The common mistakes made by photographers that prevent their websites from begging noticed by people looking for their services and/or images.
Should Photographers Have A Website Here In 2021?
With so many social media options today, does a photographer really need a website? Instagram is made for photos, and there so many people are active on social media. Why not just use social media? Isn’t there where people are going to find photographers today?
Even with social media ablaze, there is still a significant advantage to having a website for your photography business here in 2021!
Word of mouth has been, and continues to be, one of the most effective ways of adding local clients for your business. Social media is one of the ways that happens today and every photographer needs a presence there but here are the two reasons you should still have a photography website.
Millions Search Google Every Day
If social media is the only way people have to find your business, you are leaving out a much bigger pool of potential clients. There are still millions of people typing their questions into Google every single day.
Maybe a potential client didn’t like what they saw from a recommendation from their friends on social media. Maybe they didn’t like the pricing. Maybe they just wanted to find a couple of other options before making a final decision.
Whatever the reason, it is far more likely a potential client is searching on google for their next photographer or image than anywhere else. Google doesn’t direct people to social media. Google directs people to websites when answering their questions. If you don’t have a website for your photography business Google will never point potential clients in your direction.
Social Media Posts Have a Short Life
It isn’t a secret that in order to rank or have your posts show up on social media platforms to people searching for content, you have to post a lot. Daily at least, probably more.
Not only is social media posting for advertising for your photography products insanely time consuming, it is incredibly short lived. A post today is not going to be seen by anyone in a week or two. To produce a result, you have to run hard on that social media treadmill. If you stop running, your fall off the belt.
That isn’t the case with a website. Once you rank for something on Google, you’ll get traffic and customers for YEARS. Make no mistake, it does take some work to get Google to notice your photography website, and the tips here will help with that, but once that happens it continues for quite a while.
Photography Websites Mistakes
What does a photography website have to look like in order to have Google send traffic? The best way to answer this is through a little case study. Recently a photographer reached out asking for help with how to make their photography website get more traffic. He gave me permission to use his website as a case study.
To be clear up front, it isn’t that this photographer’s website was so bad it illustrates everything that can be done wrong. Rather, this is a good case study because it is extremely typical of photography websites. A really good example of the mistakes nearly every photographer makes with their website.
Let’s call the photographer in this case study Adam, and let’s say that he is a wedding and engagements photographer in Tennessee.
1. Improper Use of Blog
Pay attention to the fact that we are starting with the blog portion of the site and not the home page. Without a doubt the blog is the most critical piece of every photography website when it comes to getting attention from Google. There is nothing close.
Google doesn’t care (nearly at all) about the images on your photography website. Google doesn’t send people to your website as an answer to a search because you have stunning portfolio images. Google crawls your website and really only looks at text.
Photographers need to look at their website through Google glasses. Not the Google Glass product that got killed nearly as fast as it started, photographers need consider what the Google bot sees as it roams through your website.
Let’s take a look at Adam’s blog.
First, props to Adam. He didn’t completely disable the blogging function of the website. Adam has a website from Wix, but nearly every photography website hosting service offers blogging capabilities and every photographer should have blogging enabled.
Now let’s look at this page through those Google glasses. Red boxes have been added around the blog post titles. Based on the text in those titles, what is Google going to think this site is about?
- COVID? COVID is there in the title, is this a site about COVID?
- Birthdays? Happy birthday is a nice message what does that have to do with COVID? Is this website about wishing happy birthday to people?
- Light? I guess there is light at birthdays during COVID. Maybe this site is about having good light at birthday parties during COVID?
You know what word isn’t on this page even a single time? PHOTOGRAPHY! You have a photography website here that never once mentions photography services or creating photos. Adam isn’t helping Google make sense of what this website is about, and so the bot ignores the site because it doesn’t see anything here worth indexing.
Photographers need to write blog posts on their photography websites. They need to carefully craft the titles of those posts to match something their clients will be searching for. They need to create blog posts that Google will recognize as good answers to questions.
Instead of “COVID Didn’t Stand a Chance” what about a title like “How We Safely Created Prom Photos During COVID”. Instead of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”, maybe “Tips For Better Birthday Photos”. Instead of “Let There Be Light”, “How I Dramatically Improved My Photos With Flash”.
You get the idea. Choose really good titles that tell Google what your website is about and how this could be the answer to searches people are doing about photography. The blog is not a place for announcements. This is where you tell both Google and potential clients what you are doing with photography.
2. Too Much Emphasis On The Home Page
Photographers tend to think of the home page as the entry point to their website. The place where potential clients are checking out your services. Your first chance to impress.
