Your blog is a window into the personality of your business.
A basic website is good at providing information about who you are, what you do, how much you charge, and how to get in touch with you, but a blog offers something far more powerful – a glimpse into the living heart of why you do what you do, and the process of creating your photographic artwork.
Starting a blog can be scary for many people because they’re not sure how to start, or what to write – all totally understandable.
In fact, here’s an article on how to build your photography website and blog with WordPress, which makes it a lot easier than you might think.
But, for those who do and persist at it, the rewards are fantastic because the blog does all the heavy lifting of building connections with people, and helping them to get to know, like, and trust you over time.
However, there are pitfalls.
Blogging has a lot of moving parts, and things can occasionally go wrong. Plus, every photographer is unique, and their blogs are as unique as they are.
Inevitably, there will be mistakes (I know, because I’ve personally made all of them at one time or another).
Left uncorrected, these mistakes can seriously damage your chances of having the impact you want to make with your blog.
Fortunately, they’re all easy to fix, so let’s dive in and take a look…
#1: Choice of Blogging Platform
The first mistake is choosing the wrong blogging platform for your business.
There are quite a few options for starting a blog but the main two contenders both involve WordPress, which seems to cause confusion for those unfamiliar with blogging.
The two alternatives are:
- Use a free blog hosted by wordpress.com
- Install the WordPress software on your own domain
Many people choose the first option, but this is a mistake for various reasons:
- You have no ownership or direct control over wordpress.com or the content, which could disappear at a moment’s notice (unlikely, but still possible).
- There are zero SEO benefits in it for you. All the SEO value from incoming links goes to wordpress.com and not to your small piece of the site.
- You’re severely limited in the themes and plugins you can use.
- You can’t install any e-commerce software, so selling anything is hard.
- It’s difficult to install email sign-up forms.
- You can’t create new page templates for things like landing pages.
All in all, choosing the wordpress.com platform doesn’t afford many benefits to your business, other than not having to worry about maintaining the site yourself, which actually isn’t too hard to do.
How To Fix It
The way to fix this is to install the WordPress software, which you can get from wordpress.org, and then add your desired themes and plugins.
Since WordPress runs on your own domain, you get to enjoy all the SEO benefits of all incoming links as well as from your own content.
Most hosting companies offer a 1-click WordPress installation, so you don’t even need to go through the hassle of uploading WordPress to the server.
#2: Infrequent Or Irregular Posts
One of the keys to success with your blog is to post regularly.
This doesn’t mean you have to write a new post every day, but your readers do get used to seeing something new on a schedule, whether that’s once per week, twice per month, or once every couple of months.
Whatever frequency you choose when you start, it helps to stick to it.
So one of the mistakes I tend to see a lot of is photographers who only blog when they have photographs to show. If they happen to be going through a quiet time business-wise the blogging stops, and then starts up again the next time they have a session or assignment.
This can create obvious holes in the blog where nothing was published, followed by a short flurry of activity, and then another long gap.
If your blog is the pulse of your business, it can quickly become the equivalent of an irregular heartbeat.
How To Fix It
One thing you can do if you’re blogging infrequently is to remove the dates from your blog posts when they’re displayed.
This gives a more evergreen feel to your blog, and readers won’t be fixated on the publication dates of your posts.
Next, set up some kind of publishing calendar – it’s really that simple.
There are lots of topics you could blog about other than your photography, so brainstorm those and then add them to the calendar.
All you need to do then is follow-up by making sure you create and publish the content from your calendar at the appropriate time.
#3: Not Enough Text
Contrary to what many photographers hope, photography doesn’t sell itself. I sincerely wish it did because then our jobs would be so much easier, but the truth is it’s the stories or sub-text behind the images that actually do the selling.
Photographers often pride themselves on being visual storytellers, and there’s no doubt that many of them are able to accomplish that with their stunning photographs.
But, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds when it comes to marketing the imagery.
