Your Work Is Great But Your Website Sucks (At Getting You Business) with Gary Hughes
Admit it: Your website needs some help. Don’t take it too personally. Your website isn’t about you. Being a photographer means struggling with the overwhelming desire to create and put oneself out there while simultaneously being terrified that everyone hates you. I call it insecure narcissism.
And there’s no cure. Life as a creative entrepreneur is a constant series of naked plunges into ice-cold water, and there is nothing you can do about it. You can quit or you can jump. It’s uncomfortable to self-evaluate, but it’s impossible to make significant and positive change in your business without taking an uncomfortable plunge.
No matter how many people tell you they love your site, if it isn’t bringing in sales, it needs some work. Making changes to it isn’t going to hurt you.
If you are unsure whether you need to make a change, try this exercise. Open your accounting software or your studio management program and look at the last three months. Make a note of which of those paid clients booked you through your site. For the portrait and wedding crowd, it is possible to have good bookings come from other places, like venue and planner referrals. In the upper echelons of high society, there may be portrait clients who take referrals only from their country club pals and don’t even use the internet, but the rest of us who photograph normal folks need a website that works.
Photographers from the commercial and business worlds often understand something that portrait and wedding photographers don’t: Your website needs to be more than a portfolio. Here are five things your website needs to be relevant.
I bet that 75% of the photographers reading this are missing something critical on their website: their email and phone number. That’s just for starters. Make sure that all of your relevant contact information is on your site: business hours, location, expected amount of time to respond to inquiries and anything else that someone might need to know. One big mistake I see is that photographers don’t have a clickable phone number. Since the majority of web traffic comes from a mobile device, it makes sense to have a one-click way to call or message you on your website.
Fewer Images, Better Copy
Most of you are running multiple social media accounts that showcase your latest and greatest work. There is no need to have dozens and dozens of images on your website anymore. The function of a website has changed since 2001. It is no longer the only place to showcase your images. In fact, it’s not even the best place to do so.
Why not focus instead on conveying your strong brand message and personality with really good copy? Your website’s primary function is as a vehicle to convey information to a potential client. Tell them who you are, why you are different than your competitors and why you are the right choice for them. Even though the content of your site contains a lot of information about you, it’s really all about them. Cut your galleries back to the essentials that convey your style, and build content that helps your potential client make a choice.
Social Media Integration
Making your social media an active part of your site instead of just a string of buttons at the bottom can have great benefits. There are loads of widgets and plugins that allow you to show off your latest Google reviews, Instagram posts and more. You can give your potential client a quick and easy tour of your online presence without them ever leaving your page, and it can also give them a sense of connectedness that gives you authority.
By the time a client comes into your studio, they should be talking about how they see you everywhere. Part of my overall social media strategy is to use all my platforms to drive traffic to my website. A stream of traffic from multiple platforms increases your domain authority for search engines and might just bump you up the results ladder.
A blog used the right way can have powerful benefits. When you create content that your potential client might find useful, you become a more engaging brand. Forego the show-and-tell of cute babies in buckets. Write an article on baby safety during photo shoots instead. Include behind-the-scenes photos showing how you care for the little dumplings, and finish it off with great examples of your work.
See the difference? You are creating SEO-friendly content that can simultaneously be used on social media to drive traffic to your website. Ask yourself what your audience wants to know about. What could help them? Then create it. Make sure your blog is hosted in the same place as your website so you get the benefit of all that juicy content when Google indexes it. You can also create articles from your most frequently asked questions and repurpose them to provide clients with great information during the booking process.
Most photographers are crazy for not putting their prices—or at least an idea of their prices—on their website. With almost 15 years of experience in the business, I can tell you that the number-one question you are going to answer over and over is: “How much does it cost?”
You can argue that when a client gets in touch with you to ask you that, it gives you the opportunity to draw them in and educate them. That is true, and sometimes clients will spend more than they thought they would because of your awesome sales techniques. But consumers are changing, especially the younger ones. We are used to Amazon and Google, the whole world of information at our fingertips. You must know the feeling of going to a website and not being able to find the information you need. For visitors 35 and under, that can cause a negative reaction that could cost you. For every one person who bothers to contact you and ask you what you charge, there could be five or 10 who visited your site and went elsewhere because they didn’t find the information they were looking for.
If you are protective of your prices because of your business model, try this experiment. Add some pricing information on your site and back it up with a short video showing what makes your product so special. See if that doesn’t net you a few quality clients. If your website isn’t bringing in business, what have you got to lose?
Design a website that tells visitors everything they might want to know about your business, and remember that it’s not about you. Your brand exists in the minds of your audience, not in your logo. Create a home where they can get questions answered and get in touch. It’s that simple.