Sure, if people have heard of you as a photographer they may search Google for your name like “Adam wedding photography Tennessee” and if you have given Google enough reasons to index your site your home page may show up as a result.
Most of the eyeballs that Google will send your way will be as a result of the blog posts when they have been done well. In reality, the entry point for most of the people visiting your site is through your blog and not your home page. It is good to create a home page, but invest the majority of your time on your blog.
Let’s look at Adam’s home page to see some other mistakes photographers make there:
Yikes, after reading a blog post and being interested enough to look a bit deeper Adam is asking the potential client to contact him? That potential client barely got to know you Adam, we need to take it a little slower here!
Photographers should think of the Home page as the chance to really show off their work. Remember, this isn’t how most people are going to enter your site, so think about it like this is your second point of contact to convince them you are the photographer for them. Put your best portfolio images on the home page and make sure they match the things you blog about.
We also have this chat windows in the lower left. It is actually there on every page but let’s talk about it here. Again, that potential client barely knows Adam the photographer at this point, why would they want to chat with him right now?
Even worse, that chat is set to auto-pop and make a ding sound. Do you like it when you visit a website and it makes a random sound you weren’t ready for? Nope, you don’t. You bail on that site and your potential client will too.
Sell your photography and stunning images, not the chance to talk to you. If you win this potential client over enough to contact you, make sure there is a contact page and it shows up in the menus and footers, but let that potential client get to that point because you convinced them to do so.
If they aren’t contacting you, write more blogs and work on improving your portfolio images.
3. No Upfront Pricing
The age-old debate about pricing up front vs having a conversation with a client to talk about pricing. There are pros and cons to both approaches to be sure.
Conversation pricing is great if you have paid your dues over many years doing photography, your business has arrived at the point where your brand is recognized and highly thought of, and you are turning away clients who are not ideal. Outside of that, upfront pricing tends to win the day.
Think of it from the point of view of your potential client. A person who has never heard of you, searched on Google looking for the photography you offer, but has been impressed enough to be considering hiring you. Maybe you have impressed enough you are on the mental short list for this person. What do you do when you have to call to get a price as you are comparison shopping?
It doesn’t mean you have to put a single price for a shoot. There are legitimate reasons the total cost of a shoot might be unpredictable. You can leave some room in there with your up-front pricing, but give that potential client an idea of how much this is going to cost them.
Adam’s website has up-front pricing, but there is another issue with the pricing. Let’s take a look.
Instead of using “Pricing” as the title where he lists his upfront pricing model, he has titled the page “Investment”. A really common thing photographers do as they are trying so hard to convince people their services should be considered an investment.
Convincing a potential client to view photography services as something worthy of investment is a really good perspective that photographers should have. Too many photographers devalue their product by not taking that perspective and working with potential clients to get there. It’s just a mistake to title it this way on your website.
Make it as clear and easy for Google to recognize your photography services as the answer people are searching for. Adam needs to do everything he can to make his site the answer Google provides for a person searching for “senior portraits in tennessee for $200”. That person is the exact client Adam is looking for, but right now his website makes it hard for Google to know that is the case.
By the way, this pricing really needs to be text on the website. A lot of photographers don’t like the presentation options with text on a website and so they create an image that has the pricing in it along with cute font and other styling. This destroys what Google sees of your pricing page.
4. Not Enough Local Contact Information
The lack of local contact information is another common mistake photographers make with their websites. We have looked at two pages on Adam’s website and have yet to see anything indicating he offers photographers services in Tennessee. How is Google supposed to know that?
Yes, Google can take a hint from the domain name of your website. If your website is at tenneesseweddings.com Google will notice, but that is not enough. Do everything you can to make it totally clear to Google you are offering photography services in your local area by putting your name, address (city, state, and zip) and phone number (local area code) on every page of your website.
The footer of your website is a great place for your local address and phone number. Your local contact information doesn’t have to be in a big font or attract a lot of attention from humans visiting your site. You are mostly putting it there for Google rather than those potential clients visiting your site.
While on the topic of location, wouldn’t hurt to make sure you have some pretty regular blog posts with the location in the title somehow! Not only will this help Google bring people to your site looking for photographers in your location, humans are more likely to keep you in the running when they see you live in and love the same area they do.
5. Slow Website
How long do you wait for a page to load before you give up and move on? It isn’t long is it? Google has put a huge amount of time and money behind studying website behaviors and speed has played a role in their search answer results for a while. In the early part of 2021 site speed is going to begin playing a bigger role.
