I have featured the work of Marina from Red Heart Photography a number of times recently, every time she sends me something I am stopped in my tracks!
Christina & Justin had a personal ceremony on 09.09.09 in Kona (it was just the two of them – you can’t get more intimate that that!) and then followed it up with an amazing photo session with the lovely Marina.
I spend a lot of time online (like seriously hours a day) and so of course I come across many a fabulous wedding and non-wedding thing that I don’t want to dedicate a full spot to. So, inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, I have decided on a new little feature. Every Thursday I will introduce you to a few extra treats out there on the world wide web. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s begin…
I’ve received a number of questions regarding search engine optimisation (SEO) recently so I thought part two of the ‘How to Blog’ series should be devoted to the idea of, in my experience, making Google your friend. This is long I warn you. I’d suggest grabbing a cup of tea and a cupcake before you start on this bad boy!
For those of your blissfully unaware, search engine optimisation is the process of customising your blog or blogging style in order to impress Google and therefore make him rank you higher in any given search. Not wanting to conform to well, pretty much anything, I personally have never purposely written a blog post or re-arranged my site in order to succeed in the Google race.
So, you’re probably now thinking ‘what the hell? Why should I keep reading then?’ Well I want to tell you my own ideas and know-how in the area, which are mainly all self researched and practiced. If you want to learn traditional SEO methods then you’ve come to the wrong place.
SEO is an enormous area and many before me have written about the subject – in fact many have even made a career out of ‘helping’ people optimise their sites. This makes me wonder however, if their methods really did work like they said they did, wouldn’t everybody have a fantastically popular and successful website? The whole idea reminds me of those ‘amazing, life changing diet pills’ – if they really worked, wouldn’t we all be thin? Seriously, type ‘SEO Blogging’ into You Tube and see how many people you come across who claim to have the answers!
With this article I am simply going to give you a brief overview of my own personal experiences when it comes to making a successful blog. If you are interested in more ‘traditional’ SEO methods, then you should check Tim Ferriss and Andrew Hansen. They are pretty clued up in their own special ways and are good for learning a few basics ideas. Just take it all with a pinch of salt though and don’t go overboard!
I’ve read articles on SEO that told me such gems as to make sure I mentioned key words 5 times in each paragraph and to put them in bold so Google will find them easier. Yes, maybe he will but think about this – how is your post going to look to a reader when every time you mention alternative wedding (for example) it is in bold? The answer is crap. It will be pretty clear to your readers that you care more about Google more than them. Don’t forget to remember your current readers when it comes to optimising your blog. You could spend 80% of your blogging time trying to optimise and write for SEO…how good is your writing/blogging going be then I ask you? Content is king!
I started my blog as a way to diarise my online findings. I love looking at pretty pretty pictures and I wanted to put them all in one place in the hope that others might see them and like them too. I had no clue what SEO even meant and even now I way-to-often accidently refer to it a CEO! However below are a few things I’ve learnt and found useful. Maybe you can take something away from this…
Write it and they will come OK so this isn’t going to happen overnight, but before you begin a blog or blog post remember this key point. Good copy will attract readers. Bad, SEO obvious copy will turn people off. As I mentioned in part one of this series, Google likes original content. Be original with your opinions and what you write and the rest will fall into place.
Key Words – Pah!
As I’ve mentioned briefly above, I personally don’t find key words to be the be all and end all of blogging success. Of course if you are writing about a cowboy style wedding then you are going to use word and phrases such as cowboy boot, cow, horse, ranch etc and Google will read and take note of them without you even thinking about it. If you are obsessed with mentioning the phrase ‘cowboy style wedding’ over and over then it will soon enough become pretty obvious to your readers what you’re up to or at the very least, will just read badly.
Link Love is your friend I mentioned this in depth in part one, but making connections is probably my number one tip to help with SEO and lead to blogging success. It sounds pretty obvious, but the more people you know and who know about you, the more people will visit your blog.
