The world is facing economic hardships. The economy however hasn't come to a complete halt though. People are still looking for photographers and photographers are trying even harder to increase business now that times are a little bit tougher.
(The things I list in this post aren't solely for photographers btw, they're for anyone who has a business.)
This is the time when strong businesses thrive and the weak fail. This is the time when it’s essential to hone your marketing skills to bring in new business.
If you're a photographer and you want to boost your business in these trying times then there are things you can do when you're not shooting to increase your revenues. I'm going to focus on the web because it's the cheapest method of marketing and the easiest way to bring in new clients.
To a lot of people search engines are their main means of bringing in new sales (it is for me). That is because they rank on Google, Yahoo or even MSN for keywords people are using to find what they offer. If you’re the first business people find when they go online to look for information or services this means increased sales. That is why SEO has gotten so popular over the years.
If you build your site in accordance to SEO guidelines then you’ll be on your way to the top of the search engines. There are many rules to SEO but if you follow just a few you’ll be doing better than 90% of other photographers in your market. So the first of the 3 ways is making sure your site is as SEO optimized as possible.
Pay Attention to SEO
- Make sure your site is SEO friendly. If you’re using a service where your site is easy to update and contains flash then most likely your site is not SEO friendly. If you’re paying a monthly fee to host and maintain your photography site then there is a good chance your site is really being hurt by this. When you skimp on your site you pay in the long run.
- Make sure you blog every day. If you don’t currently blog then you’re missing out period. The more you blog the more Google and other search engines will spider your site and this will increase your traffic and rankings. And when you blog from a blog that is SEO optimized you can really see the difference.
- Make sure you do at least some basic keyword research to figure out what people are actually searching for. There are free tools online that you can use to find this info out. Search Google for the word Keywords and you’ll find the most popular one. Type in your location and photographer and see how many numbers come up.
- Make sure you use H tags in your web pages. H tags are basic heading tags in HTML that specify a title and specify to search engines what a page is about. So if the topic of your page is Photography Services be sure to include that title in between H tags, specifically H1 tags. There are many basic HTML guides out there you can learn how to do this from.
- Make sure you use very specific title tags for your pages. Title tags specify what shows up in the browsers title. You know the very top of the browser. Search engines take the title tag very seriously and you should too. The more focused the better.
- Make sure you network with other photographers. If you have friends who are photographers then exchange links with them. The more links you have to your site from related sites then the better your site will rank. Be sure your link partners use the main keyword you’re optimizing for in the link text they use to link to you.
- Make sure you do not use a splash page on your site. A splash page is usually a flash animation that is an intro to the main part of your site. It usually contains flash and sometimes music. Splash pages are outdated and should never be used on a site. And I mean never if you ever want to rank well on any search engine.
- Make sure your site isn’t solely in flash. If it is you’re sacrificing rankings. You need real textual content on your site search engines can read. If you can’t get away from flash make sure you include pages on your site that are linked to from the footer or non flash section that include keywords you want to rank for.
- Make sure you’re getting new incoming links each month. Incoming links are links from other related websites. You can get new links to your site by writing and distributing articles like this one, distributing press releases, writing killer blog posts that people willingly want to link to or exchanging links. There are many ways to get links and that is just a few ideas.
Being Found via Local Search
The second method has to do with local search. You can rank on Google very quickly by listing your site as a business in your local area. All you have to do is search Google for “Google Local Business” and the first listing that shows up is Google’s where you can add your business.
What this does is allow you to list your business details including your URL to Google Local and also Google Maps. People searching for your service or business can then find you more easily in their location. Local business listings show up before organic listings in most cases. This depends on what keywords people are using to search of course, but being listed in Google Local is an easy way to get a front page listing in a matter of days.
Another way to get attention is giving away coupons. Google printable coupons are a free and easy way to bring in more business. You decide what your coupons should say, then customers print them out and bring them to your store.
Social Networking is a Must
The third method is social networking. Networking is crucial to any business and has become a lot easier due to the many social networks online now. If you’re a true marketer you can’t ignore the fact that Myspace, Facebook, Linkedin and even Youtube have millions of users who are all interested in certain things, have certain connections and all have needs.
If you’re not taking advantage of social networking right now then you are missing out on a huge audience. Youtube alone has already surpassed Yahoo as the second largest searched site on the web. That means more people search Youtube then they do Yahoo.
People might be on Youtube for different reasons but you can take advantage of this by educating, entertaining or even showing off your work. You already have digital media in the form of photographs. Put those photos into a slideshow video and upload it to Youtube, Googe Video, Yahoo Video, , Revver, Viddler, Metacafe or even AOL. To simplify things you can upload to multiple sites in one fell swoop using a service called Tubemogul.
Don’t forget to brand your videos with a URL back to your site. You can use free video editing software from Microsoft called Videospin from Pinnacle or even Jumpcut. Brand your videos with your logo, URL and even by giving a quick presentation at the end which includes yourself talking. People love to see other people talking. They should be seeing you next! If you haven’t capitalized on social networking yet then shame on you. The world is out there waiting for you.
If you want to take all your marketing efforts to a new level then give something of value away for free. Give away a PDF ebook on how to take the best photographs, how to save money on their next photo shoot or how to make their photos last a lifetime. If you can put together an informing ebook on a topic people will enjoy and value you’ve just gone a step further than the majority of photographers out there. And this will set you apart big time.
The economy is bad. Everyone knows it. But it’s not the end. If you have some free time right now be sure you are making every effort to market yourself. Marketing online is the cheapest and easiest method available. And don’t forget the offline world where the majority of people reside. That’s very important too. I'll talk more about marketing offline in a future post. Good luck!