Photographers have a big challenge here. Marketing their products and services involves a lot of images. They want to have those images look the best they can which usually means big, full screen images. The problem is large images are the worst offenders that make websites slow.
Photographers absolutely need to have really good images on their website to turn potential clients into paying clients. They just have to do that in a smart way, and unfortunately it isn’t the same with every platform.
Below are two bits of guidance that should help every photographer, but if technology is not a strength for you this is a place you may need to get some help.
Photographers are tempted to put images on their website at full resolution. The images are most impressive at their full resolution and they don’t want to lose any detail or quality when displaying them on their website.
We live in a world where cameras have tremendously high megapixels. A fantastic tool for photographers to create stunning images, but it comes at a significant cost of file size. Files so large if you put them out on your website without lowering the dimensions your website will slow to a crawl and make Google ignore it no matter how many fantastic blog posts are there.
This is not how you are delivering photos to clients, where you do want to make sure you provide the very highest quality result you can. These are potential clients that just need to get a good idea of your work. The thing to be concerned about it the file size of the images. Anything over 100K (kilobytes) in size is too big.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your images no taller than 1080 pixels and no wider than 1920. The images should be JPEG format and you should export them at a lower “quality” setting (no higher than 77% in Lightroom Classic).
Speed Testing Tool
You really can’t be your own judge of how fast your website is. As you work on your website and as you visit your website your computer is constantly working in the background to make it faster for you. It is called “caching” and every browser on every computer does this so that websites you visit frequently will be the fastest possible.
The tool you should use comes from Google. It is something called PageSpeed Insights and you can access it for free here:
Put the URL of a page on your website that you want to make sure is loading fast into the spot labeled “Enter a web page URL” and hit the “ANALYZE” button. The website will test your page without a cache and give you some scores.
As you go to test your website, keep in mind that the objective isn’t to get to 100 on the overall scores. Some of the best websites on the Internet get fairly low scores from Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
You also shouldn’t be worrying about improving the page load time (first contentful paint) from 0.8 second to 0.6 seconds. That small change won’t matter to Google or anyone else. If you can change things so that you go from 4 seconds down to 1 second, that really matters.
The thing to look for first are images that are slowing things down. Look for issues with in the following metrics:
- Properly size images
- Defer offscreen images
- Efficiently encode images
Common Questions About Photography Websites
Now that we have covered some really common mistakes photographers make with their websites, let’s go through a few common questions photographers have.
Why Do I See No Difference After Writing Good Blog Posts?
Take a critical look at your blog posts and make sure they are actually posts written to be an answer to the things your ideal photography clients would be searching in Google.
Are your titles indicating the blog post is about the topic people will be searching for? Do you have at least 300-500 words in the blog post? Is the blog mobile-friendly? Does your blog page load quickly?
If you are confident that the answer is yes to all of those questions, it may be a matter of time. Case studies say that on average it takes about 8 months for Google to consistently send traffic to your website. It is impractical to think that a blog posting is going to be the answer to a Google search within a day, a week, or maybe even a month.
If you are starting to blog on your photography site, you really can’t judge how effective things are before that 8 month mark. A little less time for searches done on computers in your local area.
Doesn’t mean you should create a single blog post and wait 8 months to see if it is picked up. The more you blog the more you scream at Google to pay attention to your site.
Can Photographers Use a Free Web Hosting Option?
Sure. It is possible. The most important thing is writing those blog posts for sure. Avoid the mistakes listed above and it is possible to make it work. At least for a little while.
That said, if the short list of photographers for a client comes down to you and a photographer that doesn’t have platform branding all over it (check out the Wix header on every page of Adam’s site above), which do you think they are inclined to choose?
If you were shopping for a carpet cleaner, how likely are you to trust a website obviously built on a free platform because the branding of the platform is on all of their pages?
There is also the problem of changing it to a paid for website later. If you spent time creating blog posts and getting the attention of google so that your website is an answer to searches, when you move to a paid for website and a custom domain all of the work is thrown away.
It is just better to pay for your website right from the beginning. It doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive, it can be under $10/mo, and it is well worth that investment in your business.
Should Photographers Mix Multiple Web Hosting Services?
There are pros and cons to pretty much every web hosting service. You can get a lot of flexibility with something like WordPress or Drupal where plugins can enable pretty much anything, but it may be more technical than most photographers are looking for.
When you look at services that do most of the work for you and you just pick templates and put your own information into the right spots. It isn’t too hard to find a service that looks the way you want but it often lacks capabilities that you need in your workflow. Seems like something that looks great may lack features like payment processing, client proofing, integration with a print lab, or digital downloads.
