Aaron Hockley has a background in both technology and photography which puts him in an ideal position to work on a variety of projects bridging the gap between those two worlds. He’s worked as a professional event and small business photographer in the Portland, Oregon area for eight years. He’s been involved in the WordPress world since founding WordCamp Portland in 2008, having spoken at numerous WordCamp events since that time. Aaron currently publishes Photowebo.com, a site devoted to the intersection of photography and the internet, offering a variety of resources for photographers who are looking to improve their online presence. He recently worked with the WordPress core team to refine some image-related changes in WordPress 4.5.
WordPress/Photography Related News:
WordPress 4.5.1 is out with about 12 bug fixes, including some that started with 4.5.
Yoast SEO 3.2 was just released and they removed Google + from its social features. Here is their blurb as to why:
We've removed the Google+ functionality from the plugin. Google is slowly deprecating the network. On top of that, its metadata was giving conflicts with Facebook, which caused lots of issues. As Google+ also uses Facebook metadata, optimizing for Facebook should do what you need for Google+ too.
- Yoast SEO
- How To Choose a Photography Website Theme
- WordCamp Central
- WordPress Meetups
- Design Palette Pro
Where to find Aaron:
[bctt tweet="SEO is an ongoing effort. It’s not once and done." username="imagely"]
[bctt tweet="Provide something really useful for your target audience" username="imagely"]
[bctt tweet="Instead of blogging once a week, try blogging more in-depth once a month" username="imagely"]
Scott: Welcome to episode 14. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz, and I'm joined by my co-host Rachel from FotoSkribe. Hey, Rachel.
Rachel: Hey Scott. How are you?
Scott: Good. How’re you doing?
Rachel: Good. Just a rainy day here in Boston.
Scott: Here in New Jersey too. It's like, it's been a week of this. We needed rain, but I don't know if we needed this much rain.
Rachel: I don't think anyone needs this much rain.
Scott: I think we're actually pretty caught up as far as recording goes from when the episodes go live. We're now about a week behind when each episode goes live. That's pretty good. It takes a few days to go through the audio edits, the video edits, the transcription. It's nice actually to be closer to publish date now where we’re usually about three weeks ahead of the game.
Rachel: When we started we were definitely a couple, almost even a month behind from when we recorded the episodes to when they went live. Now we're really on this every other Thursday schedule. It's been really great with the scheduling and getting guests on and then getting it to go live pretty quickly afterward.
Scott: Totally. It feels good. Today we have Aaron Hockley on the show. I'm very excited. I've known Aaron for many years online. We've never met in person yet. One day it’ll happen. Aaron Hockley has a background in both technology and photography which puts him in an ideal position to work on a variety of projects bridging the gap between those 2 worlds. He's worked as a professional event and small business photographer in Portland, Oregon for 8 years. He's been involved in the WordPress world since founding WordCamp Portland in 2008, having spoken at numerous WordCamp events since that time. Aaron currently publishes Photowebo or is it Weebo?
Aaron: It's Webo.
Scott: Okay, that's what I thought, as a site devoted to the intersection of photography and the internet offering a variety of resources for photographers who are looking to improve their online presence. He recently worked with the WordPress Core Team to refine some image related changes, which we've talked about in WordPress 4.5, image changes that if you go back and listen, we won't get into it again, but if you listen to episode 12 and 13, we've talked about it multiple times. Welcome to the show Aaron.
Aaron: Hey. Thanks for having me here today. I'm glad to chat with you. Like you said, we've never met in person, but we keep crossing paths in the virtual world. I'm sure we'll have some good stuff to discuss.
Scott: You've met Imagely founder, Erick, I think once or twice at this point.
Aaron: A couple of times now. I’ve met him a couple of times. I've met Edward from your support team a couple of times as well. You and I haven't ended up in the same location at the same time yet. I'm sure it’ll happen here pretty soon.
Rachel: I feel like the WordPress/Photography intersection world is pretty small. We're all going to get together at one place someday I'm sure.
Aaron: The trick is the virtual nature of it and that we're all distributed ... Both of you are in the East Cost in the North East, and I'm on the far West Coast. Eric is kind of in the middle.
Scott: It's really funny how that works. Before we get into anything with you, let's first just dive into 2 pieces of news. I'll say the first one is WordPress 4.5.1 is now out with 12 bug fixes, related to some issues that were akin with WordPress 4.5 and some other things. It's a minor release but it's an important release because it fixes some bugs that you might have in your WordPress updates. Run your backups and update to WordPress 4.5.1 as soon as possible.
