How to optimize your photography website for conversions.
Learn how to turn your website visitors into loyal customers with these conversion best practices.
Your website should be selling for your business, even when you're sleeping. Most photographers pay little to no attention to their websites beyond selecting a theme and posting their portfolios. After that, their websites sit untouched for years. Many photographers don’t think about how to differentiate their websites from their competitors other than their images, and maybe their branding.
However, unless you own a studio with a storefront in a high traffic area, your photography website is where potential clients decide whether or not they want to hire you. So, it's important to set your website up so that visitors know right away if you’re the right photographer for them.
What your website needs to convert visitors into leads.
Optimizing your photography website up for conversions takes knowing who your ideal client is, and then some strategic planning on how to guide your website visitors to convert into leads. There is no single template or website host out there that can do it for you. However, in this article we will guide you through the basic steps to setting your website to convert visitors into leads.
Before you begin any work on your website, you need to know who your target market is. Understanding what is meaningful for your prospective clients and what makes them tick helps you to create and curate a website experience that is more likely to encourage them to book. If you’re struggling, check out our earlier article where we discussed discovering your niche and defining your ideal client in depth.
Once you understand who you want to attract and work with, you will have the foundations for a buyer persona. This persona is the lens through which you will make all of your website decisions: from written copy to portfolio images to promotions. You want to make sure everything on your website appeals to that ideal client persona and speaks to their needs.
Aside from attracting the right customers, one of the biggest reasons we define our ideal client and come up with a buyer persona is to discourage the wrong kinds of customers. For example, if your photography business is a customized, luxury experience for your clients, but your website does not express that, bargain shoppers might be the ones contacting you most and questioning your pricing structure. On the other hand, a website that gives the sense of a customized, luxury photography can deter those bargain shoppers before they even contact you.
Part of converting visitors into leads is making sure that your website is getting the most relevant traffic possible. Your Search Engine Optimization strategy is a big part of making sure that your website is getting in front of the right people. If you're struggling with that part of your marketing, make sure you’re not falling prey to these SEO myths.
Once visitors are coming to your site, you need to know how they got there and what pages they are visiting. You can use tools like Statcounter to see what Google keywords visitors are finding your website with, which pages they visit on your website, and which pages they leave on. This kind of visibility into your website visitors is essential to knowing if the traffic you’re receiving is relevant.
Let's use the example of a family portrait photographer. If they log into their Statcounter account and see that most visitors are coming to their website from keywords like "county fair photos" and are visiting an old blog post of family portraits at a county fair, this tells the photographer that their traffic isn't likely relevant. They confirm this by looking at Statcounter's report on exit pages and can see that most visitors leave after coming to the blog post. Now that this photographer has a clear picture of their traffic, they have some work to do on their SEO and need to do some new keyword research.
Conversely if Statcounter's reports show that many of their visitors are coming into their website from keywords like "fall family portrait wardrobe ideas" to a blog post on the best wardrobe choices for timeless family portraits, this tells the photographer that their website is getting relevant traffic in the market for photography.
SEO best practices help drive conversion.
You already know that you need to have an SEO strategy in place to attract the right traffic to your website. But following SEO best practices can also improve the conversion rate of your site as well. Here are a few key factors to focus on:
Make sure your website is easy to navigate
Just because your website looks beautiful doesn't mean that it is easy to navigate. Even if you have invested in a beautiful photography website template, if your site is difficult to use or navigate, visitors will bounce. A well-designed site will have the most important pages easily accessed from the top navigation. These are pages like your portfolio, blog, about page, and contact page. You can use Statcounter's reports to determine if there are other pages that visitors find valuable. If you have buried those pages on your website and they are difficult to find, consider moving them to your top navigation.
Focus on usability
Once you have cleaned up your website's navigation and it features the most important pages to your visitors, make sure the rest of your website is user friendly. Look for ways to eliminate distractions on your site. While your site may not look like it belongs to the early days of the Internet, full of animated text and dancing baby gifs, make sure you have nothing that will pull your visitor's focus. If you want them to sign up for a newsletter or fill out a form, make sure that is the focus of the page.
Think about your visitors experience as they navigate through your website, and what might improve their experience as they browse. Also consider accessibility issues for visually impaired visitors. Things like appropriate metadata on your pages and alt text for your images are important for both search engines and visitors with visual impairments. When thinking about accessibility, make sure you text is large enough to be legible and that there is enough contrast between your background and text. Learn more about other common accessibility issues in websites here.