You can show amazing examples of your photographs in a blog post, and people will be wowed by the artistry and technical mastery needed to produce such work.
However, this is not the same as understanding the full impact of the story behind the image.
We should also consider the way in which people surf the Internet. It’s certainly not the same as if they were browsing an art gallery or viewing printed photographs in a personal sales consultation.
The only way I can think of to describe this is a lack of presence.
Your visitors are there on your website, but they’re not fully present in the moment. There are countless other distractions going on around them and inside their own heads, which prevent them from completely immersing themselves in your photography.
The result is they don’t get the full story.
And then there’s the other story – the one that exists only in the mind of the photographer.
You, the photographer, were there when the image was created. You saw everything happening in and around the frame, before and after the photograph was captured. You experienced the story and any emotions behind it first hand.
But none of that information is encapsulated within the image itself, and it’s almost impossible for someone who wasn’t there with you at the time to deduce the subtle nuances of the story.
Sadly, most of the photography blogs I see don’t use anywhere near enough words to tell these stories, resulting in posts that are heavy on imagery but extremely light on compelling text.
This translates directly into lost customers.
How To Fix It
I know what you might be thinking here: “I’m a photographer, not a writer!”
And I totally understand where such ideas come from.
However, I know you can write for your blog because there’s no need to be a skilled wordsmith to make this work for you.
All you need to do is write down the same words you would use if you were having an actual verbal conversation with someone else about your photography, say at a dinner party or over a cup of coffee.
If you have passion for what you do, and you should, then you simply have to channel your enthusiasm into words to tell the stories of your images.
Yes, it will feel awkward at first, but I promise it will get a lot easier the more you practice.
What have you got to lose by trying?
#4: Too Many Photographs In Blog Posts
Another big issue I encounter when reviewing photography blogs is using too many photographs per post.
Yes, I know this might sound illogical when we’re talking about photographers’ blog posts, but bear with me.
I mean, how can a photographer show too many photos? Surely, that’s not possible.
Actually, it’s more than possible, and here’s why.
First, your blog posts are there for your readers, not for you. From your perspective, it might seem like a reasonable idea to put as many photos as possible in front of your prospects and clients, and you can even justify it by saying that the more of your work people see the better the impression they’ll have of you.
In an ideal world, this would be true, but this is the Internet we’re talking about and people behave differently, and have much shorter attention-spans online.
Here’s what actually happens if you publish a blog post with the best 20 or 30 images from a recent wedding or portrait session.
Your clients (the people in the photos) will look at every photo because they’re emotionally connected to them, but they’re already your clients so it doesn’t actually matter what they do because the call to action doesn’t apply to them.
Prospective clients unfamiliar with your work will look at the first 2 or 3 photos, and then start scanning through the post. There’s no emotional connection to arrest their attention or progress and, as they go, they’ll scan faster and faster, trying to reach the end.
All of the photos in the middle are wasted because the visitor won’t spend more than a fraction of a second looking at them.
By the time the visitor arrives at the bottom, they’ve completely missed the point of the photos and are likely not engaged enough to take your call to action.
And, just like that, they’re gone!
How To Fix It
Hopefully, this should be fairly obvious – show less photographs in your blog posts.
If it were me, I would choose the single best image from the set and feature it prominently at the top of the post, with the text of the story and other content underneath it.
You could also add 2 or 3 other smaller images into the post, perhaps accompanied by testimonials or other copy designed to engage the reader.
A side benefit of doing it this way is you have lots of other images left over to use as subjects for their own posts, so you’ll be able to create more useful content for your readers to consume on their journey to getting to know, like, and trust you.
#5: Cluttered Blog Index Pages
You’ve probably already seen that WordPress creates various index pages of your blog posts, based on different criteria.
- The main blog post index page, which is often used as the blog home page…
- Category archive listings of posts in a specific category…
- Tag archive listings of posts tagged with a specific tag…
- Date archives of posts based on year and month…
- Author archives, which list all posts by a specific author (usually just yourself)…
These archives are created by default in WordPress, but they can also come with a couple of potential problems.