Rachel: Definitely do that because there was a big issues with Jetpack with 4.5. They fixed that rather quickly which was great. Make sure you're up, 4.5.1.
Scott: The other bit of news is Yoast SEO which is probably the most talked about plugin on the show.
Rachel: For sure.
Scott: 3.2 came out. Now there are already I think a couple minor point releases since then, but 3.2 came out and one of the biggest changes was they removed the Google+ features from its social features. Here’s the blurb. They called it Google Minus. This is the blurb in their changes, called Google Minus. We removed the Google+ functionality from the plugin. Google is slowly depreciating the network. On top of that its metadata was giving conflicts with Facebook, which caused lots of issues. As Google+ uses Facebook metadata optimizing for Facebook should do what you need for Google+ too.
Basically they’re saying we don’t know what Google is doing so we’re going to stop playing around and trying to make it work and just give up on Google+ because who knows what’s going to happen to it. I kind of agree with it. Google+ hasn’t been what it used to be when it first started. It’s been changing, shifting direction. It’s been going downhill and I’m seeing more spam there than I do anywhere else at this point. If you have Yoast SEO installed and you’ve updated it, don’t be surprised if your Google+ options are removed.
Rachel: That’s the news.
Scott: That’s the news. Aaron, what’s going on in your world?
Aaron: What’s going on in my world. Well, it’s been kind of interesting on Photowebo, the last big article I published was the article about the image changes in 4.5. I don’t know what your world is like as far as your job of content creation and things like that, but I find I tend to go through streaks where it’s either feast or famine as far as my time and availability allows. I’ve had some ideas for articles I need to get up there but I haven’t published I think in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been busy with some other projects. Last week I taught a all day workshop on SEO for photographers to the Oregon Professional Photographers Association and that was interesting.
I think SEO is one of those things that it’s been a topic here on the show I know a few times in the past, but it’s an ongoing effort for everyone. I think just as the search world evolves I think it’s interesting to see how photographers go about that. Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of people taking old bad advice in the SEO world. The other thing that’s been interesting and I should write about this is I think a lot of times photographers almost go about SEO backwards and that they figure out their content and then later they think about, “Well, how can I approach that from an SEO perspective,” rather than looking at what might be their search engine goals and then writing content that fits that.
Scott: Having taught many different SEO workshops classes and having, I’m going to be speaking at a photo convention in October about SEO as well, I know and I’m sure you saw this when you did an all-day class on it, but SEO is one of those topics that people try to avoid but then once they’re learning about it, they get like sucked in and they want to know more and more. It’s really interesting. They go from like, “Okay, am I actually going to learn anything here,” and they’re like, the body language, you see it right away. Then once you start talking and they see how cool it can be and really how easy a lot of it is, they just, they want more. They get sucked in.
Aaron: Yeah, a lot of it is easy things to do, a lot of it is … and figuring out how to prioritize things. I mean, I know at one point I talked a little bit during the workshop about how your site speed and performance is an SEO factor and that’s something you should consider. I gave folks a couple resources to look at such as the Google page speed in sites or the YSlow tool that you can use to analyze your site. People really got into their laptops and started looking at their sites. It was hard not to get off onto a side tangent where we then spent an hour just talking about performance.
The other thing with SEO that is something that folks have to keep in mind is that it’s an ongoing effort. It’s not something that you learn once or that you do once and you're done with it. Much like social media, you can’t decide, “Okay, I’m going to go take a class and next week I’m going to do social media. Then I’ll be done with my social media for a while.” It’s like, well, no, it’s an ongoing effort that you need to be social, not do social.
The SEO work is the same way where if, yes, there’s things that you can set up that are more or less one time efforts when it comes to things like making sure you have a decent hosting and security and performance and things like that. But when it comes to your content, that just needs to become part of your content process on an ongoing basis, is that you're always cognizant of the search factors when you write a blog post, when you record a video, when you publish to social media.
I ruined everybody’s morning at the search workshop by telling them that unfortunately they were going to walk away and they were going to have a ton more work to do than when they walked in the door. I think everybody took it well. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the class and so.
Rachel: I’m always wary of SEO “experts” that come to photographers. Because I think that there’s SEO for small businesses and then there’s SEO specific to photographers. Unless you are a photographer or live in that world and like understand image searching and image keywording, it’s hard to game the system. That’s why I always, I’m always wary of people that come into the photography industry and say, “Oh, we’re SEO experts,” if they’re not photographers like you guys are and understand the working nature of what it means to be a photographer and put out the content.