With every article I write I send a trackback (if using WordPress) to the photographer’s blog whose images illustrate the post. Most of them will then blog that they have been featured on Rock n Roll Bride and will send a trackback to me. By doing this I am not only generating more traffic towards my site (as everyone who visits that photographer’s site now has the potential to click towards mine) but I am creating a new link between Rock n Roll Bride and the photographer. Making connections and friendships in blog-land will guarantee you a better chance of success. Think of your blog as the centre of a big spider diagram. The more links you have going out and coming into your blog, the more popular you appear to Google and the higher up in a search you will be placed.
This is a pretty obvious one but again, the more you are known on other blogs the better chance you have of getting people to come and look at your site. Word of warning – Be careful not to sound spammy or shamelessly self-promoting with your comments. A boring non-descript comment saying ‘great!’ followed by a link to your own website is a pretty low way of trying to get traffic to your site and will most probably end up getting deleted by the site moderator anyway. Be cautious and interesting with what you say in response to blog posts. Comments like this are more likely to get a positive reaction and maybe even a click through.
Stand Out and Be Heard (i.e have a voice)
One of the most important things I’ve found which have attributed to my success is by standing out and being distinctive. I started Rock n Roll Bride because I was sick of the same old same old on every single wedding blog I visited. Don’t get me wrong I loved (and still love) looking a beautifully crafted Martha Stewart style weddings but that’s just not my style. I am much more excited by brides riddled with tattoos, unconventional fashion and pageboys with Mohawks.
When beginning your blog think about what you want to achieve and what you want to say. What is the point of your blog? If your idea is to re-hash what every other blog writes and re-post the same images then forget it. If your idea is because you want to make money then forget it. These motivations will never push you to work as hard as you need to make a blog a success. If you are not head over heels obsessional about what you’re writing about then you will never put the work in required to make your project successful. Find your own writing style and don’t be afraid to stick to it.
A Rose By Any Other Name… Food for thought – Is your blog name distinctive? Is it easy to spell? Is it obvious what you’re doing from the name alone? Is the text on your site easy to read? Is the colour scheme complimentary and attractive? Is the site easy to navigate? If you’ve answered ‘no’ to any of these things then turn around and start again. If someone misspells your blog name when searching for you then Google isn’t going to magically know who they’re hunting for.
I received an email recently from a good photographer friend of mine. I’m thinking she may not be the only one wondering this so I thought it worth a share…
Friend: I remember a little while ago you went through your blog and re-did the tags and categories – is that correct?
I want to add some Categories to mine like “Jewish Wedding Photography” and “Asian Wedding Photography” is it ok to do that and change a blog post from just “Weddings” to one of those new ones? Does Google just go through them again and re list?
Moi: Yeah and I’m still in the process of doing it! I’ve probably got to page 50 of 80 so far! phew…If you re-categorise or re-tag something then yes Google will find it. It will scan your site and find them no problem. Try not to worry too much about Google. Google will always try and do what is best for the end user. So, if you having something tagged ‘Asian weddings’ and someone Googles ‘Asian weddings’ it will find you.
When establishing the categories on your blog think about how you would like people to see your site. Seriously forget Google, he can take care of himself. If you blog a lot about Centrepieces and think people would benefit from seeing them all together then make Centrepieces a category, if you’re a photographer and are loving using Tilt-shift right now, then make ‘Tilt-shift’ or ‘Unusual Techniques’ a category.
If you don’t know the importance of social networking already then you are clearly in the wrong place. I have had people ask me about blogging stuff before, like how to get into it etc and they’re not even on Facebook! The person in question actually said ‘oh I hate that kind of stuff’ Fair enough but if you want to make a successful blog then I’d say about 50% of it is ‘that kind of stuff!’ If you haven’t already then watch this video (which I found out about myself through a friend of mine tweeting about it) and if you’re not convinced then you might as well stop reading now!
