Ask Me Anything…#2

Made U Look Photography

June 25, 2013

disneyland (285)

People always say there are no original ideas. It’s true, everything is a rehash of this or an offshoot of that. I actually did this once before but my babe Emma Case posted this Q&A blog post the other day and I really enjoyed reading it so I wanted to shamelessly rip off the idea and do it again! Thanks to everyone on Facebook and Twitter who asked a question. In fact I got so many of them that I’m going to split this into two parts and do another post same time next week. If you have any yourself, be sure to pop them in the comments and I’ll try and include it as well!


I have been messing about with tags on my blog but then someone said that they make no difference to SEO so I got confused and stopped. Are tags useful in blogs and if so, what for?

Ugh SEO, yawn! I’m no expert, but I’ll try my best to explain it… Basically anything and everything you put on your blog will, in some small way, add to your searchability. So, if you tagged every post with ‘vintage wedding photography’ the likelihood is that Google will start to index you for that term (alongside every other frigging wedding photographer in world who’s done the same).

The real function of tags is to index things within your blog and to provide a better user experience for your readers. For example, if you tagged a wedding with ‘vintage wedding’ and a reader enjoyed that post they can then click the tag to view other, similar content.

So in a nutshell yes and no… but mostly no. They’re not designed for SEO benefits but may well contribute to the overall ‘SEOness’ of your site.

The key thing to remember is that you’re blogging for your readers, not for Google, and everything you do on your site should enhance the experience for them. I keep my tags super simple as it can be very easy to go overboard (and, goodness, doesn’t that look spammy at the end of a post?!) and do more harm than good.

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I’m a photographer and would love to be a successful one. How do I get those more alternative clients when I’m starting out? I love everything that’s out of the ordinary and would like to make it my business…

There’s no quick answer to this one I’m afraid but authenticity is key. The holy grail is that the couples that book you do so because they connect with something about you (and hopefully it’s not just because you’re cheap when just starting out!) Really spend some time working on how you present yourself online. Use your personality and your quirks (alongside your amazing photography of course) to sell yourself.

Instead of saying “I really want to shoot alternative weddings” think, “I’d really like to shoot people I connect with”, because, really, that’s what it’s all about. We all present ourselves in very different ways online and some of the most successful photographers are the ones that have very distinct personalties. Look at Jonas Peterson, Jasmine Star, Emma Case… each of these guys have cornered a very specific demographic of client. Why? because they’re attracting couples that are just like them. There’s no point trying to do what they do though, you have to market yourself towards your ideal client.

Look at some of your favourite wedding photographers and see how they do this. What are they blogging about? What are they saying on social media? Where are they getting featured? What is it about them that their clients are connecting with? People with similar interests will naturally be drawn to you. If you try to be something you’re not it will always be completely obvious and will likely just put people off.

Wedding photographer Hannah Millard recently did a really specific and targeted Facebook ad campaign and the results were astounding. She stipulated that the ad was to be shown to engaged people in her desired area who had also ‘liked’ the Belle and Sebastian fan page. The ad graphic also mentioned that she was a fan. Weird right? No, it’s actually genius.

Firstly Facebook ads are priced on a sliding scale depending how many people see them, so by being super specific about her demographic it didn’t reach a huge number of people (maybe a few hundred) making it really affordable. Secondly the people who saw the ad were instantly drawn to it because alongside offering something they were looking for (a wedding photographer) it mentioned something they instantly connected with (a mutual appreciation of Belle and Sebastian). She booked seven weddings through this advert alone (and had a bunch more enquiries which she couldn’t do because she was already booked) and it cost her less than £100.

Obviously I’m not saying you should go and put a Belle and Sebastian targeted ad on Facebook right away. The reason this worked so well for Hannah was because she wasn’t trying to be all things to all people. She really drilled down, got super specific and spoke directly to the kind of client she wanted to work with.

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If you could only use one technique or service or idea to draw traffic to your site, what would you choose?