That’s actually what we do at FotoSkribe, is we help photographers blog on a regular and consistent basis. Because what I found is blogging at the same day and the same time gives you some of that organic SEO that you don’t get by posting like here and there, unless you're doing it on a really strict … I mean, some photographers have found success not blogging on a schedule, but not many. I wonder if you have any thoughts of that about how the SEO links into that.
Aaron: Yeah, I think getting something out there on a somewhat consistent basis is important. One of the questions that often comes up is, “Well, how often do I need to post on my blog,” or that everybody talking about being too busy. Usually what I tell them is being consistent is more important than being frequent and that it would be better to post once a week than to post 5 days 1 week and then not post anything again for a month.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s what we tell.
Aaron: I realize that’s difficult. I laughed. I mentioned it’s been now I think a couple weeks since I published something new on Photowebo which is that’s weird to go that long. I should do a better job having something scheduled or prepared that I could’ve put out there.
Scott: The answer to that is stop being so damn busy.
Rachel: It’s hard. The busier you get and the … when you have more clients as a photographer, any small business, and then the things that get neglected are that content/marketing/SEO stuff. But then you lose clients and you get back to the SEO and there’s that lag time.
Scott: I do it. Over the years I used to blog 5 days a week and I would schedule it out a month, so I’d have literally a month like 20, 30 articles with photos all scheduled, so it’s I’m always, I don’t have to think about it for 30 days or whatever it is. Then overtime I got busier and busier and it went down to 3 days a week, then 2 days a week, and now I’m at 1 day a week and sometimes I barely even make that 1 day. That was at my personal site. I totally get it when photographers say, “I don’t have time to blog. I can’t be consistent.” It’s not easy when you're busy. But it’s important. I’ll try to even it with a short article. It’s something that search engines are going to see that’s there’s something fresh, which in turn is going to help the entire site because there’s movement.
Aaron: The public’s perception of it can be interesting too. I had to laugh. I had lunch with a photographer a while back and we were chatting about marketing and social media and things like that. He made the comment or I made a comment to him that I’d seen a lot of tweets and a lot of Facebook posts and things like that from him recently. He’s like, “Yeah, my work has been dead. I can’t get the phone to ring. I’m waiting for business to come in.” He’s like.
You're not the first person to make that observation, which is that when the photographers, many freelancers seems to either be feast or famine. When you have that famine and you're waiting for the clients to come in, you have a lot of time to do the social media, to do blog posts, to write articles for the search engines, things like that. It becomes a case of just needing to budget your time, much like you save up some money for a rainy day, hopefully you can when you have that time, where you have the ability to create a bunch of content that you can bank some of that, that you then trickle out there so when you do get busy that you can still put something out there to look like you're still marketing.
Rachel: Great. I mean since this is the WordPress podcast we should probably talk about how WordPress is 90% optimized out of the box. Scott and I have been having a lot of discussions on our whole episode 13 was devoted to Squarespace versus WordPress. If you are optimizing for SEO being on WordPress gets you so much closer just by being on WordPress. Do you have any thoughts on that, and what do you tell people about WordPress versus Squarespace for your opinion?
Aaron: It’s kind of interesting. Before this workshop the workshop had I think we had 11 people in my workshop. Prior to that I sent an email to all the attendees and I asked them what platform they were using because I wanted to get a feel for what technologies were in play, and about half of them were using WordPress. There were a couple of people on Squarespace. There were a couple of people using BigFolio. There was somebody using something that’s completely homegrown and hand coded that she has somebody that she just pays to maintain her site for her. One of the things that became clear as we got into talking about the technical SEO aspects is that WordPress, both with what’s available as part of core WordPress and what’s easily and freely available through things like the Yoast SEO plugin that gets brought up every single week on this podcast.
Some other options is that when it comes to a technical SEO perspective is that between WordPress itself and some free plugins is you're 99% of the way there for zero cost and for a pretty easy learning curve on most of that stuff. Whereas if you're on a closed platform where you don’t have that flexibility, you might have some options that they chose to give you, but if you have something like a Squarespace or a BigFolio or something like that is that at some point you will hit limitations and where I can say, “Yeah, you just go into the Yoast plugin and you fill out this one field,” that may not even be possible on another platform.
So really WordPress is really the best toolkit out there from that perspective right now for photographers or for any small business. I mean, if you're not going to have a staff to do this for you, which most of us don’t, the more that you can do on your own with a relatively easy learning curve … I mean, the red yellow green traffic light on your content analysis with Yoast it’s a beautiful thing, because that’s very easy for somebody to understand. Hey, I’m at a yellow light. What do I need to do to get to a green light?
Scott: And it tells you.