Don't forget mobile
In 2016, marketers declared it was "the year of mobile" because mobile and tablet internet usage had exceeded desktop for the first time worldwide. Now that browsing the web on a smartphone has become the norm for many people, it's important that your website is mobile friendly. Many photography templates and themes include responsive design, which is when content adapts into different layouts, based on the width of a visitor’s browser.
If your website is still running Flash, it is time to consider a redesign. In the past, many photography templates had a fancy animated splash page to welcome visitors, which was the hallmark of a Flash site. Today Flash has been phased out across many websites because it loads slowly and doesn't work on many mobile devices. In fact, Apple completely refused to put it on the iPhone. So if you're running Flash on your website, it's likely unusable for many internet users and you're losing valuable conversion opportunities.
Not sure if your website is mobile friendly? Run a mobile friendliness test here.
How to get relevant traffic to convert
Knowing who your ideal client is, and developing a persona around that ideal, gives you an incredible insight into what visitors are looking for. It also gives you a very good idea about what their concerns might be regarding your product or service. Taking this information into account, you can design an experience that assures your visitors you’re the right photographer for them, and you can guide them through your website on a path to conversion.
Create compelling value propositions
A value proposition is the value a company promises to deliver to their customers. This is usually the features and benefits of the product or service. However, most photographers don't know what their value proposition is. They often focus on the features of their business offering but forget about the benefits.
Your photography business is much more than what you actually do. If you run a studio, you do more than take photos and sell prints. If you offer a retouching service, you do more than edit. If you sell Actions and Presets, your business is about much more than the files your clients download. To get your traffic to convert into leads, you need to demonstrate what that more is. That is the essence of your value proposition.
Let's take our example of the family photographer. This photographer has designed their business niche to focus on creating family portraits that show the unique, beautiful personality of every family they photograph. Their value proposition is that their sessions are designed to be fun, relaxing and an opportunity for families to bond and make amazing memories together. The prints they sell are the keepsakes from those memories.
Our example photographer know that their ideal clients are moms with disposable income, who have young children, and are concerned with how fast their kids are growing up. These moms have had family portraits done in the past, but it wasn't the experience they were hoping for. The kids were bored and fidgety, and there were very few good images that came out of those other sessions. These moms know it's possible to get beautiful family portraits but worry that the next photographer they hire won’t work well with kids.
Armed with this knowledge, our friend the family photographer has curated their website with this ideal client in mind and have highlighted their value proposition throughout. Not only do they have unique family portraits showcased on their site, but their blog is full of amazing advice for parents on how prep their kids for photo sessions. The photographer also has behind the scenes videos on how sessions work so that those worried moms can see how fun and relaxed everyone is, kids included. Glowing client testimonials speaking to their ideal client's concerns helps visitors know they have found the right photographer!
Create calls to action and lead magnets
Once you have relevant traffic coming to your website, and you have your compelling value proposition highlighted, you need to encourage your visitors to convert into leads. Not every single relevant visitor will be ready to purchase or contact you to book. But that doesn’t mean that the visitor isn't ready to become a lead yet!
This is where your reports from Statcounter will be invaluable. By looking at your Popular Pages and your Visitor Paths reports, you can get an idea of what visitors find the most valuable on your site and how they travel through it. For example, if you find that a majority of your visitors spend a lot of time going through your blog posts, create calls to action at the end of each post for visitors to sign up for your newsletter to receive future posts in their email.
High Intent Visitor Path
Low Intent Visitor Path
Similarly, if you find that you have popular pieces of content, you can create a lead magnet related to that content. This kind of lead magnet is called a "content upgrade". For example, if your most popular blog post is a guide on how to look great in front of the camera you might want to offer a condensed version as a posing guide that visitors can download and bring to a session.
By inserting calls to action throughout or at the bottom of your blog post, you can direct visitors' attention to your lead magnet. A lead magnet can be something as simple as a checklist or as elaborate as a video related to your content. We have some great ideas on different lead magnets here.
Consider your buying cycle when adding calls to action to your website. If most of your traffic is at the Awareness stage of the buying cycle, a call to action for a lead magnet is a great way to stay top of mind as your visitors progress from Awareness to Conversion. The idea is that an interested visitor browsing your website decides that these lead magnets are valuable enough to exchange for their email address. Once you have their email address you can stay top of mind via an automated drip sequence, newsletter and other email marketing communications.