Facebook. No question. I get a phenomenal amount of traffic from my page and from other people sharing my content with their own network of friends. Facebook is an amazing tool for anybody with an online business. The problem with it is that people don’t really know how to best use it and all they do is post links to their own blog posts and expect the traffic to flood in. It’s not about trying to get the most ‘likes’, it’s about posting things that are engaging and fun that people will enjoy and go on to share themselves, hence widening your overall reach.

Is there a best time of day / week to blog?

It will be different for everyone. Firstly, think about who you’re trying to target, then consider when they might be online. Even better use your Google Analytics to see when your most popular times are and post then! If you have a particularly traffic-lite time (like, maybe over the weekend) you could also consider starting a regular feature to try and boost those slow days a little. Remember the internet is world wide, so you might be quite surprised when your site is getting viewed the most.

Do you think there is a ratio of topics that wedding suppliers should blog about – eg. 1/8 personal, 1/4 business matters that aren’t about showcasing your work, 1/2 their work, 1/4 something else?

Erm.. tricky one. Yes and no… While I do think everyone who blogs should be doing so in a way that shows a rounded view of who they are, what they love and what they do, it’s not an exact science. You just have to figure out what feels best for you and what your readers seem to react positively to. You need to concoct your very own secret recipe.

Having varied content is a good thing though and you should definitely strive to blog more than just your own work (that’s only interesting to a point). Start an editorial calendar and implement some regular features.

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I’m a wedding photographer and while I love when my industry friends comment on my blog, how can I get brides to interact more?

You need to think about what brides really want to read and post content that is relevant, interesting and engaging for them. Wedding photographer are, in my opinion, notoriously bad bloggers. Why? Because most of them just use their blog as an extended portfolio. While, yes, your blog is the perfect place to showcase your latest work, these are not the kinds of posts that are really going to engage people, or encourage them to comment. They’ll look at the images and think ” yeah, that’s nice” but there’s no call to action, or impetus to leave a response.

These days people go online looking for answers so think about what it is you know that your target readership doesn’t. Looking at pretty pictures is great, but those are not the kinds of posts that are going to generate the biggest response. The posts that get liked, commented on a shared are the ones that either help, touch a nerve or resonate with people in some way.

Remember though, comments aren’t the be all and end all and the way we are interacting with blogs is changing. These days people are much more likely to respond to a tweet about a post, comment or ‘like’ the post on the Facebook page or favourite an Instagram sneak peek. The key is that people are engaging with what you do, whether its directly on your site or not is actually pretty irrelevant.

How do you know if a blog has a commercial value?

There are so many ways to monetise a blog, whatever the genre. A lot of people think banner advertising and sponsored posts are the only way but this is so far from the truth. This is a topic we cover at length at The Blogcademy so obviously I’m not going to give you all the answers now (sorry!) but needless to say, there are ways to make some coin from any blog, of any niche.

What matters is that you’re passionate about your topic and you’re able to foster a community of like-minded readers. If you have been able to do that then I have no doubt in my mind that you will be able to make some money off the back of it.

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How long did it take for you to feel like you had created a community through your site?

Hum… well I started my blog at the end of 2007 and when I got my first comment I was pretty damn thrilled! At that time I didn’t have Google Analytics installed and there was no such thing as Twitter or Facebook business pages, so I literally had no idea how many people were reading, but that didn’t really matter to me. I was just blogging about things I loved and any comment or email from a reader was met with gleeful squeals of delight!

I started taking blogging a bit more seriously mid-2009, so I guess it would have been around that time that I started to notice a lot more reader engagement.

How do you manage to keep in touch with everyone when there’s only one of you?!

Ha! I assume you’re talking about my email ninja skills?! It’s so funny that I’ve become known for that because, really, I don’t see what the big deal is. Yes, I get a lot of email but I have a system in place which enables me to reply to everyone and keep on top of things. I guess the key is that I know how important it is to keep people in the loop and I know how much people value hearing back, even if it’s to say ‘thanks but no thanks’.