Aaron: Right, and that’s the thing, is it gives you that formula. It says, “Hey, this article is a little short or you need to include some images,” or whatever.
Rachel: If you don’t know what we’re talking about you do need to install Yoast on your WordPress website and see that it actually will give you this red. It’s a little T stop light in the publish panel, and it’s red, yellow, green. Red is bad SEO, yellow is okay SEO, green is you're good to go.
I have noticed recently that the newest updates of Yoast actually it’s a little bit easier to go green. I don’t know if you guys have had the same experience. I blog on a lot of different photographer blogs so I have my hands in a lot of different markets and a lot of different keywords. It used to be a little bit harder to make the Yoast SEO go green. Your meta description had to be perfectly on point and your images had to be perfectly on point in terms of keywording. Now it’s like if you have the best 2 out of 3 it’ll go green. I don’t know if that’s just again the changing nature of SEO, but it’s a little bit easier to get it to where you need it to be is what I found.
Scott: My guess is like maybe 2 or 3 possible answers for that, one being SEO algorithms do change and Yoast is on top of it, so it’s very possible that they have adjusted the algorithm. There was a major update to that, the page analysis system, so it is possible there was a change to their algorithm that determines the quality. The other might be that you're just getting better.
Rachel: That’s good. Well, I do notice that things like if you did wedding photographer in let’s say Portland, Oregon, that in used to be a stop word. What I’ve found now in Yoast is that they’re not necessarily counting stop words as much because we’re all sort of going for the long tail keywords, which if you don’t know what a long tail keyword is instead of just being Boston wedding photographer you're doing the liberty hotel wedding photography, so you're using more words to make a long tail keyword. Right guys?
Aaron: Right, that’s right. One of the things that you brought up or Scott hinted that you’ve done it so much you're getting better at it, part of it is just building up that habit. I mean, as you get used to making sure you include appropriate ALT tags with your images or to include file names that are SEO optimized or to include these different things is that it becomes habit and you don’t need the tool to remind you every time, which is great.
The other thing and the biggest thing that I find photographer struggle with are writing long enough content. Regardless of whatever your genre of photography is we’re photographers, not writers, and so we want to throw up here’s 5 images of this event that I photographed, or here're 20 images from this wedding, or here’s these senior photos that I did in this park and here’s the 6 different poses we did. Then you end up with 42 words in your blog post, which doesn’t give Google or Bing or any other search engines a lot to work with.
The other thing, the longer that you can go the more likelihood you have that you can create something that’s just an incredible resource. That’s the other aspect, is instead of the routine blog post instead of putting up a mediocre, an average blog post once a week what if you did it twice a month but they were great. That better more in depth content, especially if you can provide something that’s really useful for your target audience, whether it’s a bride planning a wedding, whether it’s somebody in a corporation who’s looking to have a bunch of executive portraits done of 15 people, whatever it is you can provide them something useful. That’s going to be far more valuable both for them and from a search perspective, because if it’s useful it’s going to get noticed, it’s going to get shared, it’s going to get passed around. That’s going to be better than just here’s my latest shoot.
Rachel: I agree with that, but I also a lot of the conversation that I have with photographers when they’re blogging consistency is key which we’ve talked about, have the Yoast SEO which we’ve talked about, but also what is the one thing that’s different from shoot to shoot, and it’s usually the client story and then your story as a photographer at that moment. For families and weddings and maternities and a lot of the portrait and wedding photography industry, there’s an inherent story that you can blog about, and part of that is capturing the information from your clients.
While those marketing type blogs, sort of what you mentioned about like what’s the best way to shoot a headshot session, you can do those once a month or once every couple of months, but you intersperse them in with the blog post of your shoots and include the client story you're actually creating something that your client can then share, so then it becomes a resource to that group of people that you're client sharing it with and then to your potential client. There’s so much content that we as photographers have. It’s just how do you share it and market it and then, again, do it consistently, like we’ve said a thousand times.
Aaron: That mix is really important.
Rachel: Yeah, and it’s hard. It’s really hard to get there.
Scott: You know I’d like to talk about because I just ran into something that was interesting. Today an article I wrote at Photography Spark went live. It’s a 3000-word article. I haven’t written a 3000-word article in so long.
Rachel: It’s hard.
Scott: It’s e-book literally. I wrote that. It took me one full business day to write that article and there’s been some personal stuff going on in my life that I blogged about on my own personal site, so if anybody is really curious just check it out. Basically my mind hasn’t been in the clearest place for me to really write a 3000-word article. I was really struggling. Usually when I write content I close my office door, I’ll put on noise cancelling headphones if there’s stuff going on in the house, because I work from home, I won’t have music on or anything. I’ll just silence and I’ll write. I’ll close everything on the computer and I’ll just write.
