In 2007, I had been managing a successful wedding photography business for three years. My new clients came primarily from referrals from past clients. I had a Web site — but while it gave my business a professional identity, it wasn’t doing much to generate leads. I wanted to turn my Web site into a business driver. But where to start?
At that time, my site used the kind of Flash-based template that graced many photographers’ Web sites. Flash-based sites were just starting to become popular, and I thought mine was top notch.
Pretty, but Ineffective
But it didn’t take me long to realize that while my site was pretty, it wasn’t helping my business the way a Web site should. Through the use of Google Analytics, I found that people were not finding my site via search engines, and that is what my business relied on.
The analytics of my site were easy to read. About 80 percent of visitors came by typing in the url — www.lifeisartphoto.com  — or by searching for “Life is Art Photography.” Another 10 percent came by doing a search for my name. This meant that 90 percent of visitors were already familiar with me or my business.
The remaining 10 percent found me through various searches on the major search engines. On average, I received about two to three requests for wedding photography information each month as a result of these searches. Such results were not doing much to help me build my business.
My referral-based business confined me to a limited geographic area with little opportunity to expand. In the summer of 2007, for example, all of the weddings I shot took place less than an hour’s drive from my studio. With many new wedding photographers sprouting up in my area, I decided that I could only grow by expanding my market geographically.
So I decided to re-design my entire Web site from the ground up.
In July 2007, I launched the current lifeisartphoto.com , dispensing with Flash in favor of an HTML-based site that was more search-engine friendly. I optimized it so that potential clients could easily find me by doing a simple search for “Stevens Point wedding photographer” in the major search engines.
Then I figured, why limit myself? I made sure they found me when searching for “Wisconsin wedding photographer,” too! I contacted many other local wedding vendors, who were happy to add links to my Web site from their own, and I launched a Google AdWords campaign. The results were immediate and greater than I had expected.
Within a month of launching the new site, I didn’t need Google Analytics to tell me the change was successful. My phone was ringing off the hook with requests from potential brides asking for more information. I couldn’t believe it–my new Web site had the exact same photos as the old one, just presented differently. But they were generating a much greater response.
Instead of two to three requests for information per month, I started receiving three to five requests per week, and it has remained that busy ever since. Instead of booking weddings only within an hour’s drive from my studio, I started booking weddings across the state.
In the summer of 2008, 50 percent of the weddings I booked were more than two hours from my studio. I expect the same to be true for the upcoming 2009 wedding season.
More than 50 percent of the visitors to my Web site find me through search engines, using terms like “Wisconsin wedding photographer”, and for many people it is their first exposure to my photography. Simply by focusing on my Web site, I was able to completely transform my business.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to invest in your Web site — especially if your business relies on new clients finding you, whether you shoot weddings, senior portraits, newborns, or other subjects. I designed and developed my Web site myself, but if you do not have the skills or time to do this, it’s well worth it to hire a professional you can trust. I would not think twice about spending thousands of dollars on a Web site like my current one, because it would only take a short time for it to pay for itself.
So make the effort to create a Web site that will not only showcase your work — but build your business.