The first one is the way in which these archive pages are displayed.
Many times I see these index pages showing the photographer’s blog posts in their entirety, usually with 10 posts per page, which can make for very long pages of content.
Furthermore, when people can see whole posts there’s no real incentive for the reader to click through to any individual post.
Having so many posts on a single page like this also creates clutter and noise, which can translate into higher bounce rates (people who leave after seeing only one page), and lower engagement.
The other problem has to do with duplicate content, because your archive pages can often look identical to your main blog index page, or other archives, depending on what’s being shown.
How To Fix It
There are several ways to tidy up this array of cluttered pages on your blog, and here are some basic steps to getting the job done.
First, if you are the only author on your blog you can safely disable all of your archives except the main blog index and the category archives.
Next, you have two options:
- Edit your posts to insert the “more” tag into your content at the point at which you want the index to stop showing content and display a “read more” link. You’ll find the button to insert the “more” tag in the top row of the WordPress editor menu.
- Or, if your theme has this ability, you can specify a layout for your archive and index pages where you show post thumbnails and excerpts instead of the entire post.
You’ll need to look into your theme to figure out which of these is best for you, but tidying up your blog index and archive pages like this will help improve the overall usability and engagement of your site.
#6: Missing Calls To Action
I can’t count the number of times I refer to the importance of calls to action in the right places, and yet I still find these missing from so many of the websites and blogs I look at.
Encouraging visitors to do something wherever they are on your blog is critical to keeping them engaged, getting them on your email list, having them contact you directly, or sharing your content with their friends and followers on social media.
For this you need calls to action to explain what you want them to do next. You can’t just rely on them to instinctively know what to do without being prompted.
Having a call to action isn’t reserved just for landing pages or sales pages, you should also be using them on your blog. Otherwise, you’re going to lose far more of your visitors than you should be.
How To Fix It
Obviously, the solution is to ensure you have a relevant call to action on every page or post.
This should stand out from the rest of the page, and be more than obvious to the reader.
To accomplish this, you could display a widget area before or after each post, containing a site-wide call to action such as an email sign-up form. Alternatively, you could create a custom call to action at the end of individual posts and pages.
Your social sharing buttons can also be accompanied by text to encourage people to share your posts and pages.
#7: Too Many Plugins
Although you can run a blog on WordPress straight out of the box, you’re most likely going to extend the functionality of WordPress with plugins.
These are self-contained programs designed to perform a specific function, such as displaying related posts, slideshows etc.
At first, it’s tempting to grab as many of these as you can to jazz up your blog, but the problem with having too many plugins is the processing load they put on your blog.
In some cases, they can significantly slow down your website because of additional processing needed on the server, or they load code unnecessarily on pages or posts that don’t actually require the plugin code to be used.
Also, as you add more and more plugins, there’s the increased risk and potential for plugin conflicts.
If you do find yourself overloaded with plugins, which ones do you actually need?
How To Fix It
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this, but here’s a starter list of the plugins I most recommend you have as a minimum:
Beyond this, you might need other plugins for galleries, slideshows etc. but choose wisely and try to keep the overall number of plugins to a manageable number.
If you have plugins installed, but they’re inactive, it’s worth deleting them altogether as they represent a possible security risk.
#8: Inflexible Theme
There are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from, so it’s no wonder photographers get confused over which one to use for their blogs and websites.
But not all themes are created equal and coding standards vary wildly from theme to theme.
Support for free themes is practically non-existent, so it does pay to invest in a premium theme from a trusted designer.
But if your theme uses an inflexible design layout, making it hard to add or subtract features, then you might find yourself searching for a replacement before too long.
For example, here are just a few of the problems I’ve encountered in the past:
- The space allowed for your logo might need to change if you switch to a new logo.
- You might be stuck with out-of-vogue or hard to read fonts.
- If you choose to use the WordPress featured image on posts, is it displayed everywhere correctly?
