Author: rhaggart

Things just keep getting better over here at A Photo Folio. We’re just now releasing a couple major upgrades to the admin control panel to make managing your images a little easier.

I never want to put any restrictions on how our photographers use the websites, but when we realized some people were loading 1000 and even 2000 images into the image bank it started to get pretty messy in there so we decided to find a solution.

Introducing folders for organizing your image bank:

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Then we realized that most people have huge screens now and part of the beauty behind Designs 2 and 3 is that the images will expand to accommodate any size screen, so why can’t the admin do the same.

Voila, introducing the liquid layout for the image bank:

(click for large view)

and also liquid galleries:

Now that’s spectacular.

We’re working hard to get the video added by the end of the month. It might take untill early January for all the sites to have it (Design 3 will be first) but I guarantee you will love how easy it’s going to be to use and how seemlessly it will fit within your design.

Given the state of the economy it seems like the appropriate time to explain why I think our websites are the best value you will find anywhere.

First off I want to reiterate how important it is that your potential clients can quickly and easily look at your images. That’s why they visit your website in the first place. Any portfolio website you buy absolutely must not hinder this process.

Ok, here’s the cost: $1000 to setup and $17/month for hosting, upgrades and maintenance. There is one discount available and that’s if you buy 2 sites the second is half off the setup fee. I know this is a fair price but I want make sure you know it too.

Here’s why this is an incredible value.

These are the basic features you will find on template websites and as you can see there’s no limitations really. There’s no hidden fees. You buy a site and do what you want with it as the design will physically allow.

Number of Portfolios: Unlimited (As many as you can fit on the menu)
Image Size: Unlimited (on Design 2 and 3)
Menu Pages: Unlimited (As many as you can fit on the menu)
External Links: Unlimited (Make all you want)
Pass Protected and Hidden Galleries: Unlimited (As many as you can fit on the menu)
Email Addresses: 100 (yes you can have 100 different email addresses @yoursite.com)
Website Traffic: Virtually Unlimited*
Email Storage Space: 7GB
Website Storage Space: Virtually Unlimited*
*99% of you will never hit the limit on this. If you did we would just figure out a way to work with you on it.

Now, not to sound like one of those crazed late night knife salesmen but that is not all you get.

You also get.

Visitor Stats: Signup for any web stats service you want (Google Analytics, Mint, SiteMeter) and we have a spot in the admin where you paste the code. Paste all three if you like.

FTP Access: You can store client files here or upload lightboxes.

Future Upgrades: All the sites receive upgrades when we make them like the ability to display video in December.

Switch Designs For Free: First switch is free next time it’s $100. We hope to have a new design every 3 months. That means after a year you will have 4 new designs to choose from.

HTML Mirror Site: Automatically created HTML site that mirrors whatever you’ve posted for easy reading by the google robots and clients with browsers from the 90′s

iPhone Site: Automatically created iPhone site that mirrors whatever you’ve posted for a slick presentation on an iPhone.

Free Blog Setup: We will load a wordpress blog on your url for free. We give you 13 themes to choose from but you can upload any you like using the ftp access. Same goes for all the plugins. No amount of SEO advice can compete with making blog posts about your photography on your own url.

Deep Linking with Clean URL’s: You shouldn’t even consider a flash site that doesn’t have deep linking to specific images because clients can’t send the boss a link to the perfect shot. Also, check out the urls to the different galleries and pictures on the sample sites. See how elegant and descriptive those are? Wouldn’t you rather send out an email with a link like that?

Email An Image Option: You can optionally turn on a feature that allows people to email an image straight out of your portfolio. Incredibly handy for sending the perfect shot to the boss.

Add A Custom SWF Opener: You can upload your own SWF opening graphic if you want.

There are plenty more little things that make these sites great not to mention the clean designs that clients love but I wanted to point out some of the features we have that no one else does because I feel like we give you more for your money. Oh, I almost forgot the most important part of what we offer. Fanatical customer service led by yours truly. Give us a try and you will see that for yourself.

I’m happy to announce our new design number 3 called Brooklyn Bridge. We combined a few features from the first two designs (Manhattan and Brooklyn), came up with a new way to display the thumbnails and an exciting full screen homepage slideshow.

Let me fist explain the overall idea behind this new design. I wanted to use the dynamic resizing of the images in D2 with the fixed and open menu of D1. This makes this site incredibly client friendly. In addition to that I wanted the thumbnails to display every thumb for every picture in your entire site (except hidden and password protected of course). Again, another client friendly application that will allow them to scan the entire site in a matter of minutes. Finally, I wanted to do something cool with the homepage slide show. We made it so you could have the images fill the browser frame with your logo and menu overlaid on top (you can opt to have the slideshow normal if you like).

