Producing a photography website that works

The Internet can work well for photographers and especially for those who provide wedding services, perhaps because most of the people who get married are fairly young and so are more likely to use the Internet than older people.

This short article is about the things you really need to think about when you produce a website to promote your professional photography. There's no technical info here on actually writing websites, that's the easy bit!

There are various ways of promoting your services by using the net, consider them all!

1. Your website can be expected to bring in enquiries, over time. But before it can do so it will need to rank high with the major search engines, and this will take both time and effort on your part. There are a lot of Companies who will 'guarantee' high search engine positioning in return for a fat fee but my advice is to save your money and consider using a proprietary search engine positioning program such as WebPosition Gold instead. These programmes not only submit your site to the search engines automatically, they also help you to design the site in a search engine-friendly way. Slightly less user-friendly, but much cheaper and well worth considering, is this one

2. The most valuable search engines are Google and Yahoo, most other search engines get some or all of their results from these leading players. So it follows that if you can get your site visible on Google and Yahoo then you will also appear in most of the other search engine listings.

3. You can 'just' design your website in a way that makes it 'search-engine friendly' and forget about submitting it to website search engines - after all, the search engines will find it all by themselves, although it may take longer.

4. One 'easy' way of designing a search engine-friendly website is to make searches using Google, and to take a close look at the photography websites that appear high on their listings, using the keywords that are appropriate to your own business. Ignore the 'Sponsored Links' when you do this. Pick a website that has a design you like, right click on it (but not on an image) and then view the source code and copy and paste it into your HTML editor. Analyse the code to find out why the search engines like it and then make any required changes, obviously using your own text and graphics.

5. Monitor how well your site performs in the search engines and make changes as necessary.

6. See how well your website ranks by using the Google Pageranking service

7. You can also subscribe to the Wedding Services Sites such as

These sites can work very well, but there are a lot of them and some are much better than others - stick to those that are well-established, have many of your competitors already advertising with them and that also carry adverts for other wedding services, such as hire cars, bridal wear etc. You can easily find out which of these sites get the most visitors simply by using a free service such as Alexis, which tracks website traffic. Some wedding directories are free, at least while they're getting established.

Google Adwords are well worth considering - these are the small classified ads that appear as 'sponsored links' on search engines and on other people's websites.

Basically you write your ad, supply keywords that relate to your service and away you go!

Apart from a small registration fee you only pay when people click on your ad to visit your website. You decide how much you pay per click - the more you're prepared to pay the higher on the list your advert will appear - and you set your own daily maximum spend limit.

Like everything else, getting the best from Google Adwords has its own learning curve and you may find that their software isn't particularly helpful!

Here are a couple of pointers to get you going:

  • Choose your keywords carefully. Try to think up all possible keywords that people might use when making a search on Google. And bear in mind that where adwords appear on other people's websites, they appear in response to words used on that page, so the choice of keywords is very important. You only get charged for actual clicks, not for keywords.

  • Bear in mind that, where your adverts appear on other people's websites, they receive a payment every time someone clicks on your ad - and there is nothing to stop them clicking on it repeatedly!

  • Competitors might click on your ad repeatedly too.

  • Your keywords, which are invisible to the people who see your ads, can include the names of your competitors too, so if (for example) you want to get visits from people who are looking for wedding photographers, you could include the names of any well-known wedding photographers

  • Make sure that your keywords are relevant to your business. If all you want is a large number of hits then you can get them by including keywords such as 'young female porn model photos' but all you'll get is thousands of hits from people who want to look at pictures of young female porn models - and you'll have to pay for every click!

  • Google will ask you to set a maximum cost per keyword, and they will recommend a very high figure. This is the figure that will place your advert right at the top of the list, I suggest that you choose a low figure, perhaps 4p at first, and then increase it later to get more exposure.

I use this service to increase website traffic for my Photolearn website, advertising throughout the English-speaking world, and it works for my training courses and for my social photography website too, with my adverts set to appear only on computers in my local area. Google adwords

In summary, Google Adwords are an excellent way of getting your website seen or of 'kickstarting' a new website, but as with any advertising method it's essential to monitor results very carefully and to keep firm control of your costs. It's also a very good idea to get your site up and running and to iron out any bugs before you spend any money on promoting it.

You can also benefit financially by running ads from other businesses on your own website (Google adsense) but this is only likely to generate income if you have an enormous number of hits on your site - and anyway, do you really want your visitors to leave your site to look at other sites?

Generally, the answer to this is 'No' but it depends on the purpose of the website and on its content. For example, I'm involved with a non profit-making site that provides free info to models. This site does include google ads. They are useful to the wannabe models who view the site and they click on them to see whether the ads are from genuine or scam model agencies - this helps the visitors and it helps us too, because we get paid every time they click on an ad!

Another example of a website that can benefit from paid clickable links is a photography website that also includes pages with technical resources, for example articles on photography. Now, the people who view technical info pages aren't likely to be of any value to you as potential customers so including some Google ads may bring you in a bit of money without any real risk of driving potential customers away from your website.

Another reason for considering having Google ads on your site is that they seem to improve the Google listings, making the site more visible to potential customers.

Websites are a vital marketing tool but they are only a part of an overall marketing strategy, not an end in themselves.