- Will you have the same problem if you want to use manual excerpts on posts?
- Are you able to move navigation menus around or add a secondary menu?
- Is there any provision for custom widget areas you can place before or after posts?
- Can you alter the layout of your blog index pages?
- Are there any conflicts with certain plugins?
- Can the theme easily be converted into a mobile-responsive version?
- Are you able to make the changes you want to based on some of the recommendations you learn here?
How To Fix It
There is no single piece of advice I can offer here, because every blog is different, and there are so many options to choose from.
However, I can recommend you check out the themes from StudioPress, which run on the Genesis framework. This site is built using a Genesis theme, and I’ve found that it offers the highest amount of flexibility in terms of layout and design possibilities.
#9: Unnecessary Sidebar And Footer Widgets
Most WordPress themes include at least one sidebar, usually positioned to the right of the main content, and several footer widgets placed after the content at the bottom of the page.
These can be useful places to put content you want seen on every post or page of your blog, such as email sign-up forms, social media connection buttons, a short bio, recent posts and comments, links to other blogs, and your contact details etc.
So what’s the problem?
The short answer is sidebars tend to grow over time as you add more widgets to them, until they overshadow the main content. All those widgets create an army of distractions that can take your visitors away from your blog posts or articles before they’ve had a chance to finish reading.
Which means they miss the call to action and fail to complete the goal you set for the post or page.
How To Fix It
How you fix this issue depends on your specific blog and the goals you set for it, but I’ve found the best solution is to look at every widget and ask yourself, “is this absolutely necessary for lead-generation?”
If not, can it be moved to a different location, perhaps to a dedicated page you can link to from the navigation menu?
When I went through this process, I was surprised to discover that all of the widgets I was using in sidebars and footer areas could either be eliminated or moved.
After I was finished, this left me with an empty sidebar, so I simply removed it altogether and switched to a full-width single-column layout.
You may find the same thing is true for your blog and website, in which case you’ll enjoy a much cleaner and simpler layout with the important elements in their proper place.
#10: Too Many Sharing Buttons
Everyone agrees that social sharing is beneficial, and the social interactions on our website and blog content are fast becoming a trusted metric for Google and the other search engines in their ranking considerations (although we shouldn’t let that influence what we do too much).
It therefore makes sense to have social sharing buttons on your blog posts and other content so that your readers can spread your message to followers and friends in their social networks.
But, like sweets, there can be too much of a good thing.
When I visit photographers’ websites for reviews, one of the things I look for is how they facilitate social sharing of their posts etc.
Many times, I see buttons for every social network out there, sometimes as many as 10 or more. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, Buffer, and whatever other options are available.
The problem with having too many social sharing options is the clutter and confusion they create, often resulting in no sharing action at all.
How To Fix It
First, choose the right plugin. Unfortunately, there are lots of social sharing plugins to choose from, and I’ve personally tried most of the common ones only to find them lacking essential features or simply defective.
However, I’ve found one that I can now recommend because it’s the one I trust for this site: Social Warfare
Next, restrict the number of sharing buttons you show on posts and pages to at most 3. Facebook is likely to be one of those, but the other two can be chosen according to where your readers are most active.
For Pinterest sharing, you don’t need a button at the top or bottom of the post, since you can use the Pinterest Widget Builder to create specific sharing buttons next to images that will work best on Pinterest.
Before moving on to the next step, here are the 10 areas you should focus on with your blog. Go through each one and evaluate how they might be affecting your marketing, and then take the appropriate steps to correct any problems you find:
- Using the correct platform for your blog…
- Posting regularly and at the right intervals…
- Posts contain sufficient text to tell the story…
- Posts are not flooded with images…
- Tidy blog index and archive pages…
- Each post and page has an appropriate call to action…
- Not using any unnecessary plugins…
- Theme doesn’t get in the way of proper marketing…
- Only necessary widgets in sidebars and footers…
- Sharing buttons kept to the necessary minimum…