Web Marketing Posts

How is Your Website’s Usability?

Like every photographer out there, you have website. By now, you’ve made the design decisions that give your site its “look and feel.” The two most important considerations you may not have given much thought to are, one, your site’s visibility in Google and Yahoo! search results; and two, your website’s usability. In this article we’ll focus on the usability aspect of website design.

Listed below are a few items to consider when either designing your new site or redesigning your existing site:

Communicate Your Message Clearly
Today’s photographic buyers and art directors allocate minimal time to initial website visits, they’re primary goal is to locate a photographer (or two, or three) that “fits the job.” So you must quickly convince them that spending some time on your website is worthwhile.

Provide Information Your Potential Client Wants
Photo buyers must be able to easily (and quickly) determine whether your sample images and capabilities meet their needs and why they should do business with you. What is it that you can offer that your competitors do not? What differentiates you from the other photographers they’re considering? Is it your style? Your experience? Get your message out right up front, or make it easy for them to get to this sort of information within your site.

Offer Intuitive, Simple Navigation and Pleasing, Consistent Page Design
Remember your reader. He or she will learn the “flow” of your web site if you provide consistent, predictable navigation methods and content that shares design elements from page to page throughout the site. Provide “quick links” that serve as easily accessed shortcuts to the paths that you believe people will want to follow most often, such as your portfolios. Don’t bury important links in body copy. And be sure to use a pleasing color palette. If you aren’t familiar with Adobe Labs’ Kuler initiative, here’s an online article about it from Communication Arts magazine.

Equally important, don’t have links that only appear when a portion of a photograph is rolled over with a mouse. Studies have shown that a person arriving at your website from a search engine query will click the ‘back’ button if they don’t find what they came for after seven seconds.

Content, Content, Content
I can’t stress it enough. We all show pictures on our websites. Don’t forget to “introduce yourself” to your website visitor. Share some personal information with him or her. These days we’re getting less and less “face time” with potential clients, so you need to let your website do your selling. We all shoot great pictures. Here’s a few things you could write about on your site: your working style, your clients (don’t go overboard
here), your experience, what it is you do when you’re not working. Maybe your last great assignment; here’s where a blog can be a useful tool, but only if it matches the “look and feel” of the rest of your site. And today, more and more photographers are including some sort of “behind the scenes video” on their sites.

Hopefully these thoughts will get you thinking about your internet presence. Look at other photographer’s sites and put yourself in the position of a first time visitor. What is it you like, or don’t, about the site? Was it easy to move around in? Was your experience a good one? Or did the site’s flash animation require you to roll over the beautiful model’s eye for the “Portfolio” link? You get the idea, now go work on your studio’s website!

A version of this article first appeared in ASMP’s Professional Business Practices in Photography, (Seventh Edition).

Yes, People on Your Website Need to be Released

Many photographers forget that their websites are a form of advertising and as such the individuals in the images must be released. Put another way, if your website is used to attract potential clients or customers, it is a commercial advertising vehicle. Your use of the likeness of any person on your website would likely be deemed an advertising use, and might violate right of privacy/publicity laws.

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has Property and Model Releases along with a great tutorial on releases, on it’s site, available to anyone here. I keep copies of the simplified release in my camera bag and in my car’s glovebox. That way, even if I’m carrying a point-and-shoot camera while visiting a park with my son, I have releases handy.

Worth noting, because the question will likely come up, is the question of editorial use. My friend and photographer consultant Leslie Burns put it rather eloquently recently: “The reason that editorial usually doesn’t require releases is that the courts have decided that, in the balance, the freedom of the press is more important than an individual’s right to privacy/publicity. That’s it. Not because of anything dealing with profits.”

At the end of the day, my advice is: get releases, always. I tell other photographers in my lectures: You’ll never have to say no (because the subject is not released) to that Fortune 500 company when they see your great shot on Flickr of your mountain-climbing buddy and want to license it for an ad. It happened, (and it’s going to happen more and more), a Fortune-500 company did license a shot after coming across it on Flickr. You never know!

(A portion of this article, written by me, Detroit photographer Blake Discher, first appeared in The American Society of Media Photographers’ widely read Strictly Business blog.)

SEO Friendly Blog Post Titles

There was a recent post in one of the professional-photographer-type forums by Nashville shooter David Bean about “behind the scenes video” that a lot of photographers are starting to feature on their websites. He provided a link, http://blog.visualreserve.com/?p=256, which from an SEO standpoint is not very useful. That’s the default URL structure for WordPress permalinks, which is what the permanent URL for your bog posts are called.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, I called David to ask if I could use his post as an example and he said “absolutely.”)

The part of the URL “?p=256” contains no keywords and therefore can cause indexing problems for search engines. In fact, even WordPress refers to these as “Ugly Links!” The easiest way to correct this problem in WordPress is to go into “Settings”, then “Permalinks”, and select “Day and Name” which would give you something like:


That gives you the date of the post, then a “/”, then a hyphenated version of the title of your post. This is much more SEO-friendly than the default permalink. WordPress refers to these types of links as “Almost Pretty.”