It wasn’t working. I tried opening up Downcast and listening to some of my podcasts, wasn’t helping. I’ve tried music, wasn’t helping. So I opened up movies, and I actually watched Deadpool. I wanted to watch something that I wasn’t really watching. I was like the article I was writing is on one screen, and Deadpool was playing on the other screen. I was sort of seeing from peripheral and listening to it.
It actually helped me write better. I wrote a 3000-word article in a day. It took me a while but I wrote it and it came out so awesome that there was very little editing to be done and it’s now published. Sometimes you need to … If you're having trouble blogging or writing any content for anything for your site, try something different to get your mind in a creative place. I was literally watching in peripheral and listening to something that had good cinematography, good choreography, and awesome script. It was just so funny and it worked. Sometimes you just need that.
Rachel: To put that in context, 3000 words is a lot. Google recommends 300 words for a blog post to be optimized, and that’s like 2 paragraphs, which still can be really difficult as a photographer, a visual person. That’s a long blog post. It’s good that that worked for you.
Scott: And the article is all about photography websites and themes.
Rachel: Yes, it will be in the show notes. You should go check it out. But getting back to Aaron. I see that you helped start the WordCamp in Portland. What I found because I work on the WordCamps here in Boston and in Providence, Rhode Island. I find that there’s a lot of overlap between WordPress community and photography community. Do you find that also? What has been your experience having feet in both camps as so to say?
Aaron: I find there’s a lot of overlap at this point between the photography community and almost any community now that everybody is a photographer, right?
Aaron: Yes, you go to a WordPress event, WordCamp or something like that and you're certainly not going to be the only one with a good camera there. There’s probably going to be people that have better cameras than you, even if you're a professional photographer as we all know. But there’s definitely an overlap there. I mean, as we’ve discussed and as you guys all know, I mean, WordPress is great for photographers for any number of reasons.
When it comes to the community aspect which is really kind of how I got my background when I went to college for is actually a computer science and software development. That’s my professional background is technical. I started blogging back in 2001 and then I started using WordPress I think in 2004, but I didn’t really come into it from a technical angle like a lot of people do, a lot of software developers and plugin developers, theme developers. I came into it more from a community angle and I that was using blogging to publish and then got involved from a community side of things with other people using WordPress to publish.
We started WordCamp Portland. I remember distinctly the genesis of it. There were 4 of us sitting at brewery pub here in Portland called The Green Dragon and we were sitting around one night. If I recall the second WordCamp San Francisco was happening the next day. It’s like, “Oh, WordCamp San Francisco is happening.” At some point in the discussion it’s like, “You know, we ought to have a WordCamp in Portland.” Somehow I ended up in charge of that. I don’t know. The other 3 people that were there all ended up part of the organizing team that first year. It’s been interesting to see how that community’s evolved because in 2008 when we had WordCamp Portland we were something like the, I want to say maybe the 20th WordCamp to ever have happened. Now probably there’ve been 20 of them already in 2016.
Rachel: It’s amazing and a difference.
Aaron: At that point you really were entirely on your own to come up with what your WordCamp was going to be. There was no central WordPress foundation that helps manage any of that. The only real support or infrastructure that you got was you sent an email to Matt Mullenweg’s personal assistant and said, “Hey, we’re going to do a WordCamp in Portland.” She basically wrote back to me and said, “Great, let me know your date and I’ll give you guys a link on the central page that talks about WordCamps and we’ll send you a bag full of stickers and buttons you can hand out for swag.” That was it. We were entirely on our own other than that.
It’s been interesting to see how WordCamps have evolved to the point where now there’s hundreds of them every year around the globe. There’s WordCamp San Francisco became the big national WordCamp or international WordCamp here in the US. Now they’re doing WordCamp US for the second year of that in Philly and who knows what city it’ll be in the following year. WordCamp Europe has grown to be huge.
The community aspect of WordPress really is great and that there’s so many people with so many different backgrounds that all come together to help each other out, get better in different ways. Whether it’s publishing, whether it’s plugin or theme development, whether it’s e-commerce, there really are so many resources out there, many of them free, that you can plug into. I mean, that’s another one of the advantages that WordPress has over another system like Squarespace or that, is that if you want to use e-commerce at Squarespace you can view their online help pages or maybe email them for support. But you can’t go grab a beer at a meetup in your local town, talk through those issues.
