A relevant blog can help a photographer build an audience that will include potential clients. It can also boost a photographer’s Google ranking. But there are pitfalls to avoids and it is not for everyone.
Photographers often ask me if they should blog and what they can possibly talk about.
Blogging can be daunting. Writing is hard. It takes time. People will judge the result. And why should anyone care what you have to say anyway?
Well there are a few good reasons for a photographer to have a blog and many people grow to really enjoy the exercise.
Why Should A Photographer Have A Blog?
Two main reasons: to build an audience and to improve your Google ranking.
As your blog grows it will get noticed. Regular quality posts will accumulate more page views, more comments and more links pointing to your website. The composition of your audience will never be 100% composed of potential clients. You will attract amateur photographers looking for tips in your specialty, locals with time to spend online and people who are simply interested in whatever it is you blog about, typically what you photograph. But 100% of your potential clients could – theoretically – be members of your audience and they will take note of you as a potential hire.
Google will notice you too. Google’s spiders love nothing more than crawling a text-rich web page. Text is easy to reference and understand (not so for images) and says almost everything about the content of a website. That on-page analysis feeds into Google’s ranking algorithm and directly helps determine which keyword searches your site should come up for. So a blog about underwater photography will boost the ranking of an underwater photographer’s website. Makes sense.
Use the keywords that make up your core SEO strategy in your texts and titles but make sure your texts read normally and don’t come across as exercises in artificial keyword-stuffing. This is an important point: always prioritize human readers over Google. Your blog is your voice and your ultimate targets are humans. Accumulating and engaging a wide audience of human readers is always the best SEO strategy.
The incoming links that you will accrue tell Google that people think your website is interesting. Your ranking will benefit directly. People love to share, point out and give credit when due online. If your blog adds something new to the table it will definitely attract links.
What Should A Photographer Blog About?
I can tell you what you should avoid. No personal musings about happiness. No empty pep talks. You are not a guru. No one is waiting to hear your life guidance. Stay away from the personal as well. What matters to you – the time you spent with your dying grandmother – is of no interest to anyone else. Your weekend walks, your family news, your thoughts on this year’s World Series (unless you’re a baseball photographer with relevant insights) don’t make good blogging topics. There is an infinite supply of boring material out there, don’t add to it.
Instead aim for what is best described as interesting. A million solicitations tug on our attention every day and only the ones that bring something of value get our time. Your posts need to make the cut. Remember that kitten videos pass as interesting so don’t underestimate the competition.
Here is a great example of a particularly well written and – you guess it – interesting (non-photographic) post that I stumbled upon some time ago: Why Japanese Web Design Is So… Different.
The good news is that as photographers we are all in somewhat of a niche. Your target is most likely going to be professional photo buyers. That’s pretty specific. You want to come across as professional, reliable, competent, skilled, serious enough (so no need to try to be cuter than a cat with his head stuck in a jar) amongst other things (like busy).
Your writings have to be interesting. That’s always a little tricky to define but interesting is kinda like pornography: one recognizes interesting when one sees it. Interesting might include a combination of new, relevant, well-argued, radical, useful, practical, exclusive, etc. Don’t skip on the effort. A poorly researched or argued post is waste of your reader’s time and stands no chance against the kitten video.
Take my case. I’m a general news, reportage and portrait photojournalist based in New York City. There is little that I can say that will be new, fresh and interesting to people in the photography business. My experience is far too similar to that of most of my colleagues in NYC. As a result the ROI on my blogging effort would be low (in addition my Google ranking for my chosen keywords is already #1). So I hold off. I don’t however for my web consulting business. Read more of the blog you are currently reading and yo will see everything I mention here in action (except maybe the posting frequency).
That is not meant to discourage you. Some photographers are master bloggers regardless of their circumstances or competition. Take Andrew Hetherington’s What’s The Jackanory blog – now boiled down to a Tumblr page – which helped his career tremendously. True he was an early adopter of the art form, he does get interesting jobs and he has the personality to pull it off. As a general rule I find that many photographers underestimate how much they could talk about in an interesting manner.
Become The XXXXXX Photographer You Want To Be Hired As
A trick that always works is to picture yourself as the photographer you want to be and write with that voice. For example underwater photographers should blog as the most qualified, most professional underwater photographer and give their readers an insight into the work of that photographer. Much like you should dress one notch above the job that you’re interviewing for, see how interesting the photographer you want to be is and give your readers access to that photographer’s daily work life, knowledge, jobs, successes, etc.
Don’t be arrogant or self-important. But don’t be blind to the value of your experience and your perspective. It is easy to be unimpressed once you know how the sausage is made. But if you’re on the inside, your readers are on the outside. Bridge that gap by sharing. You think shooting from a helicopter is just another day at the office. Well – you know what? – everyone else thinks that must be a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do that requires real skills (it does), unique opportunities and special gear (maybe). And if it results in some stunning imagery show them. Corporate headshot photography may sound less exciting to most people but it isn’t to the Marketing Director who needs to get some high quality employee headshots for her annual report.
Don’t be afraid of giving away your secrets. Your ability and success amount to much more than a few tips or behind-the-scenes narratives. Even if you spelled out a complete step-by-step guide to underwater photography the simple ability to put it all together separates you from your readers.
Keep in mind also that a blog – much like social media – establishes direct access to you. Readers expect to find your personal voice on their screen. To bring value to them you will need to be authentic, honest, sincere. Sound like a marketing department, i.e. fluffy, unsubstantiated, focused only on your self-promotion, and you’ll never see that reader again.