I say this because, increasingly, websites for photographers seem to be nothing more than a form of vanity publishing, where the photographer provides his or her potential clients with the information he or she thinks matters and displays pictures that he or she thinks are good!

Very often, these websites are more likely to drive business away than to encourage it. The information contained on the website should be relevant to the clients' needs and so should the photographs.

Don't tell people about the sort of equipment you use - they're not interested - and don't bother telling them your life history or about the type of photography that personally interests you either, this is the type of info that drives people away.

  • Make sure that your website is easy to navigate, easy to read, contains plenty of relevant information and good examples of your work. Make sure too that the grammar is within acceptable limits and that there are no spelling errors.

  • Avoid using large and time-consuming flash animations on your website. YOU may have a broadband connection but if your clients only have a dial-up connection they may lose interest and leave before the page even loads. The general perceived wisdom is that people will only wait 8 seconds for a page to load. Try to make sure that it takes no more than 4 seconds.

  • Don't have a 'splash page' which contains no useful content and which asks people to 'Click here to enter my site'. The search engines won't find your site if you do.

  • Don't forget to include a good page title and plenty of relevant keywords, plus plenty of text that makes use of those keywords. These help the search engines to find your site.

  • Don't forget to include full contact details, including your trading address. You may know where you are but your customers need to know too!

There are plenty of web designers around who can produce a website for you at reasonable cost, but my advice is to produce your site yourself.

If you don't know how to write simple HTML code it's a good idea to use authoring software such as Dreamweaver™ or Front Page Express™.

You may feel that you have enough to do without producing your website yourself, but consider this:

  • Website design is organic, and you will want to improve and change it constantly. You will also want to change the pictures, add new ones, add new services and so on. If you pay someone else to design your website for you then making changes and improvements will be more difficult, unless you use a Company that provides you with front-end access to allow this.

  • Many website designers seem to get carried away with visual content and sometimes seem to overlook the fact that the main function of a business website is to win business! Many 'professional' websites don't even include the essential metatags i.e. Title, Description and Keywords.

  • You will need someone who can provide hosting for your website. Tempting though it is to sign up with a 'free' hosting service, you should be aware that there is always a price to pay for 'free' webhosting, and the price is usually either an impossibly-long secondary URL (website address) like
    http://www.northernwebservices/members/ photographers/johnsmithphotography.htm (I exaggerate slightly for the sake of effect) or banner ads displayed on your site, neither of which is a good idea.

No Right Click

Many photography websites have a little bit of code included which is supposed to stop people copying the photos and other info contained on the page.

It doesn't!

Any computer-savvy user can get round this 'protection' instantly, and so can anyone who is using a modern browser.

All that 'No Right Click' actually does is to annoy people who use their right click button for navigation or to add the page to their favourites or to their desktop. Just accept that when someone views something that is on your website it has already been downloaded to their computer and that the only thing that 'No Right Click' can do is to delay the copying of a file for a second or two.

If you really want to stop people stealing your pictures, either don't put them on your website at all, put them on at very low resolution or include a large and annoying copyright notice right across the picture.

Banner ads
There may be related sites on which you can place a banner ad, linking to your own website.

There are three ways of doing this

1. Reciprocal links, where they display your banner and you display theirs. No money changes hands and it seems like a good idea - until you realize that advertising, say, wedding cars on your site will actually take potential clients off of your site if they click on the banner. If you really want to do this, write the code to open their site in a new window, so that when they exit they will be back on your site.

2. Pay per click - This is a simple arrangement, where you pay an agreed amount every time someone clicks on the banner to go to your site. It may work for some sites but bear in mind that many people click on banner ads out of boredom and have no real interest in what you have to offer. These timewasters will cost you money!

3. PBR (Payment By Results). This is where you track the source of your sales and pay the website owner an agreed sum for every client who buy from you. You pay nothing for those who click on banner ads just for the hell of it.

Selling from your website
A website can be a marketing medium, an online brochure and/or a direct selling medium.

Some people sell either fine art prints or reprints directly from their website, which is fine, others prefer to use a specialist website to host their pictures and handle the payment and ordering side.

But what if you don't sell any goods directly from your website? Should you still be reading this section?

Yes, if you're providing social photography services, because as I mentioned elsewhere, a booking is only a booking once people have paid you some money, so it makes sense to make it easy for them to pay you through your website.

Basically there are 2 viable payment options for small businesses:

You can accept payment through PayPal, or Nochex, or both. PayPal is USA-based and part of Ebay, so it's much better known than Nochex and I find from personal experience that most customers and clients prefer this option.

But the public seems to have a perception that PayPal is riddled with fraud, and whether this is true or not many people don't feel safe using their service.

On the other hand, Nochex is a British Company, is much smaller and doesn't seem to have that reputation, so you may find it advisable to offer both options.

There is an inbuilt prejudice among commercial clients that people who photograph people, pet dogs and weddings can't produce the high standard of work needed by business clients. Whether you agree with this or not, it's best just to accept that this is the way things are, so if you carry out both commercial and social work then it's best to have separate trading names and separate websites.

This article is a small extract from The Professional Photography Manual, the 28,000 word, 77 page manual for people who want to earn money from their photography. Please click here for more info about the manual.

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Producing a photography website that works