We all know Facebook, Twitter, Bebo (if you’re a teenager) or MySpace (if you’re in a band) are invaluable tools when it comes to networking and making connections. There really is no point me telling to how to use these tools (as again there are plenty of other guides out there for this.) My only nugget of advice on this matter is try not to over-indulge. Although it is fantastic for chatting and meeting people (I am a complete Twitter convert and addict) my one word of caution is to not give away the whole farm for free. Make sure you’re still giving potential readers a reason to come to your site. Ensure your updates and tweets are inviting and intriguing so to drive people to your blog. In the case of Flickr (which I also completely ♥) don’t upload every single photograph you’ve ever taken to every single group you are a member of. If you do that then what’s the point of them visiting your flickrstream or clicking through to your site?
Think outside the box when it comes to social networking as well. One of my favourite haunts for finding amazing images to blog is photographers’ forums. Not only have I made friends with a number of amazing people though these groups but I’ve found some fantastic photographic gems that I certainly wouldn’t have if I’d just been using other wedding blog as my source.
Some of my best online friends are not at all wedding related, don’t restrict yourself to people in your own field as you never know what might come of a friend with completely different talents and interests from you.
HTML is Scary Yes, yes it is. I agree with you. Apart from a few very basic functions my coding ability is slim to none. A lot of SEO recourses will bamboozle you with acronyms and technical jargon which is, to us non-IT nerds, a very terrifying concept. They might as well be speaking in a completely different language (well in fact they are!). Think of it like this – HTML is the bricks and mortar of a house – the structure and the architecture. The blog content (ie text and pretty pictures) is the interior design – the expensive wallpaper, the gorgeous antique chair and the pictures hanging on the wall. One without the other is futile. Without the bricks and mortar there is no point to the prettiness and without the prettiness the most structurally sound building would be a wreck inside.
If you’re using a blogging platform like WordPress then you’ve just bought yourself a new build house – the bricks and mortar are already completed and all you need to do is add a splash of personality to the plain, boring, decorated-to-sell interior. Fret not. If you’ve got a lot of cash to splash then hire an architect (read: SEO expert) to build you a swanky, expensive, once in a lifetime pad. What makes the most impact when you walk into a house? Is it the brickwork, the double glazing, the foundations!? Hell no – it’s the wallpaper, the furniture, the pictures on the wall. Bring a splash of individuality to your home and people will always be impressed.
As soon as these images landed in my inbox early this morning I was desperate to blog them right away! First off the couple are ridiculously beautiful (but that, of course, goes without saying), secondly I have never seen such a gorgeous set of images where it is just the two of them, no barriers, no props, just the newlyweds being themselves. In fact I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen an ‘in bed’ style shoot used as part of a day after session. I love it. The photographs are so intimate and so personal yet done in such as way that there is no element of sleaze…I don’t even feel voyeuristic looking at them They really are just art. Art and love.
We then move onto the bulk of the shoot, where living in Odessa, Texas (a place where there is apparently ‘nothing ‘) doesn’t seem to have made these images anything less than breathtaking. The train, the graffiti, the river, the tree. The gorgeously intimate style continues only this time with a back drop that tantalises the senses all by itself.
For a while now I have had a little nugget of an idea floating around my head, a teeny tiny musing that could turn into something if nurtured. I have been thinking of starting a mini series about ‘How to Blog’. I’d love to be able to share my experiences and hopefully impart some wisdom on others wanting to expand their blogging success. I’m primarily thinking about those who want to blog in order to share other people’s work and inspiration.
For this first instalment I want to draw attention to a small part of the whole affair that I feel is quite an important one. I am making reference to bloggers and photographers solely because this is what I know and this is the circle I move in, yet I hope the basic ideas can be transferred to your own preferred network. Let me know what you think…
Maybe you visit other blogs for inspiration for your own blog. Maybe you take daily trips around blog-land to network with other bloggers or hell, maybe you even sneak into other places to take weddings and images for your own blog. The internet is a big old vast universe and policing it is pretty much futile, but in my (relatively short) time as an online writer I have come to witness and be annoyed by the same thing over and over.
