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The Photographer’s Guide to Online Marketing

One of the biggest challenges that photographers face is getting their work noticed – especially in an age when cat videos and memes are taking up precious digital airtime. It can be tough to break through that racket and get your work the recognition it deserves.

Another challenge is that you’re not a marketer. You’re a photographer. So where do you begin?

This article will take you through some key online marketing concepts and show you which marketing channels (paid and unpaid) you should be using and how.


Facebook and Instagram Advertising

Many photographers complain that Facebook advertising is a waste of time and money. That is only true if you’re using Facebook advertising incorrectly. Indeed, you should never direct Facebook ads to your homepage, use the wrong advertising goal or call to action.

Here is what you should do:

Use Precise Targeting

To get the most out of Facebook ads, and to get your desired outcomes, you need to be very specific in your targeting. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you could target men and women between the ages of 24 and 45 (give or take a couple of years, the goal is to target men and women of marrying age). Chances are they also know of couples that are getting married. More specifically, you can target by relationship status, i.e. those that are engaged.

You should also target by interests. For example, as a wedding photographer, you can target those who are interested in wedding rings, wedding magazines, wedding planners, any pages on Facebook that are wedding-related or even wedding-related TV shows. The possibilities are endless.

You can also target by location, education level, connections and custom audiences (your email list). Play around with targeting until you find your perfect niche. The more specific you make it, the more effective your campaign will be.

Build a Landing Page

The ad is actually not as important as the page it sends people to. You should send traffic to a unique landing page that is aimed at converting your social media visitors.

If you want them to sign up for your newsletter, create a landing page that encourages and enables them to do so. Similarly, if you want them to take advantage of a special offer, create a landing page that persuades them to take you up on it.

But first things first, what exactly is a landing page? A landing page is essentially a page of your website that has a specific objective. Unlike your homepage, which is general and is focused on educating and showcasing your business, a landing page is specifically designed to convert.

Ensure that your landing page is consistent with your Facebook ad in terms of call-to-action, branding and design. Just as with your portfolio, you need consistency in your ad campaigns to get the best results.

Note: Traffic from ads cannot fix a bad landing page. It is up to you to ensure that you have an effective landing page with a good lead generation system to convert the traffic into actual dollars.


Search Engine Marketing

Social media advertising is used to target people based on their interests, their education, job titles, industries and other demographic data. Search engine marketing (SEM) on the other hand is aimed at those you are already actively searching for photographers that offer a certain service. So what you’re essentially doing with SEM is paying to get featured in the top of search engine results so potential customers can easily find you.

As with social media advertising, you need you use a dedicated landing page for your ads. This is especially important for SEM as the quality of your landing page will affect your ad performance and even the amount of money you spend on ads. Ads with quality and relevant landing pages generally have a lower cost per click or CPC.

The main search engine marketing platform is Google AdWords.

Here are a few reasons why Google AdWords makes sense for your photography business:

  • It is cost-effective. You pay for performance i.e., only when your ad is clicked
  • You can run ads within your budget by setting your own price when you bid
  • You can target your ads (by location and keywords)
  • You can track and measure your results easily with Google Analytics

Google AdWords Tips:

  • Use precise targeting by choosing the right keywords, interests and locations
  • Watch your spending – don’t spend on keywords you don’t need. Select specific and relevant ones and only run ads during the day
  • Use a compelling call to action
  • Build a custom landing page to direct ads to
  • Provide an offer. For example, if you are a wedding photographer, offer a wedding discount package
  • Analyze (using Google Analytics) and optimize

It is important to note that the click through rate of paid ads in Google is significantly lower than the click through rate of organic search results that show below those ads.

Additionally, the competition for your target keywords may be high and your cost per click (CPC) might be extremely high. It is up to you to decide how valuable SEM is for your business. If executed properly, you could see a substantial return on investment.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Most people begin their online purchasing journey through search engines. As a photographer and a business owner, you would want to rank among the top search results on a search engine like Google. Most of you are already on the quest to make this happen.

But are you doing it properly?

SEO is not so simple. It has changed quite dramatically over the past few years and will keep changing. It is no longer about setting up a website and blog, filling it with keywords and hoping that Google gives you top rankings.