I’ve written about this at length before and, unsurprisingly, it’s one of my most popular blog posts!

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How do you get everything done without losing your personal life? I find it really hard to juggle my workload and sometimes feel like I’m living to work rather than working to live…

Gosh, it’s hard right? I’ve actually written a couple of practical posts in the past that are relevant (here and here) so be sure to check them out.

This is actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, because more and more I’m finding it easier to stay chained to my desk and forcing myself to go and do something fun seems like the chore! We all use the excuse of ‘not having time’ to spend with our husbands or go for lunch with friends etc but if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, is it more often a case of having a different set of priorities rather than not enough hours in the day?

Starting a new business is startlingly easy, anyone can do it. It’s maintaining a business that is the hardest graft. Keeping on top of daily tasks, coming up with new ideas, keeping an eye on your bottom line – it’s a constant juggling act. Goodness knows it’s much easier to go and work for someone else, working 9-5 and switching off as soon as you clock out.

No such luck if you want to be your own boss, and switching off just ain’t gonna happen. Even when we allow ourselves the luxury of a mini break or a night in front of the telly there’s always a ramp up in activity to get everything done before we can go and relax.

So I guess the only advice I can give you is to realise that when you run your own business you will have a different set of priorities, things need to get done, and without keeping on top of them you will get left behind. The only thing you can then do is plan, plan, plan and schedule time off. Set yourself the goal of having an evening off once a week or a week away over the Summer and make sure you take it. Book the flights and hotel now. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses.

You need to stop feeling guilty about working too hard, but you also need to stop feeling bad about allowing yourself to take time off too. The world will not implode if you log off your computer and flop in front of the television once in a while, you will not lose a client if you don’t reply to their email in five minutes flat, your business will not go down the drain if you spend a week lying on a beach (as long as you’re prepared in advance). Everything will still be there waiting for you when you get back so do yourself a favour and book a damn holiday already!

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I’m just really nosy and would love to know how you met Gala and Shauna and how The Blogcademy come about?!

It’s quite a long-winded story but I’ll try my best… So I started reading Gala’s blog in 2009 (I actually blogged about her the day I found it – hello fan girl alert!) and subsequently Shauna’s as they were friends. I knew Shauna was a graphic designer and I loved her style, so when I decided to re-brand in 2010 she was the only person I wanted to work with! She then went on to design my website and of course the print magazine but we’d actually never met in real life.

Through my secret powers of internet stalking, Gala and me also soon become online friends and we first met in real life when we both happened to be in LA at the same time in August 2011. We went for IHOP in West Hollywood and took instax photos in front of stripy curtains. Gareth chaperoned in case she turned out to be crazy person… Oh the romance!

Then, in February 2012 I was in Las Vegas for WPPI (the biggest wedding photographer’s conference in the world) and Gala and Shauna happened to be there at the same time on vacation (the jury is still out as to who was stalking who by this point!) and we all met up and did a shoot together with some photographer friends of mine (you know, for fun, because that’s what bloggers do…) This was the first time I’d met Shuana in real life and luckily we got along too… could have been a bit awkward if we ended up hating each other, huh?!

(I told you this was long-winded didn’t I?) The next time Gala and I met was in New York in May 2012. I was there on business and she lives there so we hung out all week. At the time I had just started doing my own mini blog workshops around the UK. They were super low key, cheap to attend and only lasted 4 hours. It was just me chatting about blogging, really informal, but they were pretty popular and I was enjoying teaching a lot.

Anyway Gala and I spent the week talking about workshops and how it would be amazing to do a proper weekend long, covering all basis, really comprehensive class about blogging and running your own business. We ran the idea by Shauna who was completely excited too. We launched the first New York date in August 2012 and the first class took place that October. I guess you could say the rest is history!

Phew, that was a long post. I hope everyone who asked a question was satisfied with my answers! I’ll be doing another round same time next week so be sure to pop back then, and as I said, if you have a burning question about anything, hit me up in the comments below.