The average photographer should get half of her sales from website marketing activities like search and social marketing, and the other half from referral and word of mouth. If less than half of your sales come from the web, then you have a prime opportunity to increase that share — and you’ll increase referrals in the long run as new web visitors become satisfied clients. If more than half of your clients come in through your website, let’s improve on what you’re already doing well.
The ultimate goal is to get more sales through online exposure, so you need lots and lots of website traffic. This article covers best practices for improving a website’s three main traffic sources:
How to Increase Direct Traffic with Emails
Direct traffic is the group of people coming directly to your website without visiting another website first. Ten years ago this meant people who bookmarked your site, or remembered your domain name and typed it directly into the URL bar. But times have changed and those people are gone, which means that today direct traffic primarily is generated through email.
Start an Email Newsletter
An email newsletter is essential for driving your direct traffic frequently and consistently. An email newsletter can be called anything you want, whether it’s a “blog alert” or a “mailing list.” It’s simply a regular email to your customers and others who have signed up to receive information from you.
My workflow for an email newsletter is pretty straightforward:
- Write a new blog post.
- Copy the first two or three paragraphs into an email with a link where the subscriber can read the entire post on my site.
- Add an introduction to the email, usually including a small mention to buy something that’s new or on sale.
- Schedule the email to send on Wednesdays.
The chart below shows a Google Analytics report of my website traffic. Notice the peaks every time I send an email!
I get the most traffic to my site each Wednesday because that’s when I send my email newsletter
I’m not surprised by this spike in my site traffic. A customer will probably visit my website only once a year if I leave it up to them. There’s are just too many websites vying for readers’ eyes. So I take control by sending a regular email that ensures the majority of my subscribers will visit 50 times a year. You bet that translates to higher sales!
Maximize your website traffic just by sending an email.
Build a List of Email Subscribers
Direct traffic through email only works if you have many, many email addresses to send to. Your goal should be to convince people to subscribe to emails, an activity that marketers call “building a list.”
More email subscribers = more traffic = more sales
The more people you email, the more people have an opportunity to click through to your website and hire you. You need a way to incentivize people to subscribe and to click.
The secret is in how you position the subscription. Hint: Don’t call it a newsletter. For example, the Milky Way newsletter is disguised as a free yearly planner.
Ask yourself: What can you offer potential clients in exchange for their email address?
Hear are some ideas for incentives that help build an email list:
- Free download – a simple Word document or PDF listing of local venues or partners, do-it-yourself tips, or a helpful guide;
- Informational content – inspiration, lessons, or educational material sent via email;
- Discount or specials
Use an Email Management System
A professional-level system is mandatory for managing your subscriber list and email templates. I recommend MailChimp or Aweber; both are free until you reach about 2,000 subscribers (wouldn’t that be nice).
These tools will guide you through creating a layout for your emails. I think simple is better. If it takes a long time for you to put together an email, you’ll never want to send them. My emails take under 10 minutes to build and schedule.
Now you just need a form where people can sign up. Email management systems handle this for you. You can generate code to place on your website where you want the form, or get a link to a pre-created form on your chosen email management system’s servers. Many systems have Facebook integration, so you can have a signup page there as well.
Send Email Regularly
Email best practices dictate that you send one email a week on a weekend morning. Infrequent emails (like a quarterly newsletter) lead to higher unsubscribe rates and night-time emails aren’t opened as frequently. Experiment to see what works best for your audience.
Sending emails that are important to the audience instead of what’s important to you bring the best results. People will quickly lose interest if you send them press clippings or generic information about recent sessions. Intersperse that material with client education. For example, a wedding photographer should email wedding inspiration, wedding planning information, details on local venues, or a guide to wedding albums. Sharing this type of information via email positions you as an expert and will motivate the customer to commit to you. They’ll certainly want to click on the email to visit your website.
How to Increase Referral Traffic from Other Sites
Referral traffic is comprised of visitors sent from other websites, including partners, press, and social media. It can be a third of your traffic or more. If you’re currently not doing much in social media or actively getting press mentions, then you can grow your business by one-third with a focus on this traffic source alone.
Expand Your Social Media Reach
More than half of your referring traffic likely will come through social media. Facebook will be the largest source of visitors, closely followed by Pinterest, then a scattering of people from other social sites.
People will talk about you on these social sites even if you’re not active.
People are pinning your photos even if you don’t use Pinterest
Imagine what will happen when you become a prolific business on Pinterest – the traffic multiplies. Click here to see everything pinned from my site. You can change the URL to your own domain name to see your stuff.
The more active you are in each social media site, the more traffic you can expect from that source. You’re probably getting a good deal of traffic on Facebook because you’re spending a lot of time there. That can grow even more by doing these things:
- Add a URL to your Facebook page’s About section, watermarks, photo descriptions, and status updates. Every photo uploaded to Facebook needs a URL in the description.
- Join a Facebook group and start commenting. You may have opportunity to position yourself as an expert by helping others, and perhaps even share your URL a few times.
- Connect with potential clients through your personal profile. Facebook has greatly limited the number of people who see your Business Page posts, but profile posts get seen by all your connections.
Add content to new social profiles, making sure your URL is visible in your profile or photo/video descriptions. Here are the ones I recommend, in order of priority:
Posting regularly to these accounts will increase the number of networks that can see and share your content. For example, YouTube is a video site but few people know it’s also the second-largest search engine in the world, larger than Bing. It doesn’t take much effort to post a YouTube video slideshow every month, and the payoff will be a whole new range of referral traffic.
Focus on Relationships
Relationships are essential in generating links from other sites and increasing referral traffic.