The keyword in SEO is now quality. Quality content and a quality website that provides quality user experience. As long as you offer that, and implement other technical SEO requirements, you should be seeing a good amount of organic traffic to your site.

You’re probably scratching your head on what we mean by quality and what technical SEO requirements you need to implement. Check out Google’s SEO starter guide to learn more.

As a photographer, your images will make up a substantial portion of your SEO points. So let’s go over how to properly optimize your images for SEO.

Tips on optimizing your images for SEO:

Use the correct file name. This is the foundation for image SEO. You need to tell Google what your image is about. If Google knows what your image is about, it can include it in Image Search. It also helps Google to understand what the page the photo is posted on is actually about so as to feature it in search results pages. So if you’re a wedding photographer with a portrait of yourself on your about page, instead of using DSC_4562.jpg as the file name, opt for susan-green-chicago-wedding-photographer.jpg.

Use the smallest file size possible. File sizes can greatly impact the speed of your site, which matters for SEO. A smaller file size could translate to a faster site which then translates to more SEO points. There are a variety of software available to help you reduce your image files. Choose the one that works best for you and resize your images. Every MB counts.

Use responsive images. Your images should fit in every screen size perfectly. Depending on the content management system you use, there are various tools that enable you to easily make your images responsive. You can ask a web developer to help you out with this if you’re having trouble. Just don’t neglect it: a nonresponsive image could provide a bad mobile experience and increase the bounce rate on your site.

Add Captions. Captions are useful for people who are scanning your page or post. It works just like a heading in helping people understand what your post is about. Use it only on images that require it. It is not necessary to caption all images.

Use alt tags and title texts. The alt tag serves as a descriptive text when your image can’t be served for whatever reason. It essentially serves to ensure that no functionality is lost when an image cannot be served. So include the SEO keyword for that page or post in the alt tag. The alt tag is similar to the alt text so you can use the same text for both.

Submit XML image sitemaps to Google. Google strongly recommends that you give them information about the images on your site. You do this by adding image-specific tags to an existing sitemap or create a separate sitemap just for images.


Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing looks quite easy on the surface but it is quite complex if you are doing it properly. There is indeed a plethora of information out there on how to effectively market through social media. But what applies to other businesses may not necessarily work for your photography business.

The only advice for photographers (that is not covered extensively in social media tutorials) is to not be fully active or engaged on every social network – you simply cannot manage or sustain that. You should instead go where your market is – where your potential clients are most active. For example, wedding photographers should be on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


Content Marketing

Content marketing is the strategic creation of original and valuable content to attract and engage a specific audience and in doing so, convert the audience into paying customers.

Content includes blog posts, infographics, videos, slideshows, podcasts, etc. What matters is the quality of the content and the way you present it.

The content does not necessarily have to be on your website to be effective – it can be on YouTube, LinkedIn, SlideShare, guest posts on other sites etc. These posts can be linked to your website or blog so you can convert your leads.

If you don’t have the time to create content on a regular basis, you can simply repurpose content. For example, a blog post can be converted into a video or a presentation.


The Wrong Way to Market

Now that we’ve covered how you should be using marketing channels and executing various strategies, It’s time to go over what not to do in marketing your photography business.


  • Have a website with no conversion journeys or goals
  • Write blogs that do not engage users or connect with anyone
  • Have a website with no call to action
  • Send traffic away from your website to social media
  • Have very little engagement on social channels
  • Create poorly executed ads

A lot of photographers are making those mistakes over and over again, hoping for different results each time but getting the same ones. They eventually give up and claim that online marketing is just a waste of time.

The problem actually lies in misunderstanding the way online marketing works for photographers at the basic level. Once you know the basics, you’ll be able to create an online marketing strategy that works for your business.


Wrapping Up

If you read through and understand this guide, you should start to see results in the form of increased traffic to your site and more engagement on your social channels.

You will need to put in work and have patience in developing a marketing strategy that works for your business. You won’t get clients overnight. You need to be consistent, unique and patient. Once you get noticed, turn the attention into a sincere connection and convert your visitors into paying customers.

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