Rachel: A lot of photographers don’t know about that, Scott, just before, but we should tell you wherever you are and listening to this, even internationally, I mean, they have WordCamps, WordPress meetups. If you really are stuck, and you need help, there are meetups everywhere, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you live.
Scott: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say. We’ll link to where you can find meetups and WordCamps in your area. But just so anybody listening who won’t be going to the website, go to wordcamp.org and you can find …
Rachel: Yep, now there is a central place.
Scott: And go to wordpress.meetup.com and it’ll forward you to the WordPress meetup groups that are with a map and everything so that you can find them in your area either way. I want to jump into something fun. I’m going to call this a lightening round, even though this isn’t a game or anything. Aaron, we’re going to quiz you a little bit.
Scott: You're ready for this?
Scott: I’m going to ask you three questions, all 3 are similar, but the genre of photography is different. If you are a wedding photographer give me a sample title for an article that you would do for wedding photographers to target their audience.
Aaron: Sample title for wedding photographers to target their audience, okay. Well, if we were going … I mean I guess it would depend on what the article about, but one option might be the 7 things that you’ve forgotten to ask your potential wedding photographers.
Aaron: As a bride.
Scott: And numbers do really well on articles.
Aaron: The seven things that brides forget to ask their wedding photographers. There you go.
Scott: Number 2, a sample title for product photographers, like somebody who’s going to photograph this water bottle for CamelBak.
Aaron: Right, so product photographers huh, that’s an interesting one. We don’t hear a lot about product photography. You're out there as well. I’ve done a little, I did a little bit of it myself for a small business client last year and I really gained an appreciation for all that’s involved with some of the lightening aspects. It’s like man, it was one of those things were I don’t know that I made a lot of money on this deal because it took me far longer than I thought I would but I gained a lot of experience. It was really valuable. Anyway, sample blog title. Let’s see.
Scott: Product is difficult.
Aaron: Yeah, I would say, I would maybe go along the lines of …
Scott: Want to skip it?
Aaron: Yeah, well yeah. But I’m kind of thinking maybe something like how choosing the right product photographer will lead do a better catalog presentation for your clients or something. I mean I …
Scott: What about three burning questions you should ask your product photographer before hiring?
Aaron: Yeah, that’s a good one. I mean, in my mind with this title and with the last one I mean it becomes about that differentiation factor. I mean, as we all know, there’s millions of photographers out there. What sets you apart and how can you, how do you convince your client that what sets you apart is valuable to them. That’s the thing I was thinking.
Rachel: I mean, is there an argument that product photographers and even commercial photographers don’t need to blog the same way that wedding portrait, even landscape photographers do, because their clients, you're creating their content for them.
Aaron: Obviously with a product photographer there may not be a story to tell per se. You could make one up and have some fun with it, but there may not actually be a story.
Rachel: But this is definitely what those marketing type blogs, the list type blogs, and the differentiation type blogs are much more applicable.
Scott: Right, I mean, as an example, so I do special event photography other than wedding, so a lot of corporate events, conferences, tradeshows, company meetings, launch parties, anything like that. I have an idea for an article that I’m going to write. It’s probably actually going to be the next article I publish on my own photography website. It’s just going to be talking about what happens after I’m done shooting your event. What’ll happens … How do I process and deliver the photos to you? What are your options there? How quickly will you get them? Or how am I going to deliver them all that? Because that’s something that it’s not something we talk about a lot but it’s something that can really make the clients life easier if they a) know what’s going to happen, and b) it works well for them.
Scott: Totally. That’s a good one.
Rachel: That’s an evergreen piece because that’s something that you can write this week but you could send to your clients a year from now and say, “Hey, I wrote this blog post in case you're wondering what the process is. It’s all outlined here, and it hasn’t really changed much.”
Aaron: Right, exactly. What was your third question? You said lightning round number 3.
Scott: Sample title for real estate photographers.
Aaron: Sample title for real estate photographers. How to decrease your listings time on the market with these five photography shots that every listing should have or something. I mean, how do you sell that home quicker.
Rachel: It’s a good one.
Aaron: Something like that.
Scott: That’s fun. We’ve never done a “lightning round”.
Rachel: No, we probably should’ve given him some warning, right?
Scott: Yeah. I just had the idea while we were talking, so I had to throw it out there.
Rachel: The one question that I wanted to ask while we were talking about all the SEO stuff is if someone was listening right now, and again, we’re putting you on the spot, so what would your top 3 tips for photographers be to do for your website right now?
