Blog is short for web log. Blogs are a form of publishing. A blogger is someone who regularly uses a blog to publish content (text, photographs, illustrations or video) to the Internet.
The advantages of a blog include ease of use (you don’t need to know how to code a website to regularly update your site), the ability to customize the site to your needs and, through integrated RSS (real simple syndication), enabling your readers to subscribe to your posts.
Blogs offer photography buyers a chance to discover the personality behind the portfolio they are viewing. Many photographers have enhanced their careers using blogs to share valuable information. Blogging photographers also reap the benefits of SEO (search engine optimization), which makes it easier for photography buyers to find them.
Selecting a blog platform
When working through the process of setting up a blog, you need to decide if you wish to self-host or have your blog hosted by a blog-hosting company such as Blogger or WordPress.
Most blogging services will host your blog for free on their website. It is generally considered more professional to host your blog on your own website. Even so, many well-known and respected blogs are hosted by a blog hosting service.
A blog hosted by a blog service would look like this:http://yourname.wordpress.com or http://yourname.blogspot.com. A self-hosted blog would look like this: http://www.yourblogname.com orhttp://blog.yourwebsite.com.
If you choose to host your own blog, you need to able to set up a database on your server. Fortunately, many website hosting companies will set up the blog platform and database for you. Some offer easy, one-click setup service for platforms such as WordPress.
Should your blog be hosted separately or using a sub-domain?
If you decide to self-host your blog you have two options to consider. Do you create a separate website, such as http://www.yourblogname.com, or create a sub-domain such as http://blog.yourwebsite.com?
The answer depends on your goal. If your blog is an extension of your website, a sub-domain would be a good choice. A blog containing assignment outtakes and personal photography projects supports your portfolio website and should be associated with it.
If you plan on blogging about topics not directly related to your portfolio, such as industry news, or strongly opinionated pieces not related to photography, it might be wise to consider a separately hosted blog.
There are three main types of blogging platforms:
- WordPress, Blogger and Typepad offer traditional, full-service long-form blogging platforms. These platforms are flexible and provide custom functionality.
- Tumblr and Posterous are designed for short-form blogging. They are commonly used for short posts, quick updates, and photography projects. Many bloggers working on 365 projects (posting a photograph a day for a year) use these platforms for their ease of use.
- Micro-blogging is very popular. The most widely known micro-blog platform is Twitter. Twitter is not designed for self-hosting and limits the blogger to 140 characters. Although it is a great platform to share your blog posts, it is not the answer to a photographer’s blogging needs.
Here is a list of blog services to support your efforts. Please note the list contains both free and paid services.
Setting up your blog:
The No. 1 rule when selecting a topic is to write what you are passionate about and what you know best. Don’t blog just because someone told you it would be a good idea.
Blogs are regularly updated; if you don’t have the desire or passion to post regular updates, your blog will fade. If a blog’s last post is months in the past, it will leave a bad impression. It most certainly will not support the development of a following. No matter how often you blog, it is important to be consistent.
Not all blogs are designed to attract a huge audience. Many photographers use their website blog to support their current circle of clients and prospects. The information provided in such blogs is usually related to the photographer’s process, workflow, and development of personal projects. It’s designed to build deeper connections with people who care about the photographer.
Many photographers use their blog for SEO purposes. They blog often and use a lot of key words related to their specialty. The goal is to attract links to their site, which will then support search engine rankings.
Other photographers create blogs to gain new business or recognition within the photographic industry or a target market. These blogs often contain industry news, analyses, tips, and advice. The photographer’s goal is to develop a following that leads to what is often called a micro-celebrity status.
No matter the type of blog you choose, focus on a specialty or niche. There are millions of blogs on the Internet; finding your audience can be difficult if you don’t have an angle that separates you from pack.
Once you have settled on a direction for your blog it is time for one of the hardest parts of blogging: selecting a blog design theme.
Most blog platforms supply basic themes from which to choose. Many are customizable if you know a little HTML. If you know a lot of HTML and CSS, you can create your own theme. Search Google for themes designed for the platform you are using for additional options.
Hiring a theme designer might be your best bet, especially if you want to keep the look of your blog consistent with your main website.
After you select your blog theme you will have many choices related to blog functionality. Blog platforms and themes contain plug-ins, widgets, and options that may be turned on or off. Think about what you want your blog to do before you start adding blog functions. What is your goal or vision for your blog?
Do you want to display Twitter or Flickr feeds? Is SEO important? Do you want to capture e-mails? Display previous posts? There are many options available to benefit your blog. Some options are unnecessary for many blogs. Take time to read opinions and reviews about the options you are considering.
A site map plug-in and analytics tracking are highly recommended. You will want to make sure you use an anti-spam tool. Robots are sent around the web to post comments on unprotected blogs. Too many of these robot spam posts on your website can be harmful in the eyes of search engines and your readers. Even a simple CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) is helpful.
Every blog should make it easy for readers to share your posts. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media buttons are important so visitors can deliver your posts to their favorite social media platform.
Run your blog through FeedBurner. This site is designed to help bloggers manage their RSS feed subscribers. Bloggers can keep track of how many subscribers they have. The system has promotional tools and easy-to-implement code that lets followers receive your blog via e-mail.
Every blog should have a comment policy. Make sure people are clear about what is acceptable language on your blog. If you plan on selling or endorsing products, the law requires you have a disclosure statement.
Make sure you have a good about page. If your website is your online brochure, your blog is your personality. It requires an about page full of good information. Don’t skimp.
Make sure you post a recent photograph and easy ways, such as e-mail address and phone numbers, to contact you.
Your first blog post
An article written for your blog is called a post. The latest blog post is always displayed first or at the top of the web page. The best advice is to write your first blog post like it was your seventh. Skip the introduction to what you plan to do. Just do it by getting into the meat of your work, your ideas and your story.
The average blog post is between 200 and 500 words.
Make sure you tag everything. There is a difference between tags and categories. Categories are broader topics. A category might be food. A tag is like a key word. Key words or tags for a post about photographing a picnic might be: hot dog, grill, or potato salad. Use categories sparingly and tag everything you can think of related to your photographs and blog post.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to hit the publish button.
Unless your blog post is breaking news, take the time to review, edit, and spell check everything. Consider asking family or friends to review your posts before they are published. Perfection is not necessary. The nice thing about the blogging platform is that if an error or typo is missed, it can be corrected easily.
Driving traffic to your blog
Good SEO is a natural benefit of blogging. Regularly updated, key word-rich information is like candy to search engine spiders. The more you blog and share high-quality information, the better the SEO results.
Create strong headlines with key words that make statements or ask questions. These attract readers. Learn from the pros and review magazine covers to see what the experts are doing to attract the reader’s attention.
A great way to develop readership to your blog is to become a regular part of a blogging community. Post comments on similar sites or industry-related blogs. Trade links with other bloggers. Ask to be a guest blogger.
Develop your blog roll, which is a list of links to other blogs you find valuable. Blog rolls are often found on the front page of a blog. Trade blog roll links with other bloggers.
Make sure your comments are turned on. Actively engage the people who take the time to read and share their thoughts on your blog. Every reader is important. Developing relationships helps to support loyalty.
Social media are helpful. Share your relevant posts on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Make sure you share other people’s blog posts too. They will often return the favor.
Every blogger starts with the first post and zero readers. Blogging is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s an endurance game. The more and longer you blog, the better the results and return on your time investment.