August is back to school month. For your website, that is.
Earlier this year, I sent out a questionnaire asking you guys to tell me about your websites. I received a flood of responses describing in lurid detail how, essentially, most of you just want to kick your website in the shins.
So I’m officially declaring August “Send Your Website Back to School” month, and we’ll tackle a series of common, client-repelling, shin-kick-inducing website (or blogsite) problems. At the end of the month, I’m launching a brand-spanking-new e-book to give you the opportunity to dig deep and really give your website the overhaul it deserves.
Let’s get started with three fabulous and essential website tweaks you can finish this very weekend. Ask yourself the following three questions. If the answer is “yes,” then gold star to you! If the answer is “no,” then I’ve got a little weekend-ready action plan for you (which you will want to complete…keep reading):
1) Do I have a photo of myself somewhere on my website?
If I show you a photo of a person, your eyes will almost always go right to the face. Specifically, to the eyes. Not a surprise – eyes give us information that we use daily. If you and I were chatting in our favorite cafe, and suddenly I flicked my eyes away and stared over your shoulder, you’d probably turn around and follow my eye gaze to see what you were missing out on. Faces and expressions give us a wordless wealth of information about events, emotion, personality, and relationships.
It’s no surprise that people prefer having a photo of a face to go along with a name online.
We’re used to using faces as a reference to gather information, and sometimes become uneasy when we can’t see who we’re engaging with. Having a photo of yourself on your business website helps people feel more connected with you and with what you have to say.
Also, if you spend a whole website selling the idea of the importance of professional photos, but have no photos of yourself to show, I ask – what message is being sent? (Note: Photos of children or pets are cute, and may absolutely have a place on your site, but they are not substitutes for visually introducing yourself.)
Of course: There are a very, very, VERY few strongly-branded photographers (i.e. Clayton Austin) who get away with not having a photo as a brand decision.
The operative word there is “decision” – this was an active choice that figures into how they want to represent their business and themselves online.
“I haven’t gotten around to it yet” is not a brand decision, and neither is “I don’t have any good photos of myself.” Those are excuses, my dear, and both are easily overcome. If you are going to go all Lemony Snicket on us and not put a photo up, be sure you spend some time thinking through why you made that choice, and whether it is congruent with the rest of your current brand.
Did you answer “NO” to this question? Take action this weekend (for all but the Lemony Snickets in the audience):
Call a professional photographer friend tonight and arrange a 30-min photo date this weekend. You might even make it an exchange, and you both bring cameras. Dress up in a brand-appropriate outfit, chat about what each of you is looking for, and have a blast photographing each other. All you need is one good shot to start, and you should be able to easily knock that out for both of you in under 30 mins.
If you really reeeeaaaalllly don’t have a professional photographer friend in the area, start simply and have a trusted friend or spouse come along while you set up the shot you want (lighting and all), then hand over the camera.
No excuses. Start somewhere.
2) Do I clearly name what cities I serve on my website?
If you were to ask me “Hey Jenika, what is the #1 complaint you get from non-photographer friends about photographers?” you might think the answer would be “lateness,” or “bad photos,” or heck, even “overcharging.”
The answer is “D, None of the above.”
The one issue I get an earful about most often is when someone finds a photographer they’re mildly interested in, but can’t see what city that photographer lives in. This drives otherwise-normal people bonkers. This relatively minor inconvenience never fails to get people hopping mad. I’ve actually heard people say “If you can’t be bothered to tell me where you are, I can’t be bothered to hire you.” Yowch.
Yes, there are solid SEO reasons why you should list on your site where you’re from. But even if you’re not actively pursuing an SEO strategy, you will at least want to avoid incurring the irritation of visitors.
Did you answer “NO” to this question? Take action this weekend:
Take 60 seconds to make sure your website lists what city or cities you serve. If this isn’t on the home page, it shouldn’t take more than one click to find the information. Even if you serve out-of-town clients, it’s still worth putting in where your home base is – “Loving life in Colorado, proudly serving families throughout the Rockies.”
3) Is it crystal clear both HOW and WHY people should contact me?
The “how” should be straightforward – an email address, a contact page (so they don’t have to close your website to talk to you), or – best of all – a phone number. All in plain sight. Easy peasy, right? Most of you have this down pat. If not, it should be Priority One this weekend.
But wait – are you giving people a clear answer to WHY they should contact you?
Simply having a contact page is not enough. People will only take the time to contact you if they have a specific reason for doing so. They will definitely email when they have their own reasons (i.e. “Hey, i like ur photos can you pls tell me what kind of point and shoot camera I should buy?”), but these reasons won’t always align with the ones you’d hope for.
If you’ve ever been afraid to raise your hand in class, you understand that before people will speak in front of strangers, they typically need to know 1) what the other person is expecting to hear, and 2) what they’ll get back in return.
Do you often email strangers to say “Uh, hey, just looking at your website here and trying to figure out if I want to hire you or not…umm….email me back?” No. We contact people to book someone, or to seek a piece of missing information.
That means we need to tell people exactly when it’s appropriate to email you, and what kind of information they’ll get back:
“Want to learn more about what it’s like to work with Lyla Bell Photography? Shoot me an email right here and I’ll send you a gorgeous e-magazine with all the juicy details!”
It also means giving them an “out” if they’re not ready to book yet, but letting them know that you still value hearing from them:
“Ready to book a session? Click here and I’ll whisk you over to the contact page and we’ll get started! Still undecided? Call me at 555-555-5555 and I’ll be happy to listen to your thoughts and help you figure out whether we’re a good fit for each other.”
And sometimes people just want more information without fear that they’ll end up on the receiving end of a hard sales pitch:
“Want to have a no-pressure chat about whether or not birth photography is right for you? Call me at 555-555-5555. I’m usually able to spring to the phone M-F, 8am-5pm.”
Did you answer “NO” to this question? Take action this weekend:
First, make sure your web presence gives people have a clear way to get in touch. If they have to hunt long to find an email address, they probably won’t bother at all.
Second, examine your website content. Do you tell them exactly what to do next when they’re ready to book? Do you give people a reason to feel that their message will be welcomed, even if they’re not ready to be a client yet? Do you explicitly tell them what to do if they just want more information? Add a few lines at the end of your most-trafficked pages, letting people know that you stand ready to help!
Don’t let them be afraid to raise their hand.
Are you missing one of these three essentials? Get going, and when you’re done, leave me a comment!
UPDATE: Want more help with your website? Check out How To Build an Absolutely Irresistible Photography Website right here.