The struggles of starting out and getting traffic, thoughts on pop-ups, homepage layouts, flash websites and more...
- “I have a flash website. Can I get it to rank higher for a certain phrase?”
- “Do you prefer a single large image on the home page, or a grid of thumbnails?”
- “I would love to get your thoughts about pop ups? Would you recommend them to post your current offer via them or would you just include you offer on your homepage in a prominent place?”
- “What is the code to create an “anchor” link on a page? In other words, if I want to create a link to a different part on the page (to avoid people having to scroll to a specific section), what HTML code do I need to use?”
- “How do I get more traffic to my site & generate more leads if I’m just starting out”
Every month, I’m answering your questions about photography websites, business, marketing, SEO and more.
You can ask me anything. I’ll try to answer withing 24 hours, and the most useful questions get featured here on the newsletter too. Need any help with your website? Don’t hesitate to write, I’m all ears.
Thanks to Blair, Maria, Angelica, Marian and Mike for this month’s questions. Check out my answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts by sending me a message or leaving a comment below.
“I have a flash website. Can I get it to rank higher for a certain phrase?”
I’m afraid any SEO effort would be in vain with a Flash website. I touched on this topic in my SEO guide (take a look at point #11 here).
With a flash website, you lose all iPhone/iPad visitors and any recognition from search engines. Not to mention affecting your site’s load speed. You shouldn’t trade all that for some eye-candy.
Sure, flash used to be a cool thing, and allowed for some very interesting designs. But HTML5 and CSS3 have advanced so much lately that there’s no longer a reason no to use them to create amazing photo websites.
As for SEO, using a tool like browseo.net you can simulate what Google sees on your site. You do have the SEO title and meta-description there, but other than that Google can’t read into flash, and just sees “This content requires Adobe Flash Player…”.
Unfortunately, rebuilding your site on a more modern platform (like WordPress or other services that use HTML5) is the only way to make better SEO inroads that you want.
“Do you prefer a single large image on the home page, or a grid of thumbnails?”
Having just a single big image on the homepage is risky. I’m personally a fan of masonry or grid layouts on the homepage of portfolio websites, here are some examples:
I think showing larger thumbs like this (instead of a single static image) can showcase your full range of work, instead of visitors putting you into a “bucket” based on that single homepage image.
So the homepage could act as a portfolio “best-of”, being placed first in the navigation. Here’s a photographer doing just that: derrenversoza.com (notice the first menu item called “Overview”).
And it’s not necessarily a disadvantage for mobile users either:
First of all, it depends on how the grid is build. Some sites shrink the thumbnails appropriately so they fit 2/row, here’s an example from famous photographer Joe McNally. Secondly, with a little CSS knowledge, you can restrict the number of images that show up on small screens (to 5-10 for example), so the page doesn’t become too long.
And finally, even if the page would still load 1 image per row, and it will be a longer page of photos one below the other, I’d argue that that’s not worse than seeing one single image. At least mobile visitors can scroll to see a selection of the photographer’s best images (to get a better feel of their specialties) instead of seeing just one single image.
“I would love to get your thoughts about pop ups? Would you recommend them to post your current offer via them or would you just include you offer on your homepage in a prominent place?”
Regarding pop-ups, I’m of the opinion that websites should be reader-focused, not website owner focused.
Interrupting visitors with subscribe pop-ups only serves the site owner, and it’s a practiced advertised by various online marketing “gurus”. They always boast about hugely increased conversion rates, but they never share the dark side of those stats: people leaving the site because over distraction and over-promotion. You never hear that side of the story.
I feel we’ve been “intoxicated” with online marketing advice, and forgot about quality. Here’s a relevant snippet from freelancer Paul Jarvis:
“When I read a good article that teaches me something or resonates with me, I want to share it on twitter (even if there’s not a share button). If I then read another article by the same author, I will look for the subscribe button (even if it doesn’t popup over the article) so I can then get more articles via email. […] Serve your readers first, and then they’ll gladly become your audience (or customers) without any prodding.”
