thought of what visitors need, it leads to a high Bounce Rate.

What is Bounce Rate

When your potential customers don’t find what they need right away, they leave the site causing what’s called a Bounce. The Bounces (along with other metrics) can be tracked in Google Analytics (or some other Analytics tracking solution). The number of Bounces compared to your overall traffic is called your Bounce Rate which is expressed as a percentage. So if 100 people came to your home page, and 50 of them left, then your Bounce Rate would be 50%.

Reasons for Bounces

There are many reasons for Bounces. And you will always have Bounces. Here are a few:
  • Your Visitors might have been looking for something else, and stumbled on your page accidentally.
  • Your Visitors could have found a blog post, read it, then left without clicking through to anything else.
  • The worst one is when people come, looking to hire you, but can’t find the information right away (or your site is in Flash and they can’t see it on their iPad), and then give up and leave.

There are others, but you can see that some of these you have control over, and some you don’t. When we focus on lowering the Bounce Rate at Flaunt Your Site, we work on things like creating visible Call To Actions, Contact Forms, or other points of engagement that will pull your visitors deeper into your site.

What is your Bounce Rate?

Let’s quickly look at how to find your Bounce Rate.
First I want to be clear that we’re looking at a specific Page on your website, not the bounce rate for your entire website (which is an average of all your pages).
Step 1: Log into your Google Analytics account. (We will be using Google Analytics for this since most people use it. If you use a different package, you’re kinda on your own 🙂 ).
Step 2: In the left menu bar, navigate to Behavior –> Site Content –> Landing Pages
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Step 3: Set your date range. I suggest looking at the past month, and the past year to get a real idea of your Bounce Rates.
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Step 4: Look at the resulting table. You’ll find something similar to the image below. You want to look in the Bounce Rate column for the “/” The “/” is the top level of your entire website (in other words, your Home Page).
That percent is your Bounce Rate for the time period selected.
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Is that Good or Bad??? Bounce Rate in Context

So now you know what your Bounce Rate is, and you may have already freaked out, because you had a thought that your Bounce Rate seemed high. Well, metrics and stats are all kinda pointless until you put them into context with something. The answer to ask isn’t “Is it good or bad?”, but rather “How does that compare to other photography websites?”
I’ve started a Google Doc you can enter your own Bounce Rates so that other photographers can see the average Bounce Rates.  In addition, you can click through to the sites to see how the better performing sites are designed. From those sites you can get ideas on how to modify your site to reduce your Bounce Rate if it’s on the higher end.
From the entries so far it appears that the average Bounce Rate is about 36%. That means for every 100 people that visit your home page, 36 leave or take no other action on your site.
So if you’re in the neighborhood of 35-40% you’re about normal. This is why we put statistics in context with other sites. Now we have a range to actually determine what is normal and what isn’t. So, if you’re well under 35-40%, you’re doing fairly well well, and if you’re considerably over 40%, you may want to rethink how your page is setup.

Contribute your Bounce Rate, and Help Increase Accuracy

If this article helped you out, please consider adding your own Bounce Rate to the Google Doc. The more website data we have will help to increase the accuracy of the numbers. We can be a lot more certain with a larger sample, it will also help with a couple more articles I’d like to write about in the future in order to help you increase the efficiency of your websites.

Thanks!

Why you should be using JPEGMini

21 August

Everyone, I repeat – Everyone, should be concerned with the speed in which their website and blog posts take to load. The speed in which your site loads will impact your SEO rankings, as well as if people stick around and wait for your website to load – or if they decide to go to your competitor’s site because it doesn’t take as long to load.
Some factors that make a difference with that are:

  • Your hosting
  • Your website design and structure
  • And the number and size of the photos you’re posting

A good hosting company and a good designer can help with the first two (I recommend Flaunt Your Site for both of course 😉 ). But there is a fairly new piece of software that I’m sure will be part of your workflow soon.

JPEG Mini is this new program that you should all be clamoring to get your hands on. And I have no affiliation with this company (yet). In fact, I saw the technology when it was just a web service and thought it had a lot of promise, and thanks to John Patrick from San Luis Obispo, I discovered that they now have desktop applications for Mac and Windows that will batch your photos.

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As a test, I took the photos from this wedding blog post I did recently.

I originally exported the photos from Lightroom at 1000 pixels wide at 80% JPEG Quality. There were 36 photos and at that size they came out to 8 Megabytes.

Then I used JPEG Mini to run all the photos in a batch, and I eliminated 2.82 Mbs. That is over 25%!!! That means that that blog post could load in 3/4 of the time.

A Couple Examples

The first photo was originally exported at a size of 230KB, and the JPEGMini version ended up at 159KB which is a 31% reduction.
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This second photo originally weighed in at 360KB and ended up at 290KB with JPEGMini.

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If you look closely, these photos are virtually identical. The second photo in each series is the JPEGMini version, but I bet you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. My suggestion is that you hurry right out and buy it. For $20 it’s a steal for the improvement it will provide to your website visitor’s experience. And again, I have no affiliation to this product, I’m not making any money for recommending it. In fact I just spent $20 for it, and I think everyone should have it too.

Fathers, don’t let your daughters grow up to be like WordPress.

27 May

Wow! WordPress is 10 years old today! Although I can’t say much for it being much of a role model…
If I ever have a daughter that grew up to be like WordPress, she’d…

  1. Be popular enough to get used by 60% of all the boys (and girls) at school…
  2. Be a world traveler, being logged into in over 120 different countries.
  3. Be accessible to multiple users.
  4. Be open enough to take all kinds of plugins in the backend.
  5. Be willing to change into different sexy wares to mix it up from time to time.
  6. Be totally dynamic, unlike those other static websites that just lie there.
  7. Be willing to get a facelift when it’s apparent she’s looking a little old and used up.
  8. Have weekend workshops around the world devoted to learning how to manipulate her better.
  9. Give her goodies away for free, but know to charge for something when people really want it.
  10. And…. Be a little susceptible to the occasional virus, but nothing a little Sucuri-cillin won’t clean up.

Fathers, don’t let your daughters to be like WordPress.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WORDPRESS!!!

Edit: Here’s a post by Matt waxing poetic about his lovely creation.

WordCamp 2013

23 March

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.

Should I Put My Blog On The Front Page of My Site?

09 December

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:

  1. Blogs naturally attracted lots of search traffic do to it being based in actual text for content.
  2. Most photographers were using a Flash based solution for their main website.
  3. 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.

 

Myth…. Busted!

Call To Actions That Really Call Action

07 December

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.

We have
Tom Koeting from TomK Photo from Ft Collins, Colorado.
Kacy Jahanbini from Princeton, New Jersey
And Amber Wilkie from the Virginia/DC area.

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.

WordPress 3.5 Drops… ProPhoto Users Wait

06 December

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.