The best way to build relationships is by helping others without expecting anything in return.
Here are a few ideas for helping others that often will lead to reciprocity:
- Create a blog post or gallery showcasing your favorite vendors/partners.
- At the beginning of a blog post, mention and link to all the products showcased in that post — from the wedding cake vendor to the newborn beanie manufacturer.
- Send someone a testimonial about their product or service.
- Tag clients and partners in social media, like “Just had a great conversation with [Vendor Name] and we’re planning some great ideas. Check out her site at XYZ.”
- Interview another business for your website.
- Ask someone if they’d like to guest blog on your site.
- Do a mini event or mini session free of charge at a local shop.
- Help others in an online forum or Facebook group by giving positive feedback or answering questions.
In any of these cases, let the friend or partner know you mentioned them. A quick email saying “I really value your relationship and just talked about you on my site” will go a long way with that person. Almost always you’ll find yourself featured on the person’s site without even asking (just don’t expect it).
Contribute to Other Sites
You website will get a huge spike in traffic when another website features you. You want this to happen as often as possible. Rather than wait for it to happen naturally (which is rare), put yourself in control by contributing to the sites where you want to be featured.
20-30% of the stuff I write is for someone else’s site
Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer and want to be featured on a wedding florist website. That would be a big win since the florist’s website visitors are brides who could potentially hire you. Here are some ideas to get on the florist website:
- Give the florist photos of her flowers to use on her website. These may be from a wedding where you worked together, or maybe a separate mini session. Just ask for her to add your name and link next to the photo.
- Write a blog post for the florist, like an article about how great flowers are essential for a wedding photo album. The post will show samples of your work — with links — and create great referral traffic.
- Ask for an interview. The florist can ask you questions about photography and flowers, and this Q&A can be turned into a blog post or email newsletter.
- Offer a testimonial for her reviews page. Include a headshot and link to attach to the positive quote.
This approach works for almost any partner or blog out there. Think vendors, photography inspiration sites, Photoshop sites, local publications, etc. People are starving for professional photos of their products, as well as content for their blog. Simply volunteer your services to create something for their site. You’re doing them a favor, and getting great referral links in return!
How to Increase Traffic from Search Engines (SEO)
The number of people seeking photographer services via Google dwarfs every other medium, including Facebook and word of mouth.
“Google is not just a search engine — it’s an engine of economic growth. In 2011, Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $80 billion of economic activity for 1.8 million businesses, website publishers and non-profits across the U.S.”
How Google Works
“For every search query performed on Google, there are thousands, if not millions of web pages with helpful information. Our challenge in search is to return only the most relevant results at the top of the page, sparing people from combing through the less relevant results below. Not every website can come out at the top of the page, or even appear on the first page of our search results.
Today our algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals, some of which you’d expect, like how often the search terms occur on the webpage, if they appear in the title or whether synonyms of the search terms occur on the page. Google has invented many innovations in search to improve the answers you find. The first and most well-known is PageRank, named for Larry Page (Google’s co-founder and CEO). PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”
Source: How Google Search Works
In short, you need a page about a searchable topic, then lots of links to your site to make your site the most “important” on that subject.
Create Pages About Searchable Topics
Every page you create on your website is about a topic someone might search for in Google. Google deciphers that individual topic based on a many factors, like text on the page and image descriptions. But the most important factor is the page’s title.
The title of a webpage is like the title of a book.
Webpages and blog posts are simply books on a shelf in Google’s virtual bookstore. How you title the keywords of each page determines which sections of the bookstore Google places it in.
Google will have a difficult time placing a title called “Zach & Amber Photos” in a place where anyone other than Zach or Amber could find it. A title of “Beautiful Hotel Wedding Venue Photos in Sacramento” is more specific and can be categorized in many sections, such as “beauty” or “wedding venues.” The second title will be displayed to many more buyers and has the WOW factor that makes someone want to read it. Who wouldn’t stop to browse beautiful venues?
Getting found in search starts by naming each page with the specific subject matter that someone likely would search to find you. The same rule also applies for every gallery page and every blog post on your website.
Build Your Site Popularity
Using the above example, Google has lots of pages to choose from when ranking a phrase like “hotel wedding photos.” The site that ranks number one is determined by Google to be the most popular/important page on that subject.
You can influence popularity in a couple of ways.
Get links from other respected websites. If The New York Times links to your page, Google takes that recommendation seriously and increases your rank.
Get your images featured on other websites. If you win a photo contest, create a gallery for someone else’s product, or speak at an event, you will likely get photos scattered across the Internet. Google will see others using your photos and therefore increase your rank.
Be talked about on social media. When your pages are getting shares and mentions across Pinterest and Twitter, Google assumes people like your stuff and increases your rank.
Summary for How to Increase Traffic to Your Photography
So what have we learned? Here are a few pointers worth remembering.
Web traffic comes from direct, referral and search engine sources. Including key elements for each of them can help can lead to more sales though your photography website.
Boost direct traffic by starting an email newsletter maintained through an email management system. Use a free incentive to get people to sign up. As regularly as possible, send emails that will interest your audience (more than just your latest session photos).
Bring in more visitors from other websites by expanding your social reach, building relationships and contributing to other websites. Getting links on someone else’s webpage or social post means more people will see your business and potentially click through to your website to learn more about you and your business. Don’t forget to be active in Facebook Groups as well as YouTube.
Move up the search rankings by naming your pages with specific topics people might search. Like a title of a book, the titles of each page and post on your site helps categorize content so others can find you. Build links from other sources to establish your pages as the most popular for that particular subject, making Google want to rank them first.
Photo credit: Nalda