Here’s an example of the full frame slideshow: http://www.adarknessvisible.com

You will notice in that example where we made it possible for you to have your whole site display full frame with the logo and menu overlaid on top of the images. The only downside to doing this besides having your menu on top of the images is that it will crop the side or the bottom of your image to fit in whatever size browser window your client has open.

Here’s a demo of the new site as I envisioned it: http://72.32.9.12/~smurphy

Here’s an example of someone already using it:

http://leannmueller.com

http://www.ryanschude.com

Now, while we were making the settings for the new site we decided to give you all kinds of control in the template settings. You can:

Set the width of the border on all 4 sides.
Set the width of the menu.
Set the vertical and horizontal position of the menu.
Adjust the transparency of the menu box color.
Adjust the transparency of your logo/text title.
Set the font size of the menu categories/pages.
Set the font size of the galleries/sub menu items.
Set the font size of the bottom navigation bar.
Determine the vertical position of the bottom navigation bar.
Set the font size of the bottom contact info and copyright.
Determine the vertical position of the bottom contact info and copyright.

That can make the settings kinda complicated so I have some help on the setup page with an explanation of the settings and a map showing where the effect takes place. http://aphotofolio.com/design-3-brooklyn-bridge/

Since we launched 3 months ago we’ve added password protected and hidden galleries and we’re on track to add video support to all the sites by late December.

Visit here to signup: https://aphotofolio.com/signup

We’ve been busy making improvements and now we have a new design about to drop. If you’re interested in hearing about it just sign up for our mailing list and you will be alerted as soon as it’s ready. I’m shooting for an election day release.

We just rolled out a new feature for galleries that allows you to add password protection to a gallery and or make it hidden. I also put the possibility of a redirect command (sends you to another website or page) because I thought someone might find that useful.


Here’s a hidden gallery for you to visit: http://www.robhaggart.com/#/Portfolio/Fashion/1


Here’s what the admin looks like:





Here’s what the password protection looks like to the user:


This was originally published over on my photo industry blog APhotoEditor and is republished here to demonstrate our commitment to making these sites as SEO friendly as physically possible:

I know that for a wedding photographer or a local portrait photographer, SEO (Search engine optimization) may be one of the most important things for their business after the images. What could be more simple for a potential client than typing city and state plus the word photographer in google? I’d never given it much thought for editorial and commercial photographers because there are better ways to find those people and the results google used to spit out were never that great. Well, I think times are changing and when I see Dan Winters buying keywords (here) I know they’ve changed quite a bit (several years ago he didn’t even have a website).

I think about SEO a great deal now, because I build websites for a living, but the thing that struck me the other day was how many times in the past I’ve typed into google the name of an advertising campaign or a story in a magazine that I saw somewhere but forgot who shot it and never, ever, found what I was looking for. This will and probably has already changed as a new generation of photographers blog about their shoots and those of us blogging about the industry in general report who shot what for whom. There are other reasons photographers want good search results of course but the amount of times I’ve tried and failed to find someone this way seems like a good reason for everyone to think about it.

Anyway, now I’m business partners with Erik Dungan, someone who’s spent many years helping wedding photographers improve their search results and building websites that are SEO friendly, so I thought I’d ask him some questions about it.

Can you tell me the biggest SEO myths and how they came about?

The biggest myths tend to be outdated information from the web 1.0 (or earlier) days. For some reason, this bad information keeps circulating into the hands of new photographers every year–like a bad email forward.

The biggest myth is definitely that meta tags provide any meaningful impact on your search engine rankings. People learned long ago that it was easy to game the system with meta keywords. Search engines haven’t given the keywords any significant weight for a few years now. The meta description affects how your result is displayed–but it too has little (or no) weight on your position.

Second (especially for photographers) is that Flash-based websites can’t be optimized well. If you embed your Flash correctly, provide alternate content, and use links appropriately, Flash sites can be optimized just fine. I’ve done it for several sites. Adobe’s recent announcement could make things even better–but even now, getting a Flash photography site on page 1 is possible.

I’ll throw in another myth regarding searching behavior. For some reason, photographers often worry about how their site ranks when searching for their name. Trust me, if a potential client knows of you by name, they won’t have a problem finding your website. Worry about your market and areas of expertise. Optimize for those searches, provide appropriate content, and the long tail of search terms will fall into place.

I’ve always thought of SEO as stuff you do to the code of your site, programmer stuff. Are there really things photographers can do on their own without mucking about in the code?

Definitely. One of the biggest is blogging. Good blogs naturally use layouts, page elements, links, and URLs that search engines love. Setup a blog and make sure you have links between it and your site’s home page. Then, blog at least once a week about the jobs and projects you’re working on. Search engines love content, so make sure you’re blogging about photography. People love tutorials and behind-the-scenes stuff. Regularly blogging about photography builds appropriate content and improves the chances of getting quality inbound links. Who cares if no humans read your blog. The search engine benefits alone are worth it.

