Are your website visitors leaving too quickly or failing to take the action you want them to? If so, you’re not alone, and the last thing your photography website should do is send your hard-earned clients running for the door, or present them with irrelevant distractions! Instead, you should create a photography website that lets your visitors know they’re in the right place, makes them feel cozy, and wraps itself around them in a comfortable embrace.
In short, if someone visits your photography website for a specific reason (e.g. they’re looking for a wedding photographer or a commercial shooter), the environment and experience you provide for them should focus exclusively on that one topic.
If there are too many distractions, or the website content isn’t relevant to their search, they’ll simply leave to find something more relevant, or they’ll get lost browsing other areas of the website, possibly forgetting why they were there in the first place!
This is no trivial problem, because you’ve essentially lost a potential client in the process.
The last time you decided to celebrate a special occasion with the family, did you choose to go to the local shopping-mall food court for dinner, or did you visit a dedicated restaurant?
I’m willing to bet you didn’t celebrate a birthday or anniversary by eating at the food court!
But surely that meal at the mall has certain advantages:
- It’s probably cheaper than eating at a more upscale restaurant…
- Individuals are more likely to find something they’re in the mood for…
- It likely takes less of everyone’s time…
But it’s really not the same is it? The mall can be crowded, noisy, and it lacks even the remotest semblance of a special or intimate atmosphere. Surrounded by stores and busy shoppers, there are simply too many distractions going on to allow for the type of family dinner we normally associate with a celebration.
How To Create A Photography Website That’s Right For The Job
A very useful question to ask yourself before you start thinking about how to create a photography website for your specific business is this:
Do I offer more than one type of photography and, if so, do I want to be perceived as a department store or more like an upscale boutique?
If you happen to specialize in a single genre, then you’re all set to go, and it’s going to be a lot easier to create a photography website for your business that’s focused firmly on that one topic with few distractions. With that said, though, you’ll still want to employ proper copywriting techniques to connect with the visitor in the right way and to encourage her to convert into a client.
But what if you’re like most professional photographers these days, offering multiple specialties? Suppose you photograph weddings, families, children, high-school seniors and pets?
The majority of photography websites I encounter in this category fall into what I call the “department store” model, where every genre the photographer offers is all there on the screen, accessible all at once to every visitor. In those cases, the photographer relies on the visitor to browse the website in accordance with the type of photography they’re looking for.
The problem with that approach should be fairly obvious by now.
With so much going on, all at once, the potential for unwanted distraction is very high. For example, someone lands on the home page looking for a wedding photographer, but is immediately distracted by a cute photo of a beaming baby (who can resist that?), and then wanders off into the baby photography section, never to return. All it takes is some other distraction in “the real world”, such as a ringing phone, an important email, or something happening over on Facebook, and our once hot prospect has gone.
And who knows if she’ll ever come back?
The answer to this problem is to create a photography website with structure and purpose designed into it from the bottom up.
Or, more accurately, from the top down.
Together, But Separate
For the photographer who specializes in everything (not really a good thing, but that’s a whole other topic!), the best solution is to keep each of the genres or divisions separated on the website as much as possible.
Having decided upon this type of structure for the photography website, the next question is “how do you physically create this on the website server?”
If you’re going to create a photography website where everything lives on the same server, you have two main options:
If you’re unclear about the differences, here’s a quick explanation…
A subfolder is simply a directory or folder that exists as part of the main domain, very much in the same way that we use folders on our computer hard drives, whereas a subdomain is a separate website that is still part of the hierarchy of a main domain.
“http://weddings.mywebsite.com/” would be a subdomain of the “mywebsite.com” domain, and could be used to hold information relating only to wedding photography.
On the other hand, “http://www.mywebsite.com/weddings/” can fulfill the same purpose but this is a subfolder of the “mywebsite.com” domain.
Both structures are equally valid, but which one should you choose?
Does choosing one structure over the other offer any SEO advantage for the website? In other words, how search-engine friendly are these two methods?
Most web hosting companies allow at least a few subdomains to be created for your main domain. To create one is usually quite straightforward and can be done from the website’s main control panel.
The benefits of using subdomains to separate out each area of your photography business are:
- Each business area becomes a separate, unique website with its own ranking…
- It’s easy to make each website look different…
- Search engines treat links between subdomains as external links (however, this is not guaranteed)…
- Google analytics can make it easier to track each division of the business separately…
The disadvantages include:
- Each subdomain must be maintained as a separate website with its own code…
- Sharing common files, such as menus, stylesheets etc. between the subdomains is not very practical…
- Each subdomain requires its own sitemap for Google (or Bing) webmaster tools…
- Search engines may omit subdomains from their index if they consider them to be too similar to each other in content…
- Limits on the number of subdomains you can have…
Subfolders can be used on any web hosting system, and this is the method that most web designers will choose. Some of the other advantages of using subfolders include:
- Easy to set up and maintain…
- Simple to share common files, style sheets and other functions…
- Usually easier for the search engines to crawl the whole site…
- No practical limit to the number of subfolders you can use…
- Only one sitemap is usually needed for the whole website…
I can only think of one major disadvantage of using subfolders:
- All the links on the site are treated as internal links (not in itself a bad thing)…
Which to Use?
As far as I can tell, the only reason to switch from using subfolders to subdomains would be to increase the page rank for the domain, or to simplify a domain by dividing it into more discrete sections that are better of being managed separately. For example, if you want the wedding section to look completely different to the families or babies sections, then a subdomain solution would be idea because you can then implement different themes in each subdomain without affecting the others.
Remember, though, it will take a period of time for new subdomains to appear in the search results, as they will be treated the same as any new website, and start off with a page rank of zero.
My advice in the majority of situations would be to use the subfolder system, unless there are overwhelming reasons specific to your photography business to use subdomains.
For example, if your main reason to use subdomains is simply for SEO purposes, I would concentrate instead on acquiring high-quality inbound links from other websites for a more natural approach to SEO.
Also, don’t forget that using appropriate keywords and names for your subfolders and website files can also help with your SEO and page ranking.
As always, I would advise that you research this topic thoroughly before committing to any major overhaul or a change to using subdomains. Bear in mind, too, that the search engines are continually changing their algorithms and a strategy that might be good one day may not be so good the next.
This short tutorial is just a small part of the puzzle we have to assemble as part of our overall online marketing strategy. This is exactly the kind of issue I help my “Prime Focus” coaching members with during our regular virtual coaching meetings, helping them to get these problems solved quickly so they can focus on the photography they love and spend less time worrying about the technical details of marketing.
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