A few comments rolled in after yesterday’s post about the Fluid Galleries Giveaway asking about generating traffic to your website. Fluid Galleries or any strictly Flash-based site left without any kind of modifications has some limitations, one of the biggest of which is the difficulty – nay, the impossibility – of it being easily indexed by search engines like Google.
Now, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a field of expertise all on its own, as is the art/science of traffic generation. So think of this as a sketch book with some ideas I’ve scraped out of the jet-lag addled recesses of my mind, and not so much as a guide or comprehensive list.
First. The WHY. Ask yourself why you want to generate traffic. If it’s just to inflate your stats, then write things like “Keira Knightly naked” and BOOM! the stats for this post just went up. But do I really want that traffic? They won’t be clients, they likely aren’t photographers interested in being part of a learning community. They’ll probably never buy my books. Unless I promise to include photographs of Keira Knightly naked. See, stats just went up again. But why? In all likelihood you don’t want traffic, you want specific traffic. (Although even the random stuff that comes in helps your Google ratings.)
If you have site like Fluid Galleries you’d be best to either place it within HTML frames – I know it can be done but don’t know how. Or to precede the flash-based site with a HTML splash page with enough text saying the right things, that Google will pick it up. These days, as the iPhone gains prominence, and flash sites won’t (yet) play nice with the iPhone, a small HTML gallery is a good idea anyways. So what are the right things your page should be saying? Depends on who you want to attract but starting with who you are, what you do, where you do it and why, is a good start.
Beyond that, here’s the magic secret everyone wants and I won’t ask you to join a club or learn a secret handshake to learn it: there is no magic secret. The web works simply – the more you are out there, the more people are talking about you, the more people are pointing back to you, the more Google will recognize you, the better your visibility, and the more people will find you talk about you, point back to you, and the on and on. It’s a spiraling vortex of cause and effect.
So what do I do to be sure I am visible?
1. Great content. Or at least consistent content. There’s no point getting people here if there’s no reason for them to stay. One of my goals is to create a community of like-minded people with whom I can share what this industry, and this craft, has so richly given me. If you’re slick and have no content or are overly self-promoting, people sense that and move along quickly.
2. Interact. This is where all you Flickr-holics are right about the value of Flickr. It’s a chance to interact. But when you do so, leave (a) an impression and (b) a paper trail. Make sure you let people know where to find you off-site, lead them back to your website or your blog.
3. Create a signature that’s memorable, consistent, and full of the kind of information that you want Google to pick up and index, along with a text link back to your site or blog. On the most basic level that could be: David duChemin, Vancouver-based Humanitarian and Travel Photographer. Visual stories told from the heart. http://www.pixelatedimage.com – The more you leave these calling cards, the more your name and the words in that line of text will get linked with your URL. Be specific. If you want people to look at your portfolio, link them there. If you want people to read your blog, link them there instead.
4. Comment on other people’s blogs. Your tone of voice, your contribution, and your presence on multiple blogs of the same kind will begin to draw traffic comprised of the same kind of people. This is a good argument for not being a jerk, and for remembering that while “on the internet no body knows you’re a dog” they sure know if you’re an idiot. I think Taylor Davidson said that. And that brings me to my next point.
5. Share the love like it’s going outta style. Cause it is. The internets are full to bustin’ of self-promoting takers and if you’re a giver you shine like gold in a pile of coal. Ok, lame metaphor, I was trying to be dramatic. So give great content and link, link, link. Make it your mission to connect people to other people who are creating great content.
6. Contribute. Scott Kelby has guest blogs every Wednesday. This Wednesday it was Tim Montoani (see what I did there?) I read his blog, liked his words and his voice and went to his site and then to his blog. I guarantee I’m not the only one. His traffic went up and many of us will put him on our blogrolls. If you have something to say, say it, but don’t confine yourself to your own blog or website – offer to create content for others and introduce others to your readers/viewers as well. Competitive people won’t find this easy. It’s counter-intuitive. But it works.
7. Consider joining a portal site like Viisual.com
8. Join industry-specific photography communities like the Travel Photographers Network, and be active. Post images, leave valuable comments, and make sure everything you leave behind points back to you with a text-based URL (see #3)
9. Mix and match with conventional marketing methods. Want to get more studio photographers to your blog about studio photography because a year from now you’re releasing a book and you need to do some legwork? Send a postcard to 500 of the top studio photographers in the country inviting them to visit your website, read your blog, and consider contributing articles to increase their visibility.
10. Investigate web 2.0 phenomena like Twitter and be open to new technologies, new ways of connecting. Twitter might not be for you, heck I’m not even sure it’s really for me yet. But I know it’s already driving people to my blog. So can Flickr and Facebook and Digg and all those other social networking tools. But not MySpace. That’s so last year. Don’t get too loyal to any of them because the life of these tools is often measured in months and not years.
OK, that’s my top ten off the top of my head. What’s your strategy?
Leave a comment, share the love – but be sure to read #3 again. Comments without a signature of some sort will be docked ten percent and you’ll be held back during recess to sharpen pencils.