Aaron: 1, and especially since this is a WordPress podcast, 1, is you need to install Yoast SEO and you need to read a little bit about how that works and start to understand that, the traffic signal on your content. There’s so many resources out there in the internet on how to do that, but that would be number 1. Number 2, I would say make sure you have solid secure web hosting. It’s hosting where you have decent performance, hosting where you have security. I mean, I’m a big fan of managed hosting of some form. Imagely provides that. I’ve had good experiences with WP Engine in the past. There’s other companies. Pagely does great things. There’s a lot of other good solid companies that provide that.
The managed hosting means you're going to pay a little bit more but it’s not ridiculous. The grand scheme of running a photography business, even good solid managed hosting, if you're paying $20 to $30 a month for what is essentially your store front that’s still a great deal. They’re going to manage that security for you with a lot of things beyond just installing a plugin. They’re going to hopefully offer reliable performance, things like that.
Probably the other thing I would say, top 3 things, so Yoast, good solid hosting, the other thing I would say is to think, don’t try to retrofit your SEO onto your content. Think of it as your building the content. I mentioned this early on. A lot of photographers seem to go about it backwards. Instead of writing an entire article and then figuring out, “Oh, what keywords should I have put in there,” or, “What audience was I going for with that,” think about that as you're writing the article, before you write the article think about whom am I writing this for, and how might somebody eventually find this. That’ll help you work in those terms that you might want to be found for organically into the article. It’ll help you with crafting that title, things like that.
Rachel: Yeah, that’s great. I have one more question that we, Scott and I have been talking about and we sort of touched upon it. You are obviously a proponent of WordPress and you're in the photography space. Do you notice that a lot of photographers have separate websites and blog sites and they don’t seem to make a connection that this can all be hosted on WordPress, and why do you think that is?
Aaron: I think yes, definitely. In my workshop last week, like I said of the 10 or 12 people that we had in the workshop, I think 2 or 3 of them had separate portfolio sites versus blogs or websites versus blogs. I think we got into that position because generally photographers set up a website. If we go back 5 to 8 to 10 years, photographers got a website and then at some point later they figured out, “Oh, I also need a blog.”
Because we were talking 5 to 8 to 10 years ago we weren’t all using real user friendly content management systems. Most people weren’t anyway. I mean, WordPress existed, but it was by no means as easy to use as it is today. We’re talking like WordPress 1.5 or something. They would have a website that they set up or that somebody set up for them or that was set up using a flash gallery. Then when they needed a blog it’s like, “Well, okay, I’ll start a blog over here with WordPress,” or, “I’ll start a blog with Blogger,” or, “I’ll start a blog with MovableType or TypePad.” So they just became these different things based on how they got set up. Then because they got set up separately a lot of people just didn’t even realize that they could be combined. They thought the website and a blog were different things. We now know that a blog is really just kind of a website in a particular format.
At this point when somebody is looking redeveloping their web presence or changing out their infrastructure there’s so many benefits to having one cohesive system. Even if you don’t choose WordPress as that platform, I think you should, but it makes sense to have all of your stuff together. It helps you be able to drive that search traffic to a single location. It helps you be able to link easier between the different parts of that web presence. It looks like one cohesive internet presence rather than being fragmented across a website and a blog that may or may not look the same, that may or may not link well between each other.
I think we got into this point basically from historical reasons. I think if somebody were starting completely from scratch now I think I would think, and my experience has been that most people see it as more intuitive that their blog is part of their website, and they would do that together.
Scott: Going back to the cohesiveness, so a lot of photographers these days are also doing subdomains for let’s say the blog, or a subdomain for the gallery that they’re trying to sell images, which is on a different platform or whatever. It’s important for photographers to know that search engines are looking at those as separate websites. So whatever SEO juice you get on your main site, there’s not of any impact on the subdomains.
Rachel: And vice-versa, when you blog consistently, and you build up those SEO juice, that may not necessarily go to your main site. When you say subdomain Scott why don’t you explain what that is?
Scott: Yep, so a subdomain your domain is weddingphotography.com, a subdomain is blog.weddingphotography.com or photos.weddingphotography.com. Versus what is technically a subfolder which would be weddingphotography.com/blog. That would be a subfolder. Now in WordPress when you create a page it’s not actually a subfolder, it’s not really creating a subfolder, it’s dynamic, so it’s just happened virtually on the fly, even though it’s there in database you're seeing it on the fly. Having it as a subfolder search engines see it as one website. So anything that does well in the subfolders does well on the main site and vice-versa.
The next thing I want to bring, I want to move into is your recommended WordPress plugins and/or themes. We’ve brought up Yoast SEO a few times already on this episode. I’m going to include it of course because as you know you have brought it up, but what other plugins or themes do you use or recommend for photographers to check out?
