If you are just starting a photography business, you will no doubt understand the importance of having a professional website. Social media sites such as Flickr and Facebook are great for simply sharing pictures online, however, professional photographers clearly need to have their own, dedicated website in order to attract and convert new clients.
So how do you go about creating your own photography website?
Well, it’s easier than most people think. This article will act as a beginners guide to WordPress, which we at PhotoProSEO.com believe is by far the best platform out there for your photography website.
So What is WordPress?
Originally a blogging platform, WordPress has evolved over the years to become a fully-functional Content Management System (CMS). In simple terms, this is a system which allows you to manage the pages on your website.
The beauty of WordPress is that you can easily tailor it to your requirements using one of thousands of pre-designed design templates, known as ‘themes’.
The interface, where you add and edit pages is very easy to use, with a simple WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, which is similar to most word processing software. In addition, you can further customise the layout of your site using what are known as ‘widgets’ which are little blocks of content which can be placed in strategic locations on the page (e.g. an address block in the footer, or a search box in a sidebar).
One of WordPress’ main advantages for photographers is that you can quickly and easily add new pages whenever you want to. You don’t need to have any web design or computer programming knowledge whatsoever.
Before we go any further, we have to explain that there are two ways you can run a WordPress site:-
Option 1 is Totally Free – You can setup a free account at WordPress.com and they will host the site for you. However this is not recommended for a Professional business as you are limited in how you can expand the functionality of the site and it is not good for SEO – Therefore this option is NOT RECOMMENDED!
Option 2 is referred to as “Self-hosted WordPress”, and is what we will discuss here, and on any other articles you read on this site. This option is also completely free! You can download the WordPress software from WordPress.org – The only costs you will incur come from buying your domain and web hosting (more on this later) and if you choose to use one, a customised design (theme).
Choosing a domain name
A domain name is a unique address which people use to access your website.
e.g. yoursite.com or yoursite.co.uk
Your choice of domain name is important and this is for a number of reasons:
– It should be easy for customers to remember
– It should be easy to spell and quote to clients over the phone
– It should reflect your brand and make your business look more professional and creditable.
– a good choice of domain name also helps improves your chances of your site appearing in Google search results (although only a little! – don’t get excited).
Here is a quick video explaining the basics of buying a domain name:-
Choose an address that is as short and succinct as possible. Buy the correct domain to match your geographic location – for example, if you are a UK based business always go for a .co.uk domain name as it again helps with SEO.
I would also buy the .com extensions, as well to help protect your brand. You can purchase domain names for around £7 per year, although many providers offer discounts when purchasing one or more. You can also combine a domain name and hosting deal to save money – more on this below. We recommend 123-reg.co.uk and Namecheap.com
Choosing the correct Web hosting service
Web hosting is basically space on a computer, known as a server, where your website files live.
Again, depending on your requirements this is relatively cheap and easy to set up. When first starting out you should be looking at no more than £5 or $8 a month for a decent hosting package. Most of the popular hosting providers nowadays offer automatic installation for WordPress sites, meaning that you can install the system on your server with just a few clicks – check for this before you purchase as it will save you a lot of work! For WordPress hosting for a single site we highly recommend BlueHost.com
If you are looking for much more powerful hosting with automated backups, test staging areas and other advanced features, then look no further than WPEngine.com which was designed from the ground up to deliver fast and scaleable WordPress sites.
Some hosting providers will also offer you a free domain name, which not only saves you money, but also the hassle of having to link your domain name to the hosting provider. Check out the latest offers from providers such as GoDaddy and 1and1 before purchasing, both of these offer easy WordPress installation and combined domain and hosting deals.
Connecting your Domain Name to your Webhost
We have a training video which tells you exactly what you need to do to connect your new domain name to your new web host – access to the training is available free to all registered site members – you can register for your free account here.
Downloading WordPress to your hosting
After you have selected a domain name and hosting package, you can install WordPress. As we’ve mentioned, most providers offer a simple download link when you are logged in to your account. Click on this to install the system to your hosting.
Installing WordPress can be relatively trouble free, but we do advise having a look at the Five Minute Installation Guide before you do so.
Once you’ve installed WordPress, you are ready to start creating your photography website. The first part of this is choosing a theme. The basic theme that comes with WordPress isn’t very exciting, but there are a lot of other options to choose from. You can browse through these in the ‘themes’ section of your account, or find themes on other websites.
Photographers do tend to have specific requirements and as such a little sub-industry has sprung up providing wordpress themes specifically for photographers – ProPhotoBlogs is our personal favourite and Photocrati is another popular theme.
If you want something a bit more unique, a great website to begin your search for a WordPress theme is ThemeForest, this allows you to browse themes by category, and there are several that have been designed specifically for photographers.
Choose a theme that is simple and uncluttered – after all, you want your photography to do the talking and you don’t want visitors to be distracted. One thing to consider if how the theme renders on various different devices – users are increasingly browsing on tablets and smartphones, so it’s important that your site is accessible and easy to use on all devices.
For power users, we recommend using The Genesis Framework, from Studiopress which is effectively a series of Themes, but with much more programmable control – there is a learning curve, but once you understand it, it is extremely powerful and until recently Genesis was the theme that we use on PhotoProSEO.com (we now use a more powerful platform called Rainmaker which is based on the Genesis Framework).
Independent developers have created hundreds of plugins for WordPress, which add almost limitless functionality. Here are a few you may find useful:
• Shareaholic: This puts links at the end of every post so readers can share your photography on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
• Askimet: Probably the first plugin you should install – this prevents most spam comments being left on your website.
• WP Super Cache: Improves your website’s performance by showing visitors cached versions of pages.
We have a list of our Top 10 recommended plugins for photographers here
How to promote your website
A website is nothing without visitors, here are the two most popular ways of driving traffic to your new site:
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – Optimising your website to increase it’s chances of appearing in Google search results involves using targeted words and phrases (known as keywords) in your site’s content. When you write your pages, think about what the people you are targeting might type into Google to find the content. Your content will not appear on Google overnight, however, it will take time for it to be indexed and trusted, which in part comes from people sharing and linking to you from other sites. WordPress has many plugins which can help you with this, but the best one out there is WordPress SEO by Yoast – and we also recommend the new plugin that works alongside Yoast – Easy WPSEO – this does cost a few dollars, but is highly recommended and will have your site optimised properly from day one.
*Top tip – target local terms in your content, you have more chance of appearing for ‘Maine wedding photographer’ than ‘wedding photographer’ as there will be less competition for that keyword.
Social media – Promoting your content on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook is a great way to drive traffic. Every time you write a new blog post, share that link on your Facebook profile – Remember to try and engage your audience by asking them to comment on your posts.
Learning How to Use WordPress
This beginners guide to wordpress has hopefully given you a decent overview and perhaps encouraged you to give WordPress a try – before you go any further we recommend following our WordPress Video Training Course – this 22 module course covers all areas of WordPress and will really help you get to grips with the system – the training course is free to all registered members – you can sign up for your free account here.
We hope this beginners guide to wordpress has been helpful. Please leave a comment if you need any help with setting up or promoting your site, or if you want to share any of your own tips!