What about mixing services? Is that something a photographer should consider doing so that they can find the best of breed service that fits their needs and sort of glue them together? Like getting a beautiful landing page with your portfolio photos, about, and contact pages on something that excels at beautiful presentation on a computer and on mobile then a different service for the proofing/invoicing/payment kinds of needs?
Yes, this can be done, though again it gets a little bit technical. If you really can’t find a single web hosting service that MOSTLY meets your need the one thing you should try and do is keep everything tied together on the same domain name.
Even if your branding is tight, the look and feel pretty consistent, Google sees adamweddingphotos.wix.com (portfolio/marketing) as being totally different from adamweddingphotos.shoppify.com (image purchasing).
Now maybe you don’t need Google to index your shopping site, it is only there for clients to complete their orders. That works out great. Just try not to have your business on two domains if you want Google to see them as one.
Should Photographers Use Their Name For The Website Domain?
The default thing photographers have been doing for decades is using their name plus “photography” for their website domain. For example, if a photographer is named Jane Doe, they register “janedoephotography.com” for their website. Besides your name already being taken, does the domain name impact how people will find the website?
Google almost doesn’t care what the domain name is of your website. If you want to start and run a business under your name, and the domain name is actually available, go for it. The only thing to think about is if there is ANY chance the business may grow to be bigger than just you.
Now this isn’t something like hiring second shooters for jobs or you need an accountant, tax preparer, or other services to help you run your business. This is your getting so much interest in your photography services that you are having to turn away clients you want to take on.
A great problem to have, but at that point you would need to bring a partner into the business. Or at minimum you are going to have a shoot done without you being involved at all. When the name of the photography business is Jane Doe Photography, clients want Jane Doe doing their shoot.
Do Photographers Have to Use a .com Domain?
The .com domain space is really full here in 2021. Common names are pretty well taken at this point. If you are having a hard time coming up with a business name where the .com is available, is it a problem to use another top level domain (TLD) like .biz?
There is some evidence that suggests Google does have a preference to .com domains, but without a question Google cares far less about the TLD for your photography website than all of the other factors covered here.
If you avoid the mistakes above using a TLD besides .com isn’t going to play a significant role with Google. There are a lot of them that you could consider here in 2021:
That said, the problem with not using a .com is a human one. Even here in 2021 the .com domain name remains the king. Consider how you view things when you are shopping online. If you are on a .com website everything seems fine even if it isn’t. When you are anywhere else there is something making you wonder if this is legit in the back of your head.
Should A Site Be Dedicated To A Genre Of Photography?
Google doesn’t care at all if you are advertising every form of photography ever thought of on your website. If you have good blog posts for all of those topics Google will happily index your blog posts and offer them as an answer to questions people have regardless of how many genres you are covering.
The problems here are the humans. When people are checking out your website for a specific type of photography, they can get concerned with a lack of focus when they see a lot of other types of photography covered.
A larger issue is how well it is you are able to create compelling content the covers such a wide range of photography genres. Can you really create good blog posts for Google to index and recommend for everything? That is a very tall order and it mostly likely going to work better if you narrow your focus a bit.
How Many “Portfolio” Photos Should Be Shown?
There are never too many images as long as they are all stunning, top-notch, your best work kinds of images. This is a time to be very critical of your own work and make sure every image you put on your website as portfolio images are truly worth of that designation.
Experience with photographers over the years says that most will have to stretch to have 25 or more images that are truly portfolio level work. There are plenty of images that mean a whole lot you and your clients, but take the emotion of knowing the person out of the equation most of them won’t be all that impressive to a stranger.
Remember that portfolio images are your chance to convince a potential client to come all the way to the point of contacting you to book a session. Those images have to be your best. Your “best” will change over time, so refresh them when you create an image that is particularly stunning and kick out the worst of the group when you do.
How Do Photographers Sell Images and Not Services?
Blogging, blogging, and more blogging! Google has developed an amazing capability to see what is there in images, but that isn’t used much to answer questions people type into the search engine. You have to do all you can to tell Google about an image so that people searching for them using words will be led to the image you are selling.
Every image you want to sell as prints or digital license needs to have text surrounding it. Include place names, descriptions of the place, and everything you can imagine is being searched for on Google where your image should be the answer.
Your image needs to have the right text around it so that when a person searches for “large prints of bryce canyon” Google knows from the text you have on your website you have that very thing available.
Do Social Media Platforms Help Photography Websites?
As long as you aren’t replacing your website with social media, absolutely! Just be careful to balance the time spent on social media with the time spent doing things that are going to bring more traffic to your website – like blogging.
