Why does every photographer need a good website you might ask? Well, to be honest, it’s an important subject that a lot of photographers gloss over. Long gone are the days of ‘word of mouth’ and business cards ( yes both are still important today), people want to see proof of your ability.
As a photographer, you are a visual storyteller. Your website should properly showcase your talents to the rest of the world, and make it easy for them to contact you.
Did you know that as of April 2015 Google announced that it would be penalizing anyone that did not have a mobile ready site. You might wonder what that means to you and why you should care. Well to put it into perspectives, more people use a mobile device to access the internet than they do a desktop. If your site is not mobile ready and someone is searching for a photographer, the chances of you coming up in the search rankings without a mobile site are very slim to none. Yes, you may have added in all the other great SEO things someone told you to do, but that won’t help in your case.
What your website says about you
Your website is the face of your company and in saying that might be the first thing a potential client sees before they meet you. Whether you are a professional wedding photographer or an amateur landscape photographer, having a clean, modern, easy to use and RESPONSIVE website is imperative to your business.
Your site should not only match your branding ( if you have created it), but it should also be well-organized, and easy to use. You should make sure that your logo stands out, and can easily be recognized. Make sure to use only your best photos on your site, and do not fill it with almost identical shots. Too many is never a good thing when people have to try and find what they are looking for through a bunch of clutter. It is also important to note that your website will need more than just images on it. Yes, it’s a photography website, but in the world of the internet ( and Google) content is king.
If your site is outdated, non-professional looking, and hard to use, your website will reflect that to your potential clients. Nobody wants to hire someone without a website or worse off an outdated crappy website.
I don’t know what kind of website I need
This is a tough one that many people struggle with. The answer lies within the goal of the website.
If you are looking for a spot to showcase your work but you do not want to sell anything online, a simple website will do. Usually built starting with 4 Pages ( Home, About, Gallery Contact), it will contain only the most important information that your client will need. This type of site can be built using any method, just make sure that your site is properly coded and responsive.
If you’re looking to sell your photos online, there are several great platforms out there right now SmugMug, Zenfolio , or Square Space to name a few. These sites are already optimized for mobile, and allow for an easy interface to upload and sell your photos. There is also the option of hiring a web developer to build you a custom selling platform for your photos. Keep in mind when you use a self-hosted platform such as the ones listed, you will not be able to use it for blogging. You will generally need another platform such as WordPress to be set up for blogging.
It’s important when you hire a web designer or sign up for a specific web service, that they meet your needs.
Here are a few things to keep in mind
hiring a web designer
- what is your budget for this project? if your budget is on the lower end and you want to work with a web designer, tell them your “must have’s” but let them know all your “wants” so they can properly design the site with growth in mind.
- is the web designer asking the right questions like; what is your current branding, what is your budget, why do you want a site, who will maintain it etc?
- what does their portfolio look like? Have they ever worked with a photographer?
- what is your long term goal for this site?
- what type of SEO practices do they use?
Using a self-hosted site
- if you decide to use a self-hosted site like Smug Mug and something breaks, who will help you fix it?
- what are the reviews like for each site? Make sure to read them all before you pay for a service
- most self-hosted services give you a free trial period, I suggest you try each out first before buying
- what is your long term goal for this site?
- is there easy SEO for the website?
How to Pick a Domain Name & Hosting
If you are new to this whole web thing, the domain is your URL, commonly referred to as your web address, and the hosting is where all the files live on the internet. You can’t have one without the other. It’s kinda of like your home address, and your home. This is the address you will be giving to people
Picking a good domain name can be tough. I generally recommend that my clients try to secure their domain name as soon as possible. I use godaddy for my domain names (never for hosting) as it’s an easy way to see if the name has been taken already, and also because you can always find coupons for super cheap domain names.
A few things to keep in mind
- if you can, always choose the .com it’s the most recognizable domain extension there is
- try to keep the domain name as short as possible, the shorter the better
- if you have a few words in the domain a hyphen can be used
- you should not be paying more than $20 for a domain name ( I usually pay $1.25-10.99 for one)
- you will need a domain name for self-hosted as well as non-self hosted websites
- NEVER EVER try to keyword stuff your domain name
Hosting will only apply to you if you are looking to have a custom site built. If your site does need hosting cheaper is never better. Make sure to do your homework on the hosting company. I purchase all my hosting through Web Hosting Buzz, but there are many good ones out there.
A few things to keep in mind
- what is their down time?
- what are their customer reviews?
- has anyone you know recommended them?
- you will need to pay for hosting every year ( unless you by a few years at a time)
- how often does the hosting company back up their files?
- what is their customer service policy
- how much space or what server package should you purchase. If you don’t know contact their customer service for help
But I already have a website…
Ok awesome, but is your site up to date? Is your site responsive (meaning it looks amazing on a mobile device)? Do you update your site on a regular basis? Is your site easy for your clients to use, and does it match your branding?
If you said “no” to any of the above questions then it’s time to update your site. Depending on the severity of the issue, sometimes a redesign or an update might fix the issue. If your site needs a lot of work I would generally suggest that a complete re-built take place.
A few things to look out for:
- your website was built longer than 4 years ago
- your website has flash on it
- your website looks terrible on a phone
- You are using a pre-built theme in WordPress or another content management system, but you haven’t ever updated it
- Are you using an e-commerce platform that was pre-built? Make sure to check it.
- You are not currently linking social media to your website.
- Are you backing up your website on a regular basis?
Not sure if your site is Mobile Friendly? Test it out https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
Linking Social Media
So you have a facebook page and use a few other social media platforms that you use on the regular, are they linked to your website? If the answer is “no”, why the heck not? Social media is not only one of the best ways to help people discover you, having your social media on your site will allow people to follow along on all the platforms you use.
If you do add your social media make sure that you are very active on all the platforms you choose to add. There is no use adding something that you no longer use, or rarely update. I also do not recommend adding social media to your site is if the social media platform is new or has few likes/followers. You should wait until your likes/followers grow to at least 100 before you add them onto the site.
If you are having a new website built for you, make sure you add the web address to all your social media platforms as well.
But I saw an Ad where I can get a free website
Ok this one is a touchy subject for me. YES I was trained as a web designer and YES I know the do’s and don’t of creating a website. It’s not all about making something look pretty, as a matter of fact that is only a small piece in the puzzle.
So here are my thoughts on this subject;
- If something is too good to be true, it probably is. There is a reason why a web designer is hired to complete a job, no different than hiring a contractor or interior designer. A lot of thought and reasoning goes into building and designing a website. Proper considerations like typography, button placement as well as usability are built into the look and feel of your site. There is a lot going on under the hood that you never know about. The person you are working with will probably ask you a bunch of questions you had never thought of because that is their job.
- Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should take it. You can actually do more damage to your online reputation by having a poorly built website, then you would not having a website at all.
- If in doubt, ask questions! Not sure what questions to ask? Google it
- My brother’s friend is in school for web design and said he will do it for cheap – Oh lordy..see above. I am not saying that your brother’s friend or any friends by the matter are not the proper fit for your site, just make sure you do your research.
My Final Thoughts
In this day and age, your website should be presented as the face of your company so you want to make sure it represents you properly. There is nothing wrong with building your own site if that is all you can afford, but I do caution you to do as much research as possible when it comes to building one. Do a quick google search on the do’s and don’t of a website. Make sure to follow all the proper rules for accessibility, and last but not least, if you are in over your head don’t feel afraid to ask for help and hire someone.
I hope some of this info helps you with your site. I know it can be a daunting task but if you follow the information above, you are already one step ahead of the competition.