Also, many websites include a CMS of some sort, allowing you to adjust elements of the site without getting your hands in the code. For example, your browser title is an important ranking factor and many control panels let you adjust that.

On the other hand, I always encourage photographers to be brave and get into the HTML code for simple things. It’s not for everyone, but c’mon–if you can calculate exposure values in your head, I hope you can edit a TITLE tag without doing any major damage.

And what about in the code. What should photographers make sure their website designers have done?

Related to my above point, the more you can control aspects of your site (via a CMS or control panel), the better. That goes for SEO changes or simply keeping your site fresh with new images. The days of having a developer build a site from scratch and having to call/email him for every minuscule update are over.

If you’re building a Flash site, there are some additional questions to ask. You want to make sure your Flash is embedded properly–using OBJECT/EMBED tags is not ideal for SEO. You want to make sure your Flash content is embedded with JavaScript and that it’s mirrored as HTML content in one way or another. If this paragraph doesn’t make sense to your web designer, it’s time to find a new one :)

I’ve heard a few pitches from SEO companies where they’re basically saying they can game google or that they work closely with google. Is this a scam?

I’m hesitant to call anyone a “scam” without hearing the pitch, but I’m leery of most SEO pitches–especially if they’re cold-calling you. Be skeptical of any monthly subscription offer. Any of the following pitches should also throw up red flags:
“we will guarantee you #1 ranking or Y amount of traffic” (no one can make guarantees like that)
“we have a partnership with Google/Yahoo! and we can put you at position X” (I’ve heard this one myself … organic searches don’t work this way and its easy enough to do your own ad campaigns)
“we will submit your site to all the major search engines for $x per month” (since that’s not necessary anymore, it’s not something I’d want to pay for … especially monthly)

There are more, but in the end … real SEO pros don’t seek you out–you seek them out.

Ok, give me you best tips for getting higher and better search results.

Ok, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll toss out 10 tips that will help photographers here rank higher. I wont go into too much detail, but I’ll keep an eye on the comments and try answer any questions people may have. You can also find more info just by searching around.

Establish a baseline

1. Make sure you have web stats installed on your site and your blog (Google Analytics or Mint)
2. Install the Rank Checker plugin for firefox. Plug in any keywords or phrases that are important to you and see where you rank now. Check it every 1-3 weeks and add new phrases as you see them in your stats.

Blogging

3. Set up a blog (WordPress if you want it on your own site; SquareSpace, TypePad, or WordPress.com if you want a hosted version) and start blogging once a week.
4. Make sure your blog links to your site’s home page and vice versa.
5. Collaborate with 3 industry peers. Link to their site and/or blog (on your blog’s sidebar) and ask them to do the same. NOTE: I don’t advocate huge, convoluted link-trading schemes. I’m talking about peers that you actually know and work with.
6. Submit your blog to Google Blog Search and Technorati. You only have to do this once and some blog systems will do it automatically.

Site updates

7. Edit your browser title, making sure that it contains at least 2 keywords/phrases that are important to you. This is easily the biggest “bang for your buck” update that you can make.
8. Update your About/Bio page. Don’t just write about how you fell in love with photography after your dad gave you his old Rollei. Write about what you do, where you do it, your specialties, and past clients.

Local search

9. Submit your business to Google’s Local. It takes a few weeks to get in there, but it’s worth it.

Inbound links

10. This tip is a bit general (and related to #5), but inbound links (links to your site from other sites) are crucial for SEO. Contact peers, mentors, agencies, editors, clients, or local publications that you have worked with and have a good reputation. The goal is to get a link to your site. It could be from a “recommended photographers” page, a blog post, or just a simple credit/byline. When it comes to local publications, be creative–offer to write a how-to article or take some headshots.

1. You can add one anytime. When you signup, 1 week later, 1 month later, 1 year later. It doesn’t matter. Just send us a help ticket or email and we’ll load it up.

2. If you don’t want to write blog posts that often we can remove the date from the posts. It’s a fairly easy hack and something I recommend so visitors don’t have to know how often you write.

3. Your blog can be located on any url you want: www.yoursite.com/blog, www.yoursite.com/news, blog.yoursite.com or even it’s own seperate url www.myphotoblog.com. Send us an email after signup if you want to somewhere besides www.yoursite.com/blog.

4. There are thousands of themes and plugin’s to choose from (just google wordpress theme to see), yours comes preloaded with a few of my favorite but you can upload a new theme or plugin at any time using the ftp access.

5. You don’t have to call it a blog. Call it news or latest pictures or behind the scenes, there must be a hundred uses for a blog so get creative and do something new.

John Harrington over at Photo Business News & Forum wrote about our websites (here).

Photoshelter posted a quick review of the service (here)

Miguel Garcia-Guzman of the blog Exposure Compensation gave us a nice review (here).

It’s good to see and hear that people are digging the new websites.