Writing a blog entry every day for your photography website will be more effective at getting potential clients to find you than a daily post on any social media platform.
Still, you can’t completely ignore social media here in 2021. You need to have a presence there. Share that new image that earned its way to being a portfolio image on your site. Encourage clients to share the images you created with them and tag you on social media. Great way to get referral business with very little effort.
There is also a trend happening right now where Google seems to really be paying attention to something called a no-link mention. This is where a resource is talked about on social media (YouTube in particular) without there being any link provided.
Google has said these things don’t play a role with their search results, but case studies have shown that is not the case. These no-link mentions seem to have a dramatic effect on search results. Getting others to talk about your photography services on social media will help you.
What Should Photographers Avoid Spending Time On?
Everything that keeps you from writing a blog post, or producing a video, every day. Everything else is a distraction. That’s the 90% answer. You should be spending 90% of your time that isn’t behind a camera doing those things.
Most photographers do allocate some of their time to working on their websites. The problem is the spend their time on the wrong things. They spend it on making it visually more appealing.
Visual appeal is important. You are not going to convert many potential clients into paying clients without it, it just won’t bring people to your site. So spend 5% or maybe 10% of your time on that and with the rest you really need to do blog posts and/or YouTube videos.
What Website Metrics Should Matter To Photographers?
The best metric is probably your sales and/or booking metrics. If you aren’t getting a lot of bookings, you know you need to work on your business. One of the ways you can do that without having to pay for marketing (which may really help as well) is to write some blog posts or work on getting better portfolio images.
If you want to a metric to judge improvements with traffic to your website, the key one to look at is page views per month. Unfortunately this metric isn’t something that is there by default from most of your website providers. One way to get this metric is to add Google Analytics.
Look at how your page views are trending over time. Remember it can take 8 months for Google to really notice those blog posts and send people there as answers to searches, but you should see the page view metrics start to go up pretty quickly after you get a few blogs posts written.
The secondary metric to look at is traffic sources. What percentage of the traffic is coming from Google vs Facebook or whatever else. You can see that with the Google Analytics metrics and it can help guide you on where you should spend your time and effort for improvement.
By the way, if your page views are mostly from Facebook but they are counted in the hundreds, you need to write some blogs!
Take Your Photo Biz to the WORLD Instead of Just Local Area
The cool thing about SEO is you can reach the WORLD. Yes, SEO can work for a local area, but it’s SOOOO much more powerful if you’ll think of your photography business another way. Here are some ideas
- Amazon product photos that people can mail you the products for you to shoot
- Freelance Photoshopping of Youtuber’s thumbnail images
- A blog for non-photographers searching how to take a good photo of X (car for Craigslist, wedding pics on an iphone, real estate)
- Landscape photos of a vacation destination mailed to customer
- A Youtube channel teaching photography
- Learn video editing and freelance edit youtube videos (BIG market for this!)
- Retouch and restore family history photos
- Destination weddings
- A blog with tips on hiring photographers, costs, etc.
You’re ALREADY a content creator. Right now the content you create is a photo. Now let’s see how you can create blog posts, youtube videos, and more with the skills you’ve learned.
Learn More About Internet Marketing
If photographers are interested in learning more about Internet marketing, including very specific ways to craft your content so that you can attract traffic to your website, you should consider getting a Project 24 Membership at Jim’s Income School company.
I have done that and have been able to transform my Photo Taco website into something that is making me a couple hundred dollars a month. I was already doing the work to create content, but I wasn’t formatting it in a way that attracts traffic until I took the blogging course as a member of Project 24.
If you check it out and decide you want to buy a membership, please use my affiliate link below to support the show.
Jim: Some great camera equipment for getting going on YouTube video creation to point people at your photography business!
- DJI Pocket 2 – $488 – DJI Pocket Creator Combo Pocket Sized
- Sony a7c – $1,798 – Sony Alpha Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
- Sony 20mm f/1.8 G FE lens with aperture ring – $798 – Sony 20mm f/1.8 G FE lens
- Falcon Eyes RX-18TDX II – $429 – Falcon Eyes RX-18TDX II
- Facebook group is Master Photography Podcast
- Instagram account for the show is @masterphotographypodcast
- Find Jeff’s work at https://www.jsharmonphotos.com. Check out his Photo Taco podcast over at https://phototacopodcast.com where you can search all kinds of topics and find shows discussing the details. He is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harmon.jeff, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harmonjeff/ (@harmonjeff), and Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmon_jeff (@harmon_jeff)
- Find Jim at https://incomeschool.com