Visitor Source #1: Your Blog Posts
Your Blog Is The Personality Of Your Business
Do you have a blog for your photography business, one you update on a fairly regular basis?
If so, what were your main reasons for starting a blog?
For a lot of people, SEO seems to be the big reason why they think they should start a blog, but SEO (as we found in the previous chapter) isn’t what it’s cracked up to be these days!
Yes, it’s true that WordPress is a great platform for creating the kind of well-structured content Google loves, and it’s quite SEO-friendly, especially when combined with tools such as the Yoast SEO plugin to make SEO a breeze.
But, despite the commonly-held belief that a blog equals great SEO, the primary purpose of a blog is not for your posts to appear in the search results (they can, but it’s not the main reason to write blog posts).
A bit of a shocker for some, I know.
But, if you recall, I mentioned this in the previous chapter when I talked about the problem of running out of valuable keywords if you try to do SEO on all of your blog content. After a few posts, you’re going to exhaust the list of keywords and you’ll be forced to reuse them over and over.
Doing that isn’t good for SEO and it’s not good for your readers and clients either.
So what is the primary purpose of your blog?
The answer is a lot more powerful than just SEO:
Your blog is a window into the personality of your business. It gives those on the outside a glimpse into the inspiration, motivation, passion, and dedication you pour into your photography every day.
Think about that for a moment.
Can you imagine anything more effective at forging real human connections with people who love what you do and why you do it?
How Much Does The Blogging Platform Matter?
This is not a technical course by any means, but I do want to answer one question I get a lot about blogging:
Does it matter where you blog and what platform you use?
The answer is a bit of no and yes.
Personally, I think it’s better to have a blog somewhere than to not have one at all.
But, that said, it’s far more preferable to host a blog on your own website domain than to use a free blogging platform at some other domain, such as wordpress.com.
This is where a lot of folks get confused with the whole WordPress thing.
If you have a blog on wordpress.com then you’re blogging on their system and you won’t see any real SEO benefit, plus there will be an obvious disconnect between your website and your blog. Any time someone links to your blog posts, they’ll be linking to wordpress.com and not your domain, plus there are lots of restrictions on the themes and plugins you can use, and there is no provision for any kind of e-commerce on wordpress.com blogs.
However, if you use the WordPress software, installed on your own domain (what we call a self-hosted blog), then you have full control of how it looks, the functionality, and all of the content. Since the blog is part of your own domain, there’s no visual disconnect when people move from your website to the blog, especially if you have it all built with the WordPress software under the same theme.
So, if at all possible, I advise having a self-hosted WordPress-based website and blog every time.
If you’re one of the many photographers with a template-based website, you can always build a separate WordPress blog on a different domain, which may still be better than the canned blog you get with your website template company.
Making Your Blog Posts As Effective As Possible
Let’s take a quick look at what you can create with a blog.
There are basically two kinds of content you can build using the standard WordPress system:
Pages are used for certain pieces of static content, such as resources, your about page, FAQ’s, service pages, and the like.
Pages don’t appear in your regular feed of blog posts so you’ll need to manually link to them in order for people to see them. You can link to pages through the navigation menu, in your sidebar, or from links within actual blog posts.
The content on your pages is considered to be evergreen because it’s relevant to the reader regardless of when they actually read it (as long as the information itself hasn’t become obsolete, of course).
We’ll be talking more about pages later on, because these are where you’ll focus most of your SEO efforts on your blog/website.
Posts are what people typically think of when they imagine a blog, and posts are intended for time-related or transient content.
For example, you can blog about a recent assignment, wedding, or portrait session. You can blog about a specific fine art image you created, together with the story around it. Other ideas for blog posts include sneak peeks, featured clients, featured businesses, local-interest stories, information about happenings at your studio, involvements in local charities, or simply your thoughts and musings about photography in general.
Forget About SEO
I already mentioned this, so I won’t belabor the point here, but you don’t need to worry about any kind of SEO on your blog posts.
Not only for the reasons already stated regarding the small number of valuable target keywords, but it’s unlikely your blog posts will talk in depth about those topics anyway.
For example, trying to crowbar the keyword phrase “Memphis baby photographer” into a blog post where you’re showing a couple of images from a recent baby session might seem like a good idea, but the actual topic of the page is not actually about Memphis baby photographers, but about a specific session.
Google will easily figure out that you included the keyword merely to try to rank the page for that phrase, but will either discount the keyword or penalize you for trying to game the system.
If you think about it, this makes your job of blogging a whole lot easier, and you can focus on creating posts that attract real human visitors, not to keep the search engines happy.
Keep Images To A Minimum
Another factor to bear in mind, which might seem counterintuitive at first, is to keep your images to a minimum in your blog posts.