But the best solution is to have WordPress generate what it refers to as “Pretty Links.” Do this by selecting “Custom Structure” under the “Common Settings” choices. WordPress utilizes pre-defined references to various post data so that you can construct your URLs any way that suits you. I’d suggest a structure that give you links that include the category name followed by the post title. So your URL might look like:


This structure contains relevant keywords for a blog discussing “negotiating” such as the one you are reading, and could help to improve search engine placement for the post. To change you structure to produce links like that I’ve described, add the following code in the “Custom Structure” box:


To see a complete list of the post data reference codes and read a bit more about this, visit the official WordPress information page covering this topic.

Good luck!

Optimize For Google or Yahoo?

Written by search engine optimization consultant Blake J. Discher.

Generally speaking, it’s difficult to optimize a website for multiple search engines. This is because each engine utilizes its own, top-secret, proprietary search algorithm. Almost everyone knows that Google is the number one search engine followed by Yahoo! Search, and then Bing. (72 percent, 15 percent and 9 percent respectively for the four weeks ended January 2, 2010. Source: Hitwise) So naturally most decide they should be optimizing their sites for Google, but this may not always be the correct decision. Just as in life, there is no one single “silver bullet” solution to web marketing. You really need to consider what search engine your potential customers are likely using.

Think about it. Google has a clean user interface, this morning it’s just a text entry field, and two buttons: “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky”, the latter takes you immediately to the website of the first organic (non-paid) listing. Yahoo! Search on the other hand, is a “portal” in that their home page is loaded with information.

If you’ve heard me speak about web marketing at a convention, you know I like to use my dad as good example of why you might want to optimize for Yahoo! When his high-speed DSL was installed, the company had some sort of deal with Yahoo! which made my dad’s browser’s start-up page the Yahoo! homepage. It will remain that way forever. Why? Because he has no idea how to change it! And because he likes it that way. It’s his “ticket” to internet and from the Yahoo! homepage he can do a lot… check on his stocks, get the latest news, weather, and so on.

But what does this mean for you? Most web usability experts say that corporate America utilizes Google for search because of its “strictly business” interface and individuals use Yahoo! because of the multitude of options at its homepage. Because I do a lot of SEO work for photographers, I’ll use that industry as an example.

If you are a photographer who specializes in corporate or editorial photography, it’s very likely your potential clients will use Google to find you and you should be optimizing for that search engine. If on the other hand you photograph weddings, it’s possible the mother of the bride will use Yahoo! Search on her home computer to help her daughter find a photographer and you should optimize for it. (My dad uses Yahoo! Search for virtually everything!)

Every time a potential client calls you, be sure to ask them how they found you. If they say “on the internet” follow up by asking which search engine they used. Next, I blame my “web guy” for wanting to know what search phrase they used. Something like, “You know, I’m in the midst of a website design and my web guy was asking what search phrase people use to find me. If you don’t mind, would you tell me what phrase you used?” So far, no one has refused. Over time you’ll have gathered valuable information: which search engine most of your customers use most and what search phrase they’re using. (BTW, I ask everyone that calls how they found me and even if it wasn’t via search, I still ask what search engine they use most.)

Armed with that info, you can tweak your SEO strategy so that you are hitting the largest pool of potential customers. Good luck!

Content Still King in SEO

Written by search engine optimization consultant Blake J. Discher.

In the world of search engine optimization, or SEO, content is king. What I’m talking about is human readable HTML text on your home page.

One of the major search engines has stopped considering the “Keyword” META tag because of keyword spamming by website owners in an attempt to manipulate their search rankings. For example, a photographer might have repeated the word “photographer” or “photography” many times in the tag in their effort to rank on the first page of the search engine results page, or SERP.

So what do search engines analyze to determine what a web site is all about, and in turn determine where it should rank? Human readable text. This puts a visual artist such as photographers in a sort of quandary: should I design my site for aesthetic appeal or search engine friendliness?

If you are a photographer, I think the answer depends on which segment of that industry you work in. If it’s editorial, PR, or corporate, I think internet search is a crucial piece of your overall marketing plan and your site should be designed with search in mind. And that means including body copy on the home page.

Your body copy should include your “keyword phrase” which is the search term you believe potential clients would use to find a photographer such as yourself. Keyword density refers to the frequency that a keyword phrase appears in the body text. Generally speaking, to avoid keyword spamming, your text should be naturally flowing and result in a keyword density of about two to seven percent. There are a number of keyword density checkers available online to assist you with determining the keyword density of a page.

I get about 60-percent of my new photography and SEO clients each year as a result of my SEO efforts. If you suspect your potential clients are using search to locate vendors such as yourself, you should consider optimizing your site to help them find you. Good luck!

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