Aaron: I think this is another recurring theme on the show. I love Genesis based themes. I’m not a theme developer. Design is probably if we look at major areas of web stuff, design is probably my weakest area. I can take a theme and tweak it a little bit, but CSS and I, we do battle. From a theme perspective, from a plugin perspective, one that I thought would be interesting to mention would be, and I think it’s been mentioned previously, I know you’ve done some work it with Scott, is OptinMonster, which for those who don’t know OptimMonster is a hosted service now but it has a WordPress plugin that integrates with WordPress. It’s all designed around essentially lead conversion forms, email opt-in forms, popups, in line forms, anything like that. It’s a very flexible platform that allows you to create these different opt-in interfaces for your site.
Email marketing and having an email list I think is something that everybody wishes they had started doing sooner. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t wish that they’d started an email list sooner. Because once you have social networks come and go, web platforms come and go, but I mean email has been there forever. Even you get a group of 100 photographers together I guarantee there’s at least 1 or 2 in there that maybe aren’t even on Facebook, which is the most popular social network. But I’ll guarantee every single one of them has an email address and they check it every day at least once.
OptinMonster, you can check it out on the web. There’s various versions that do different things for different prices, but it provides a pretty easy interface for creating opt-in forms to get people onto an email list, whether you're hosting that list with MailChimp or with Aweber or any number of different email providers. I recently switched over, I’m using ConvertKit now for most of my list.
Rachel: I’ve heard a lot of good things about that ConvertKit.
Aaron: Yeah, it’s not necessarily designed for newbies. Whereas MailChimp wants to be an email list provider for anybody who needs an email list, ConvertKit really is optimized for professional web publishers. I mean, they talk about … They’re an email provider for bloggers essentially. I wouldn’t necessary steer a photographer looking to start a list to ConvertKit. I think MailChimp does a great job, especially they give you a nice free account up to something like 10,000 or 12,000 subscribers.
But yeah, get that email list set up. OptinMonster can provide some great ways to help get people onto that list, whether you want to give them a popup on the website to ask for their information, or whether you want to write an article and at the bottom of the article have them, “Hey, click a link to get this additional report,” or something or this checklist and have it require their email address. Any of that OptinMonster can handle.
Scott: There’s one plugin I’ve been testing going back a little bit to where you mentioned Genesis and that you and CSS don’t like each other so much. I’ve been messing, experimenting, messing with, whatever you want to call it with Design Palette Pro. Have you ever looked at that?
Aaron: I haven’t. I saw something from you. I don’t remember it was a tweet or a Facebook post or something. This morning actually.
Rachel: Yeah, today, I saw that too.
Aaron: Saying that you’d wish you’d look at sooner, so now it’s going to be on my list. I need to check it out.
Scott: For anybody who uses the Genesis theme and does not like CSS check out Design Palette Pro. We’ll link to in the show notes.
Rachel: Is it only for Genesis themes?
Scott: It’s only for Genesis themes. It works with pretty much every official Genesis theme out of the box. Gives you color and spacing and all the different CSS customizations you’d want to do, but with visual buttons and scales and stuff like that. It also has extensions where you can add custom CSS to the plugin if you want, things like that. And it has a whole YI where you can actually see everything happen in real time before you hit save. It’s beautiful. It’s not free but it is beautiful. And we are …
Rachel: The best things never are.
Scott: Yeah. But it’s released for anybody who wants to go beyond what the Genesis themes offer built in per customization. We’re actually looking into integrating our themes, the Imagely themes with Design Palette Pro so that all of our customers will be able to use that as well. It’s a beautiful thing. I mean, once we just got our hands on it we’re like, “Whoa, why … Really, this has been around?”
Aaron: Right, I mean I know one of the developers behind it and all that. It’s one of those things that’s always been on the periphery, I’ve never really gotten into looking at it, but I’ll have to check it out definitely.
Scott: That’s awesome. Cool. So Aaron where can we find you on the interwebs?
Aaron: Oh a couple of different places that make sense to photographers, so photowebo.com, photo web o .com is my site where I write about all things at the intersection of photography and the internet. If you want to follow me on social media, I am @ahockley on Twitter, H-O-C-K-L-E-Y. Or you can search for me by name on Facebook and find me there.
Rachel: Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
Scott: Yeah, thank you, Aaron, for joining us today. Thank you, Rachel, for being an awesome co-host.
Rachel: And to you Scott.
Scott: You could find the show notes from today’s episode at imagely.com/podcast/14. Yes, until next time.
Aaron: Thank you.