When people started blogging a few years ago, it was mostly because they loved doing it. Now, in many cases, it’s a box to check off on your online marketing plan. Even many photographers who enjoy blogging wonder if the effort is worth it with all the other demands on our time.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled seven tips for ensuring your blog is worth the effort that a good blog requires — helping you build your personal brand and grow your photography business.
1. Write posts to encourage discussion. I wrote a post sometime back about the most influential nature photographers of all time. After writing the post, I started a discussion thread on a popular nature photography forum. This led to other photographers starting discussions on other forums. Ultimately, my post was referenced on Outdoor Photographer magazine’s Web site and a number of other sites. This wasn’t because I wrote the greatest blog post ever; it was because my post began a discussion.
2. Network on other photography blogs. Have you ever been at a party where you didn’t know anyone — so you stood in a corner by yourself for an hour? That was a waste of an hour, and the time you spend on your blog is also wasted if you don’t network on its behalf. That means you have to get out there and participate in other blogs — leaving comments, linking back, and so forth. This will encourage the people you interact with to check out your blog in return. And guess what? You’ll have a good time and learn a few things, too. Just remember to be yourself.
3. Integrate your blog with social networks. Getting involved in sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg, as well as niche forums, is a great way to seed links and draw eyeballs back to your blog. Install relevant widgets and badges on your blog, too — Twitter feeds, Yelp (especially for travel photographers), Amazon book lists, and so forth. You want to meet your audience where they are, and engage them on as many levels as possible.
4. Tie your online and offline marketing efforts. One reason that photographers like Chase Jarvis, David Hobby and David Alan Harvey have huge blog followings is that they are visible personalities offline, too. For example, they speak before actual, in-person audiences of real people! For your blog to be worth the effort, it can’t operate in a vacuum. You have to tie it to what you’re doing when you’re not on the computer.
5. Don’t shy away from posting video. Vincent Laforet became a household name almost overnight when he posted his “Reverie” video prior to the release of the Canon 5D Mark II. The chances of the rest of us receiving that sort of visibility may be relatively low, but video can certainly be a great way to get your name out there. Be sure to watermark or brand your videos so that when people embed them on their sites, people know how to find you.
6. Apply your creativity to the medium. You became a photographer to express your visual creativity. If you can get past seeing blogging as an item on your marketing checklist, you have an opportunity to really express yourself in this medium. Some of the best photography blogs have been created by individuals who have no interest in selling their photography. They do it because they have a passion for it.
7. Promote yourself (just not shamelessly). Many bloggers these days are doing it, at least in part, because of the marketing benefits. But your efforts to build your blog through online networking will backfire if you promote yourself too transparently. The same goes for search-engine optimization (SEO). Yes, you can help more people find your site through Google if you use keywords — e.g., “Southern California nature photographer” — on your site. But if you use so many keywords to promote your business that you forget to provide content that reads naturally and enjoyably, you’re just wasting your time.