by Mark Lait
Website Marketing Elements
Most photographers have the mistaken belief that once they launch a website it’s time to kick their feet up, sit back and relax while the phone rings constantly with endless bookings. Sadly that’s not the case and even more sadly, when you tell people this, they generally won’t believe you. Believe what you will but I will tell you what our experience has been.
We have built several websites over the years and like most people, we included what we thought we should to attract the clients we wanted to attract. The cold hard truth, (which is all you will find here) is that for photography, it doesn’t work as you hope it would.
People rarely go on google to search ‘boudoir photographer’ or ‘family photographer’, admittedly, sometimes they do and there is huge benefit on having a website that’s been around for a long time as it is more likely to be found when these search terms are used but for the most part, I would say that the website on it’s own accounts for less than 1% of our business.
If you want to spend money on S.E.O. or adwords go right ahead and join the hundreds of others who all want the same traffic and are paying enormous amounts per click in the hope that they will get the elusive booking from their website.
BUT! … there are some things you can do to make your website much more relevant (thanks to social sites) and increase both engagement, bookings and sales from your website and they are covered below and the entire processes are available for purchase in our web store.
Probably the most misunderstood element of websites for photographers is the content. People, when they build a website without professional advice think they know what the consumer wants to see and what’s that? thousands of photos they have taken in endless galleries. People (you and I included) have a limit to how much content we are prepared to digest and everything has it’s end point.
In these days of instant gratification the viewer gets bored quickly, if you have more than a dozen galleries you are asking for a high bounce rate, people will leave your website and google doesn’t like that, it will penalise you for something you’re probably not even aware of. We have found that the simple approach is the best approach, we now stick with the content that can be quickly digested and contains the relevant information for the viewer to make a decision reasonably quickly.
In every case, the intention is to leave the visitor wanting to know more, to submit a request, to make a phone call.
Think about it like a ‘Louis Vuitton’ store … when you walk into one of their stores, often you will see a single handbag on a pedestal, in a glass case with a spotlight shining on it, the price tag could be $9300.00 but often it won’t even be on there, you will have to go and express your interest to the store representative to make such an enquiry.
So, like your website, the interested party has to qualify themselves in as an interested party by making an enquiry and this is exactly what you want. The store representative wants to assess you for suitability as an owner of one of their products, of course, this is all part of the delicate dance of sales but has worked forever so why fix something that is not broken?
I can categorically state that the worst recipe for your website is to have loads of galleries with too many pictures in each of them, advertise your prices so that people can make an instant decision to look somewhere else and offer too many products – we offer three only types of products and one only print option – don’t confuse the visitor – your website is not a Chinese restaurant menu, it is a fine dining menu.
Exclusive, elegant and timeless – that is how we have learned to make our websites and it seems to work very well.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, Newton’s third law of motion is also relatable to your website strategy. If, like so many people you want to post a million of your photos on a website to impress potential clients, you risk exactly the opposite happening.
You will impress yourself with how clever you are at uploading photos and creating galleries but nobody else will care, at least not until you tell them they are there! Planning ahead when constructing a website is something I wish I had done many times, but you will benefit from my experimentation, successes and failures.
I have heard it said that your website is an electronic business card and I tend to agree with this for photography websites but there are ways to monetise them and you can do this by placing a competition entry form on there or to have a limited range of packages on there. Still, people will not know they are there unless you tell them.
That’s where social comes in … you can promote your offers, competitions etc by placing compelling and interesting posts on facebook or instagram. People are naturally curious so in many cases, the ‘lurkers’ (people who observe but don’t interact – I’m one of them) who see your social post but don’t want to give their information away too quickly will go to the website (which you have, of course added the link to in your post) to see what you are all about. If you don’t tell people you are there, how will they ever find out? this strategy has been working very well for us for many years.
The Secret Sauce
Eye of newt, wing of bat … 16 drops of the essence of terror. It takes a while to work out what is going to work the best but I need to reiterate that being around for a long time is of paramount importance because google likes that and will reward you for it. So what are the right ingredients to turn your mother in law into a toad? Or to make your website generate money for you.
As stated earlier, we have found that placing a competition entry form front and centre on your website will guarantee you much more traffic and action that leads to sales and when you know the right words to say in the sales room you are increasing your sales opportunities exponentially.
This, coupled with the right social strategy and the correct kind of data capture will get people to your website and once they are there you have their attention, it’s so important not to lose it too quickly – after you’ve done all the hard work, this is where your strategy combines with your content to create desire, scarcity, urgency and fear of loss – four of the essential elements of successful marketing.
To wrap it up, websites are a necessary thing to have but try not to get too carried away, it’s just so easy to be narcissistic and forget that this is about the client, not you. If you truly want to make money from photography, your website can be a great tool if you design it wisely.
We all use online shopping these days and it is great, for some products it works and for others it doesn’t, we have not found websites to be our strongest marketing tools but used the way described above they can bring a significant amount of sales and interest your way.
There is no question however, that they are an unbeatable place for people to go to make a decision on whether your photography is right for them.
They are great place to display your value proposition, your mission statement and to give people an example of what they can expect when they come to see you.