So here’s the story – photographer shoots a kick ass wedding. Photographer blogs said kick ass wedding. Blogger A picks up on the wedding and steals (because however you sugar coat it that is essentially what you’re doing) the images and posts them on their own blog, which is then seen by blogger B who steal the images from blogger A to put on their own website.
On the flipside we have scenario two – photographer shoots and blogs the kick ass wedding. Blogger A picks up on the wedding and emails the photographer asking permission to use the images on their site, with the appropriate credit of course. Photographer says they’d be delighted and sends the images over right away.
The difference? In scenario two a connection is established between the photographer and the blogger. This is social networking after all. For me, my blog has become more than just a place to post pretty pictures, it is a vehicle to connect with like minded individuals, to have a voice and to feel like my opinion is being heard and respected.
To others it may be a place where they want to show ‘the best of the best’ the most beautiful or the most sought after (in my case) weddings and photography for some kind of kudos. But by doing this you are essentially missing out the very best part of being a blogger. I’m not trying to come across all ‘peace and love’ but would my site be where it is today without making those vital connections with others online? The simple answer is ‘no’.
Sure, I could regurgitate what every other website or blog includes and have a very pretty site with all the most sought after weddings on, but would I have the loyal following I have today with such a method? I would not be distinctive, I would not have the online companionship and I would not have respect. I would not only be a carbon copy of everyone else but a lonely one at that. If Blog A is already doing something, why would anybody visit Blog B if all they did was re-post the same images?
A crude example but think of it like this. Jordan was a phenomenally successful glamour model over here in the UK. She made a fortune by taking her clothes off and being photographed falling out of clubs. In 2002 a TV show was broadcast called ‘Essex Wives’. The ‘star’ of the show was Jodie Marsh – an over the top, Jordon wannabe with big boobs and skimpy outfits. She prided herself on being new and different. She had real boobs whereas Jordon’s were fake after all! However essentially she was a complete carbon copy of the original.
Jodie had some fame and made some money being Jordon’s rival, but let’s look at them now. Jordon has a massively popular TV show, is breaking America and makes millions every minute with her various perfume, home ware, book and equestrian (I kid you not) lines whereas poor little Jodie did a series on MTV to find her a husband (which later was exposed to be a set up) and continues to desperately cling to fame with various stunts – her most recent being her new found lesbianism.
As I said before, a crude example yes but if you had to, who would you be? The original or the copycat?
The moral of the story? Be different, stand out, find your voice and make the connection!
If you like what you’ve read I’d love to continue with this series. Why not drop me an email with any questions you might have and I’ll try to work the answers into the next issue.
Edit: For some reason, I feel the need to justify myself to some particular people who think they have the right to come onto my site and slate me. If only these people would comment with real email addresses I could speak to them directly but I guess that’s just not their style. I am well aware that some people would rather hide behind a computer than make an actual connection.
Anyway…I hope that I have not come across here like I’m perfect or a know-it-all when it comes to how to make the best of blogging. I simply want to share my experiences as a blogger to hopefully impart whatever small wisdom I have on simple ideas. Yes, I will openly admit that in the past I have blogged things without speaking to photographers first. Back when I began Rock n Roll Bride I had no idea about etiquette or the ‘right’ way to credit or link to people. However since learning a little bit more and reaching out to people my relationship with others online has grown immensely, isn’t that what blogging is all about after all? My only wish with this post was to maybe help some other newbie bloggers along so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.
As I have said before there are no rules. If you want to carry on and blog without getting consent, be my guest, but I promise you, you will be pretty lonely in blog-land.
Jennifer & Aditya has a truly intimate and personal ceremony with just the two of them, the minister (plus her son who videoed it on his digital camcorder) and the photographer, Katherine O’Brien but no invited guests. The couple plan to celebrate with their families later in New York and India later in the year.