However, if you see that a lot of visitors read several blog posts, visit your About page, and then navigate Booking or Product FAQ page, they are further on in their buying cycle. They might be ready to purchase or get in touch for a consultation. So make sure that the calls to action on these pages are appropriate to where they fall in your client buying cycle.
When to drive traffic to your website, and when to use a landing page
There is a good deal of confusion about the difference between a landing page and pages on a website. This is because the term landing page is often used to describe any page a visitor uses as an entry to your website. But a landing page differs from other pages on your website because the goal of a landing page is to focus on a single call to action. This means they are free of distractions like navigation and side bars, and feature only a single call to action. You can learn more about landing pages in our guide here.
Once you have designed lead magnets to encourage visitors to give you email address, landing pages can be a great place to drive traffic. You might still offer opportunities to sign up for your lead magnet throughout your website. However, if you've set up any kind of paid ad to promote your lead magnet and grow your email list, a landing page is an ideal place to send that traffic.
According to LearnInbound, the essential components of an effective landing page are:
- A main headline and a supporting headline – This tells visitors what your lead magnet or offer is, and what they will gain from it.
- A unique selling proposition – This makes your offer different and better than anything else out there.
- The benefits of your offering – This is a breakdown of how you will solve your visitor's problems or allaying their concerns. Even if your headline mentions benefits, you can go in depth here!
- Images or video showing context – Give your visitors a preview of what they will exchange their email address for, and they're much more likely to convert.
- Social proof – If you have testimonials of how your lead magnet or offer helped your clients, showcase them!
- A reinforcement statement – Here you can echo your main to remind them of the benefit or solution your lead magnet is offering.
- A closing argument – This is your final to encourage your visitor to sign up for your lead magnet. Address their pain points and concerns and remind them of how you will solve their issue with this lead magnet.
- A call to action – This the button on the form where your visitor can sign up. Usually the fewer fields, the higher the conversion rate of the form.
How a funnel can work for your business
Once you have a website that is easy to navigate, strong calls to action to drive visitors to your lead magnets, and landing pages free from distraction, your website will be able to convert visitors into leads. Once you get that lead, having an email funnel set up best way to turn that lead into a customer. These funnels are designed to nurture your new leads and develop a deeper relationship with them, encouraging them to become customers.
The best kinds of funnels are automated email sequences, often called drip campaigns, that welcome your leads after they download your lead magnet. Drip campaigns are usually a series of pre-written newsletters that are sent out on a schedule, that educate your new lead while alternating between hard and soft sells. So, you might have someone sign up for your lead magnet, and then have weekly newsletter content dripped to them to build a consistent connection with them. Using automation also takes a heavy load off of you because it welcomes each and every subscriber to your newsletter list without you having to write a new email for each one.
With your buyer persona in mind, your drip campaign should be written based on the needs and questions that your lead magnet addressed. Each email that you send should make sense in sequence and help to move your leads through the buying cycle.
Here's an example of an automated email funnel that you can set up:
- Email 1: Deliver your lead magnet in a thank you email.
- Email 2: Send content that adds value that matches with your new lead’s interest. Consider the lead magnet that they downloaded and educate them more on that topic.
- Email 3: Introduce yourself, your business and your mission. This is a great time to discuss how you learned to solve the pain points that are most important to your new lead. You can also soft sell in this email if you like.
- Email 4: Use this content to educate again and adding value. Try not to sell in this email, because when you’re educating your lead you should focus on building the know, like and trust factors!
- Email 5: Now that you have spent a few days and several emails helping your lead, it’s time to pitch yourself! Present your business as the solution to your lead’s issues and offer them a chance to buy or book.
Bringing it all together
On the internet, visitors don’t get to meet you and learn about your business in the same way they do in person. Instead, your website needs to represent you and has to do many of the things you could do in person: educate, nurture and convert visitors into leads. Designing your website experience with conversion in mind can help you generate consistent leads for your business.
First you must understand who your ideal client is, generate relevant traffic, and understand how that traffic interacts with your website. Using lead magnets and landing pages can help encourage your visitors to become leads and move them into your nurturing funnel. Once these components come together, your website can become a lead generating machine for your photography business!