A website is like your showroom in cyberspace. It is always (or supposed to be always) accessible – 24-hours a day, seven days a week, no matter where your viewers are, or where you are, in the world. Like a physical showroom, what you display would need to be updated every now and then, and must be attractive enough to hold the attention of your viewer, and to make them want to look at more than just what’s in “your display window.”
Once you’ve “lured” people to your website, they should want to go beyond your home page. It should make them want to see what else you’ve got, and it should be easy for them to navigate your site, so they can explore your other pages.
Having checked out what your website contains, they should be impressed enough with what they see, and convinced enough that you’re the photographer they’re looking for. Your website should make them eager to contact you to inquire about your services. Your website should make it easy for them to send you an inquiry, and you should be regular in checking your emails or website inquiries as a quick reply is expected of you – whether your website visitor is simply making a comment, or making a serious inquiry. Your ultimate goal is to make them do business with you.
While the whole wide world is your website’s audience, this does not mean that your website does not have to consider a targeted audience. The design of your website would have to take into account who your website is written and designed for. Those of us who are in advertising photography would have to ensure that our web design recognizes that we would be visited by art directors, marketing managers, advertising managers, account management people, who are knowledgeable about good design and marketing principles. Our clients are busy people, so our site must be easy to navigate. They are people on the go, so our website must be adaptable to all kinds of devices – iPhones, smart phones, iPads and all sorts of tablets, in addition to their desktops. (We’re working on this).
Unless you are an expert web designer, you may want to hire a professional designer and developer/programmer, with extensive knowledge of search engine optimization.
Your goal is to be on top of the list that search engines spew out when a search is made. This can be the result of various efforts – well-designed (not only aesthetically) websites with the right texts that grab at the tentacles of search engine crawlers, robots and spiders, regular and frequent updates or activities, online advertising as well as online linkages with others. The more people who visit your site, the more you are pushed to the top of the search list. All these help to promote your website.
Please take note that your photos are not “read” by those search engine crawlers. You would have to support your photos with text – which could be your articles or write ups, captions for your photos, or metadata (information about the contents of your website, or inside information on your photos – when taken, what camera used, resolution size etc.). A very good book on this topic is Rosh Sillars “The Linked Photographers’ Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media. Google him to gain access to his regular podcasts on this topic.
It’s also not enough to have a beautiful website, you need to find ways to market your site– to drive people directly to your website. If people are not specifically looking for you by typing in your URL (universal resource locator or your website address) and instead do a more generic search, such as “Manila wedding photographers” or “Food Photographers Philippines,” they get a list of everyone – your competitors – doing those kinds of photography. Hopefully, your name – because you have diligently worked on staying on top, is at the very top of those lists. It’s probably safe to bet that no one has the patience to search through the 5th or 10th page of a series of search results.
In addition to aiming to be on top of the search engine lists, you can also “push” people to search for and find you directly. You can put your URL out there – on your email signatures, your business cards, your and your staff’s uniforms, promotional t-shirts, fans, bags and boxes, bookmarks, your car, links at forums you join, banners of events you support, as part of photo credits in magazine and newspaper articles you do photography for, and your studio’s signage. There are countless ways.
I asked my daughter Sacha, who has a widely read blog at sachachua.com to give some pointers, and here’s what she has to say:
It might be helpful to give people advice on how to think of what they can put on their webpage beyond portfolios and keyword-optimized copywriting.
What questions do their prospective clients have, and how can they address those questions to build trust and get people to choose them?
How can they educate their prospects and clients to become better clients?
How can they demonstrate the advantages of working with them?
How can they help their clients get even more value from working with them?
What can they harvest from their experience/expertise to offer on sites that their prospective clients might read? For example, if you’re targeting advertising agencies: what do advertising agencies read, what can you share from your experience as a photographer, and which sites can you offer (or sometimes even sell) this resource to so that they’ll link to you and their audience will discover you?
“Content marketing” and “customer journey” might be good keywords to explore if you want to learn more about this.
A website is more than a brochure. It can help you with building your reputation and relationships, and even improving the quality of your clients. =)
This article on how to create, maintain and promote your website is just a beginning. As you get started with your website, more questions will crop up, and you would have to seek more answers elsewhere. This article or book does not in any way cover all there is to know about social media marketing.