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How to Drive Much More Traffic
to Your Website
SEO – Search Engine Optimization



When most people hear the term SEO or search engine optimization, they grimace, their eyes roll back into their heads and they quit listening because they think it is costly, a technology only for geeks and they don’t appreciate what it can do for them.

The Beginning of Time
I got involved in Internet marketing in 1995 shortly after Mosaic, the first graphic-based, universally-applied browser became available to the world. Hard to believe how far we’ve come in just fifteen years. At an early international conference on how to use the web for research, I found myself sitting at a table with a representative from the FBI and Russian intelligence service, formally the KGB. A very interesting two days. Since that early encounter, I have been an avid proponent for the Web’s unique marketing and research opportunities.

If a fundamental objective of your marketing is to drive people to your website where they will see examples of your work, where you sell your services, etc., then you’ll want to read the next three articles about SEO and the inexpensive, easy-to-implement SEO features that will make a significant difference for people trying to find your site.

What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is a web-marketing strategy specifically designed to bring potential clients and customers to your website. Search engines send out robots daily to index text on your Web pages. They also look at the internal and external links and other “secret” page elements. Then, using their individual proprietary algorithms, Google and the other search engines form a composite of your site for reference when someone enters search terms. Depending on the extent of SEO-based elements employed in your site, it will appear higher or lower in search results listing.

Easy and Free
There are about a dozen simple, free things you or your webmaster can implement to make your Website easier to find by search engines. Everything that is provided in this and the following two articles is equally applicable to both commercial and fine art photographers.

How Ready is Your Website for SEO?
Let’s begins with a brief quiz about what you know about the web. Which of the following statements are true?

  • Fancy websites sell
  • You can’t do SEO yourself
  • The vast majority of Web designers know SEO and how to create a marketing-effective web site.
  • SEO companies – the ones you pay to optimize  your website – are good investments
  • People read
  • You have to have a blog
  • Flash is the way to go
  • Better to do one thing right, than to do several things half ass

In this and the following three articles, I’ll show you why all but the last statement are myths.

This is a rather long article, so you may want to get a copy of your favorite beverage before begriming.

Preparing Your Website
Your website is your marketing loadstone – the place to which all of your potential customers and clients are attracted.

No amount of SEO will be useful if your site is not ready for those who land on your web page.

If your site uses hard-to-read text, is slow to load, difficult to navigate, busy with color, doesn't’t have a hook, or is “average” it will not help market yourself, your services, or your art, no matter how comprehensive your SEO implementation.

The following is a guide for you to analyze your site; it provides suggestions for making it an effective marketing tool.  It contains both SEO-specific, as well as related recommendations for marketing and sales.

  • First, ask your self “What is the purpose of my web site?” This may seem obvious. Yet, many photographers’ sites are trying to do too many things and are consequently not focused.

  • Is your site a platform for showing your art, or showcasing your previous commercial assignments?  Or, is its primary function to serve as a platform for creating on-line sales?

  • Is it clear to the visitors what you do?

  • Does your “about” page include a photo of yourself making eye contact with the reader? Can they easily read about you, your expertise and experience?

  • How easy do you make it for people to contact you? Can they call you? Do they have to fill out a form to email you?

  • Would you want to do business with the owner of your site?
    This calls for a great deal of honest objectivity. Does your site look professional? Compare it with your competitors. Making comparisons is a fundamental marketing strategy that is too often overlooked. If your work is local or regional, you must monitor your competitors’ sites.

  • Is you site based on frames?
    Not sure? When you change pages, if there are one or two columns or headers that remain rigidly the same from page to page, then your site could be based on a frames design. Check with your webmaster if you are uncertain. While search engines can index frame pages to some extent, they view the individual frames and do not form a composite of the complete website. As you will see in the third article on the power of links, you want your site to be seen as a single unit. By using templates and CSS div tags, the same design effect can be accomplished and search engines will present your site as a whole unit.

  • Is your home page based on flash?
    There are some very cool things you can do with flash. But it is not SEO friendly. Only to a very limited extent, if at all, can search engines index a flash-based page. Additionally, flash pages tend to be much slower to load, or it can be too cutesy and distracting, making the page ineffective as a marketing tool. There are exceptions, of course. If you want to employ flash, use it within your website at a third level. For example your home page is followed by a portfolio introductory page, both in html – not flash. Then the page following the profile introduction can be in flash, presenting your work.

  • Is your site inviting?

  • Is your text buried in a graphic? In other words, is your text part of a jpg or gif element? The text is really a picture to search engines and is not indexed or searchable. If it is significant text, then it needs to be repeated within the body of the page.

  • Does your website use colorful text and page background?
    There is nothing easier to read than black text on white background. The reverse, white text on black background is very challenging to read beyond a few sentences. Too often I visit sites that are almost impossible to read, such as gray on black, teal on blue. Use multiple colors sparingly. More than three colors often looks very unprofessional. The contrast between text and background is very important.

  • Does your home page provide a “hook” – a reason to read it— explore beyond the home page? As photographers, one of the best hooks we have is a compelling image, or images.

  • How easy and intuitive is it to navigate your website?
    Ever visited a site and looked for links to move within the site? Very frustrating. How easy is it to navigate within your site? Can someone easily get back to the home page or another page within the site from other than the home page? Often, navigation can be enhanced by restating the link words at the bottom of the page.

February 2010