My Top 10 Tips to Building a Successful Photo Blog

For most people that start a photo blog, it starts off as a simple project to share their work, their perspective, or their knowledge.  Over time the blog evolves into something quite different.  My blog is the perfect example of this.  When I first started blogging, it was an outlet to share my photography with a small group of people, mainly my family and friends.  As time went on, I started posting more frequently and not just to show off my images.  I started sharing techniques, news, opinions, and reviews.  Probably the largest driving force behind this was a hit counter that I installed.  As I began posting with more frequency, I noticed that I was accumulating more and more hits on my blog.  I won’t kid you by saying that this didn’t excite me because it did.  I was actually reaching a much wider audience than I had anticipated.  I’m not talking monster numbers, but modest growth.  What started as 10 to 20 hits a week grew to 10 to 20 hits a day.  This encouraged me to post even more frequently.

Over the next few months I enjoyed some modest growth in my readership and then one day, I hit it big.  Scott Kelby linked to a post on my blog on his extremely popular blog, Photoshop Insider.  Can you say Jackpot?  I experienced my first 1000 visitor day.  Of course this didn’t last but it certainly did help to raise my banner into the public eye.   Since then, I have paid close attention to what information has had the greatest impact on readership so that I can focus my blog on content that seems to be of most benefit to my readers.  I still write and post for myself but now with a more keen eye on what is popular with the public.  So here are a few tips that might help grow your own photo blog.

Tip # 1 – Get some notice from a popular blog.  Now it’s no secret that Scott and I are buddies but the concept is still the same.  You can achieve the same results with a post that hits it big on Digg, or gets mentioned in 1001 Noisy Cameras, or on Technorati.  This isn’t always something that you can count on but it will probably happen if you are posting some quality articles or photos.  Buzz is a very powerful force on the internet but it can be fleeting which means that you need to keep writing interesting posts that keep feeding the beast.  That leads us to …

Tip # 2 – Quality counts.  If all you are doing is regurgitating the same stories from other blogs you run the risk of boring your readers with content that they have probably seen already.  Original content is what keeps people interested and keeps them coming back for more.  Sharing interesting articles that you come across is not a bad thing but if it’s your only thing, you probably won’t sustain your readership.  This doesn’t just count for written articles.  If your thing is posting images, make them quality images.  A great example of this can be found at Stuck in Customs.  Trey Ratcliff, the blog author, is not always long on words but the quality of his images never disappoints and thus  translates into a large and loyal readership.  Almost every day, Trey’s readers can count on a different image to keep them coming back.  This is a key component to …

Tip # 3 – Keep your site fresh.  If you only get a chance to blog every now and then, readers will lose interest and start looking for fresh sites that are always offering something new.  If you want proof of this, just check out David Ziser’s blog, Digital Pro Talk.  David is a blogging animal.  He averages 6 posts a day, so every time you come back, it seems there is something new to digest.  Dave is kind of a freak of blogging nature and there aren’t many that can match his volume of posting.  The main point is that there is something new every day and that keeps his readers coming back for more. But sometimes quality and quantity may not be enough to reach new readers which takes us to …

Tip # 4 – Learn to be social.  Just like a Hollywood movie star, you need to go out and be seen by your public.  So how do you accomplish this?  Be active on other blogs.  Take some time and visit other blogs in your niche.  Follow up your visits with a comment or two.  I’m not talking about self-serving name dropping and commenting for the sake of drawing readers.  I’m talking about adding value to another persons blog.  Within your comment you could also refer to something relevant that you have done on your blog but don’t just shamelessly comment to plug your site.  Believe it or not, if you are thoughtful and relevant in your comments, it will reflect well on your own site and draw new visitors in.  There are also social tools that can really kick-start your blog and they are the subject of …

Tip # 5 – Social Bookmarking sites.  You may be aware of social bookmarking sites but have you ever used them?  There are a multitude of bookmarking sites out there but the biggest ones are Digg, Technorati, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Mixx, and Reddit.  Another newcomer that is much more photography-centric is PhotographyVoter.  The basic premise of the sites are as follows; register at the site, add bookmarks to sites or stories you find on the web, find other stories that others have bookmarked.  While it’s not a terrible thing to add your own blog entries to the sites, be generous and share other sites that you find interesting.  It will pay off in the long run.  And just how much traffic can be generated from a bookmarking site?  Well, I had a simple post titled 10 Places to Photograph Before I Die that caught fire on StumbleUpon and generated over 20,000 hits.  Not everyone returns to a site after reading a story like this but if they like what they see, you might just get a few new loyal readers.  So what do you do with all these new readers?  Why feed them of course …

Tip # 6 – Offer your site up as a feed for people to subscribe to.  Hopefully you are aware of what a feed is and whether or not your blog offers one.  If you don’t, you will serve yourself and your readers well by getting one for your site.  For the unaware, a feed is a way of offering your content as a subscription that can be downloaded by a feed reader and then digested by anyone that has subscribed.  Typically someone who uses a feed reader would visit numerous sites in a day to see if there was new content but instead, the new content is delivered directly to their reader allowing them to keep current without having to navigate from site to site.  If you don’t have a feed for your site, you can try out FeedBurner as a possible solution.  I have been using it for some time and I think it’s great.  not only does it distribute your feed but they offer some amazing tools to really keep on top of the data generated by your feed.  The best part, FeedBurner is owned by Google so it’s free!  So now that you are providing a feed, maybe you should start reading some too …