What? Why? I’m a photographer and people want to see my work!
Yes, I know it sounds like pure heresy on my part, but here’s the reasoning behind it.
Attention is the currency of marketing and it’s what actually gets more eyeballs onto your website, your blog, and your photography.
When someone lands on your blog post, what do you think happens if they’re suddenly confronted with the 30 best photographs from yesterday’s engagement portrait session all in one go, one after another, with no text to break it all up?
Their attention is suddenly diluted, combined with an urgent desire to get through the post as quickly as possible.
They’ll look at the first one or two photos, and then start scanning through the page at an ever-accelerating rate until they reach the end. All the photos in the middle of the post are essentially wasted because few people will pay them much attention.
It’s a bit like watching a fireworks show where all the fireworks go off at once!
Instead, try having a single image featured at the top of the post, and then use that as the focal point for the text of the post, including any testimonials from the client, if you have them.
You can include a few smaller photographs, or even a short slideshow further down in the content, but they’ll get far more attention from readers than having a never-ending list of images.
You can find a lot more on this topic in this article.
Using Your Blog Posts As A Traffic Builder
The question, then, is how can you use your blog posts to attract more visitors to your website if SEO is not going to be the main channel for acquiring traffic?
Obviously, people are not going to magically land on your blog posts out of thin air without you doing something to attract them in the first place to let them know your post exists.
So what’s the big secret to all this?
Use the power of social media and email marketing to bring new visitors to your posts.
In other words, get your readers to share your blog posts with their friends and followers.
Of course, promoting your blog posts using your own social media channels is always a good idea, and will definitely work up to a point, but you have to be careful not to turn your social channels into a giant megaphone for your own self-promotion.
To avoid that scenario, you need to improve the chances of your posts being shared by others, and here are some ideas on how to make that happen.
- Make your blog posts as compelling and engaging as you possibly can. Show only the best images, and focus on the emotional hooks of the story you’re telling in your blog post.
- Add a great headline (title) to your post! A lot of people will share posts on social media based on the headline alone, so it’s worth making this important aspect of your post stand out and shine.
- Be conversational in the way you write your post – this makes your post seem more friendly, personal, and inviting. And remember to include testimonials wherever you can.
- Don’t leave the choice of poster image to chance when your posts are shared on social media! For example, create a Facebook-friendly image for your post (1200 x 627px or 600 x 314px) and upload it to your media library using the “Facebook image” field in the social tab in the Yoast SEO section of your post editor.
- For sharing on Pinterest, include a tall skinny image somewhere in your post. These tend to work better on Pinterest than horizontal images. If you don’t want the image to be visible to visitors but still available for sharing on Pinterest, you can change the display size of the image to 1 x 1px. It won’t be noticeable to casual readers, but if they use their browser’s pin-it button, the image will show up as an option, but full size.
- Make your posts easy for people to share by adding share buttons at the top and bottom of your post. Some people will share right away, others wait until they’ve finished reading before deciding to share something, so give them the chance at both ends.
- Don’t give people too many sharing options. Pick only the top 3 or 4 social networks you know your audience are most active on and present the sharing buttons for those.
- Remember to ask people to share your blog posts! Adding some text around the sharing buttons to prod people into action can help tremendously.
- Try embedding social content directly into your posts, such as a tweet or a Facebook update. For example, once you publish your post, share it on Twitter and then embed that tweet back into your post. This encourages people to follow you and retweet your content. You can also do the same thing with Facebook posts.
- Create “Tweetables” to make tweeting your post easy and convenient. Even better, the Social Warfare WordPress plugin makes it super-easy to insert tweetable content into your posts.
- For Twitter and Instagram, remember that hashtags are an important way for people outside of your current network to discover your posts and updates. Don’t go crazy with those, but choose the most relevant ones.
- If your post features images from a recent client session, offer your clients an incentive of some kind based on how many shares the post can gather on social media in a specified timeframe. This is a great way to get your clients to help market your blog posts – all you need do is give them the link to the post and ask them to email it out to their friends and share it on their own social media profiles.
- Remember your own email marketing can help too. Send out an email update to your list with a teaser for the post and a link so they can check it out for themselves. As your list grows, this will be a great way to keep people coming back to your blog, helping them to further get to know, like, and trust you.
We’ll be talking more about using social media and email marketing to share your blog posts and content in later sections, but I hope this has given you some great ideas to get started with helping your audience and target clients to share your posts with their networks and, in turn, bring more people to your website and blog.
Here’s what you should do before moving on to the next unit:
- Take one of your most recent blog posts, and apply the principles you learned in this chapter.
- Don’t worry if it’s not perfect – few things ever are, right?
- Let it rest for a day or two, then come back to it with fresh eyes.
- Edit and improve, as appropriate.