Designing a Photo Website in WordPress #10
Everybody's a critic; that's good and bad.
By Sara Frances | October 16, 2011
Here's the challenge: post your comment listing your own site if you're proud of it, or any site you love and admire for appearance, navigation and info. Let's get a discussion going that will provide good comments for how creatives can demonstrate that they really are, well, creative!
Once you launch a WordPress website, you've only done about 1/3 of your job (maybe less!) toward getting your message out and driving qualified traffic that you may (not can or will, just may!) be able to convert into real sales.
You've got two more jobs to do. Both of them are on-going. That is to say, your work is never done. Oh joy! But nothing is new here. This is how it's always been to promote a business and keep it's identity fresh and desirable in the eyes and mind of your market. One print ad, one brochure, a new sign on a storefront - none of these alone has ever done the trick. Promoting a creative business is just as much about advertising as selling office furniture or pet supplies. Anything. It's just that most days it seems an awful lot harder to promote a creative service. Everybody's a critic, and everybody thinks they can do it themselves, thanks to cell phone pictures being perceived in many cases just about as good as some professionals. Don't you hate it?
Once you launch that shiny new site, be warned that you are fair game for arm-chair critics, both of your site design and your photography. Mostly these are the same folks (read that twits!) who all said WordPress was "so easy", when you asked them for web designer referrals or suggestions about doing it yourself.
I have certainly found out that it may not have been such a good idea to request comments and opinions, particularly from people who may be colleagues in the same or similar creative markets. This can be a fast track to losing a friendship! But at the same time, if we speak civilly, this is how we share ideas without rancor, and everybody is a winner. No one should be trying to push another out; the general marketplace for photo and video is so depressed that only by elevating the industry as a whole can we elevate ourselves. Be graceful if you critique a colleague's site.
First you've got to buy into the truth that websites are a moving target.You've got to be willing to tweak them and add to them. Constantly. One of my chief complaints with past web designers I've hired is lack of willingness to correct spelling errors or formatting problems. Nothing makes you look like a lightweight more than a glaring fault like this. Mistakes are so easy to make, and so hard to find and edit. Sometimes a link does not take, or graphics are out of alignment. It's best to view your site on several platforms and through several browsers. Definitely a fresh pair of eyes will really help catch errors.
Sometimes there is plainly a disconnect in the words you've written.Is the text clear, clean, to the point? More importantly is it directed toward the market you're trying to reach, or did you go off into highly technical explanations and wordy bios that no one will ever read? This is where the importance of keywords hits home. We love the words "Fusion Photography", but what clients are interested in is actually "Corporate Video Production". Be willing to re-think from the perspective of the client. Survey your competition; look for new "hot" words. And for goodness sake edit down the text you post; save the details for when you make a presentation to solve your client's problems.
There is no sitting back on your heels once you launch.Our informal survey shows us that most creatives have not posted anything new in years, much less updated their site! How did that happen? New content is essential. We agree it's not easy, but this is the road you must travel. For every new picture posted, did you enter a relevant title, alternate title, caption and description? Did you enter SEO information in the right places? Did you tweak your site title and description as you discover what your intended clients are searching for? When was you last blog post; and was it something of genuine interest or just fluff? Remember that you're in the entertainment business, and you'll need to tread a fine line between serious/meaningful and fun/frivolous. Sometimes even what I the techno junkie would be tempted to call really useless blogging posts (like who you played golf with and who won the bets) can actually generate interest and the special kind of PR that keeps your name in front of the market you want to reach. Know your client and your potential client. Keep trying different things, re-write headlines until they grab attention and invite comment and discussion.
You must think of the promotion of your business as a real advertising campaign, where many facets work together to generate sales.Here's the real-life experience of a person who subleased rights to use my studio building and equipment for a time. He had a great business plan. He spent some money on a reasonable sample set. He had fair to good, better than average photographic skills. He had a nice sign made and took out some local print advertising. He said he tweeted and did some Facebook posts. What failed? Probably one of the hardest things for us creatives: tooting our own horn on a one-to-one basis. He didn't have studio hours and keep the door open. He didn't go out and talk to people to ask for their business. Even when we had open gallery weekends he had a hard time talking to visitors he did not know.
What does this prove? Simply that you can do a lot of things right, and still not make it. The point being that once you have a solid website made, you are just at the beginning of putting together all the elements to drive traffic. One of the main things, even in this internet, digital world, is personal contact. It's that old adage that remains true: we all buy from people we trust, whom we feel are sympathetic and "just like us", and in stores where we have a good experience.
Ok, so you probably guessed that driving traffic is the third part of your overall advertising campaign, anchored by your website. I'll be going more in depth in this direction in future columns.
And don't forget to post a link here to a site you admire. Tell us why you love it!
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