Tip # 7 – Keep an eye on what your fellow photographers are up to.  I’m not talking industrial espionage, more like staying informed on what the community is up to.  This will help you keep up to date and stimulate your imagination for future topics.  I have generated numerous blog stories from articles that I read elsewhere.  Not the same material but related items that I thought of while reading someone else’s blog.  Call it inspiration.  And how to you get all this inspiration, get yourself a reader and start adding  site feeds.  I have at least 50 different sites that I read every day.  I couldn’t do this without the help of a feed reader.  My reader of choice is the Google Reader but there are a multitude of readers out there for you to choose from.  Chances are that the web browser you are using right now has feed reading capabilities.  While you are searching Google for their reader, think about how readers might find you through the same search engine …

Tip # 8 – Search Engine Optimization.  This is also known simply as  SEO and it can get fairly complicated but there are some basic principles that you should adhere to when writing your blog.  First of all, concentrate on writing good content.  This is the basis for all SEO strategies.  Good content will lead to other sites linking to you.  Search engines key on this.  Also, try using some keywords in your content.  Everyone knows that there are certain buzz words that are embedded in the photographic vernacular (digital imaging, Canon, Nikon, HDR, RAW, JPEG, etc.).  Try and key in on a few of those when you write.  Try inter-linking or linking to previous content within your post.  Finally, link out to others that have relevant content.  All of this linking and keywording and content quality will raise your search score over time and drive more readers to your site.  SEO is one way to increase traffic but if you want to really get into it, do your research…

Tip # 9 – Study the success of others.  There are tons of successful sites out there (I have listed a few for you already in the previous tips) and they don’t have to be just about photography. Study them and find out what they are doing to keep readers coming back.  One of my favorite research resources is ProBlogger.  This site is jam packed with information that can help you craft your blog into one that is much more appealing to your readers and give insights into how you can take things to the next level.

I saved the most important tip for last but hopefully it’s one you already know.

Tip # 10 – Have fun!  Blogging can be challenging but as long as you are having fun, it will show in your posts and your readers will enjoy coming back over and over again.

Comments

  1. Great thoughts Jeff!! I have to say your blog was the first one I ever commented on, and from that first comment, you treated me like a friend, I very much appreciated it and have enjoyed coming back for the daily Kool aid. The link from your site is appreciated, I was chosen for a P&P blog profile because of your blog mentions, I have my own blog now, because of you—–Small motivators in life!! I even got to meet that Scott and Matt Fella– Have a good Spring Break!!

  2. nice tips, i will read it.

  3. mike meyer says:

    Well heck, I got to meet the World Famous Mike Palmer from this blog. And I have been mentioned here more than on Scott’s blog. So I guess being the number one fan is worth something. Of course I never did get any pie on the photowalk. Well maybe next photowalk. How about Great Falls Park next time? I know how you feel about it Jeff but, what does everyone else think. This is a democracy isn’t it?

    mike meyer

  4. Hey Jeff,

    Very cool post here. I’d seen others like it, but not as well articulated as yours is. You’ve got quite the knack for writing and it shows in your posts. Another great site to read is The Online Photographer, but the writing there can get somewhat heady at times, and I find myself having to slow down when I read it. Yours is thoughtful and yet at the same time is down to earth. Keep up the great work. Hopefully I’ll be able to mirror the aspects I am currently missing on my own blog – I think initially I got caught up in the # of hits I was getting. I’ve since taken a step back and am hopefully returning to the basics of blogging about what matters to me.

    Blogs like yours are a great foundation for the newer guys on the blog route! Keep up the great work! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing those tips. Will help me to get my project started – it’s challenging for a German to start a blog in english and trying to be unique…

  6. Good practical tips. I am still in the blogging stage of just sharing with some friends and a slowly expanding group. I think it would be fun reach an even further audience, but I have to consider if it is worth the time and effort. More than anything, I enjoy photo blogging because it drives me to spend more time on my enjoyable hobby.

    Thanks for your great content. I have enjoyed reading since I added you to my reader.

  7. Thanks for all the great feedback. I am glad everyone found this post helpful. My goal in posting this was to give others the benefit of things it took me a while to learn. I’m still working on growing my blog and readership and like always, I’ll pass along what I learn.

    Jeff

  8. Hi Jeff,
    This is a great post with tons of useful tips. It caught me to your blog. now I am registered.
    - udi

  9. Another tip I came across for SEO is to use a company name. A stat I read is that something like over 20% of searches include a company name. Add the manufacturer of a product you use in your post title, content, and tags.

  10. Hey Jeff, thanks for this post, i knew bout the SEO stuff, but i didn’t know about Photography Voter or the importance of the social networking. I have been using Facebook and Flickr to try and increase traffic, it works for a short while then dies off, i guess i need to keep posting more frequently but its an issue when traveling and limited connectivity. I have to get with the twitter world next! great posting!

    Howard

  11. good post, added you to my RSS reader. Greetings from DC

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