Sunday, January 4, 2009

Business - Building Your Web Presence, Part 1

This is Part 1 of 3 in a mini-series on Building Your Web Presence as a Photography Business.

Part 1: Building your Web Site
Part 2: Driving Eyeballs to your Web Site
Part 3: Providing Commerce on your Web Site

Lately, I have been spending time on the three blogs that I run. I try to keep them fresh, as they address different audiences and I want to keep them interested and grow the readership.
Blogs are very "now", but you still need a homepage, a place where you can anchor your business messages and show off your best work. And, you will need other web presences to drive eyeballs to your webs and blogs, but we'll get into that later.

I view blogs, consumer listings, reviews, videos, articles and other material as necessary support structures to your main data structure, your home page. Without the home page, there's no "place to go" for your customers to always land - that familiar place they can bookmark and associate with you and your photography business.

How Do You Build a Website?

Let's break it down into a few manageable chunks:

1. Domain Name. It should reflect you and your business name as much as possible, but not be too long or hard to spell. It should also be unique. In my case, John Huegel Photography was available and I could have used that, but I thought it was too long. I chose '', which has ended up to be a recognizable URL for many. You can search for available domain names at a variety of locations, Network Solutions being one of them. Incidentally, the 'music' part is because I also offer custom music mixes and am a professional musician. Plus it sounds artsy. Note that you may need to re-purchase your domain name(s) on a regular basis. If you don't they expire, your site gets orphaned, and someone else can buy your domain name!

2. Hosting capability. You will want your site to have good uptime, good response time, good feature capability and good capacity and bandwidth. There are a ton of hosting providers out there. Being a conservative type, I went with one of the old guards, Network Solutions. They support the php backend that I need to run my photo album and shopping cart application, and their customer support is top notch. They are not the lowest cost provider though; I pay more than $100/yr for their services. For less expensive providers, Here is a list of ten top hosting providers. Your provider will register your domain name(s) and provide a place for your code to live. Many will also provide templates for you to use. Do not use a free hosting site that pays for itself with banner ads. It will cheapen your image.

3. Content management. I use a flash-based template with an HTML front-end, meaning that I can protect my images (to some degree), and also do a minimum of customization and tracking. I bought my photography template from Winklet Web Design, as I liked their balance of appearance, features, simplicity and cost. I did not want to spend a lot of time coding. Their templates are try-before-buy, and they are great for photographers who want to get a portfolio listed quickly. They do not support shopping carts and gallery security, but I did not want them to do that. Other content managers double up in other areas such as hosting or shopping cart or fulfillment. You need to decide how much of the rest of the web site and business functions you want your content manager to own or provide.

4. Content. You'll have to provide this. At a minimum, you want to show your work in the form of slide shows, galleries or at least a few of your best images. You'll also want to display information about your business, such as your background, your approaches, and maybe some references, links or price lists. And most important, you need to make it very clear for people to reach you, including telephone, address and an email link or contact form. If you want customer photo galleries, you'll at least want to provide links to them from your site, or build them into your site somehow. For a few years I used EventPix and PhotoReflect for hosting of the web shopping functions, and I recently brought that into my own control. I'll describe that in Part 3. And when you write your text content, please make sure your grammar, spelling and punctuation are korrekt! (yes, deliberate)

5. Upload method. Usually you build your content on your computer and then send it up to the server using FTP - the File Transfer Protocol that predated the web's HTTP. There are many FTP programs that you can download for low or no cost. And, some web hosting sites offer their own upload methods.

So, you have a web name, a place to put it, an engine to show it, stuff to go inside it, and a way to get it there. It's time to build!

The first time, it took me several hours to load and tweak my template-based website. But then it looked slick and took only basic maintenance to keep it current. Once your site is up and running, make sure the website name goes on EVERYTHING you email, post, give away or spray paint on walls. The generations that are buying stuff and making selection decisions live on the internet. That website will be your entryway to online commerce.

Now that you have built a website, let's try to get it listed in the right web searches, and get lots of pointers pointing back to it!

Up next: Part 2: Driving Eyeballs to your Web Site

1 comment:

  1. Hi John,

    Just stopped by to thank you for being a Network Solutions customer. Let us know if we can be of service to you.


    Shashi Bellamkonda