You still need subscribe boxes and call-to-action buttons on your site (to promote your content), otherwise you can’t grow your business. But doing it in a discreet manner can be done:
- mentioning your new services/products/galleries on your homepage as regular inline content.
- only using exit-intent popups (most plugins/widgets allow this, only loading the popup when the mouse movement indicates that the reader is preparing to leave the site). Here a good WP plugin for exit popups.
- asking people to subscribe/click at the end of blog posts (instead of annoying pop-up covering the screen or sliding-in somewhere).
- if your new offer has its own landing page (like a new photography project, service etc.), add it to your navigation menu.
As a conclusion, make sure your new content is easily accessible, but don’t shove it in people’s faces. If the quality is high, they’ll explore it on their own.
For such anchor links you need two things:
- The actual link at the top of the page points to #destination(so the area you want to reach below, preceded by a “#” character).
- Adding an ID (or name) parameter to that specific section down the page.
So for example, if the destination section on your page starts with this code: <p style="text-align: left;">
It needs to be replaced with: <p id="destination" style="text-align: left;">
And at the start of the page you need a link like this: <a href="#destination">Some text</a>
These can also be used to link to other pages (and automatically scroll down to a specific section on the page). More on anchor tags here.
“How do I get more traffic to my site & generate more leads if I’m just starting out”
Full question: “I’m a new wedding photographer – I’ve shot just the one wedding so far so I don’t have a lot of variety of images. This is reflected in what I have available to put on the website and also in what I can blog about.
Currently, I’m trying to improve search results – I don’t show up in a Google search at all at the moment – through site optimization, blogging etc. I have various social networks all linked up and active, and I’m running a Facebook ad to drive traffic to the site. It doesn’t offer any kind of promotion as I don’t really have anything to offer a deal on as far as I can see.
Site traffic varies from 0 visits a day to 50 depending on whether I’ve promoted a blog that day. The traffic itself could be better, I hope it will improve over time BUT the real problem is that from the traffic I do get, I have no inquiries or conversions. I have two potential client meetings booked but both of these came from old school referrals and not through the site.”
It’s such a crowded market (wedding photography), it’s very hard to get significant results quickly.
I think you’re doing a great job with trying to differentiate yourself with your site (in the documentary wedding photo niche). You’re doing things right with the blog too, it’s probably just a matter of time, of consistency before you see more results.
With Facebook ads, the conversion rate for simply bringing people back to your homepage is very small, you can expect to see big results from that. I recommend only using FB ads to drive people to a landing page with a giveaway (some sort of guide, course, ebook that you create based on blog posts etc.). Alternatively, you can just drive them to your best blog posts so they can read something actionable directly.
Anyway, I think you just need to set your expectations right. You’re in the beginning stages with this website (and the wedding business), so your focus should be on producing more and more content:
- new blog posts (I recommend PhotoShelter’s blogging handbook for inspiration on what to blog about)
- some sort of newsletter giveaway
- more wedding of course (through referrals for now)
With 0-50 daily visitors, it’s hard to see results. Think of it this way: even the most successful people in the business with highly-optimized sites aren’t seeing more that 1-2% conversion rates on their sites (no. of visitors per desired action). So it’s a numbers game. That’s why I understand your struggle to get as much traffic as possible, but that will come on its own after you’ve been consistent with your content for a while.
Till then, the site isn’t actually useless either. Even if it’s still not yet generating leads on its own, the site still acts as a portfolio piece: people that have heard about you through referrals, still go online to check you out and see your site. If you showcase high quality and consistency on the site, they’ll trust you more and possibly also book a wedding.
Your turn: ask me anything. I’d love for this to become a valuable “repository” of answers from the entire community of photographers.
You can help with that by getting involved:
1. Ask questions. Send them to me via email or on Twitter (@foreground).
2. Answer questions yourself. If you have anything to add to any of my answers (or can answer from a different perspective), jump right in! I’ll share relevant notes with other photographers so everyone can benefit.