Photography blogs are a different lot than the run-of-the-mill information blog. This is why I continue to write for the Alliance and (hopefully) provide some informative articles that boil down what I’m reading in the blogosphere and rethink how it relates to photo blogs.
One thing that everyone is trying to figure out is social media and how to market online to the millions of users on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, and myriad others. In this article, I’d like to breakdown what has worked best for the Photoblog Alliance and give you some direction on where you should be putting in your time to promote your photo blog.
Let’s start with the graphical breakdown of which baskets all of our eggs are in:
I own a small computer with a small resolution, so I’m picking out only the top 10 referral sources for the Photoblog Alliance. You can see here where we are putting our marketing efforts. The first thing you notice is that we get tons of traffic from stumbleupon.com and reddit.com. In fact, they have accounted for over 75% of our traffic since Sept. 21, the day we went live. You can see that we have gotten a fair amount of traffic just from direct links to the site, as well. This could be links left at sites where I’ve commented or direct links clicked from sending out emails. There are tons of varied sources of this type of traffic and it’s relatively labor intensive. One other source I’d like to point out is networkedblogs.com, coming in at number 4 on my list. We’ll talk about this one later, but just take notice for now.
One last thing I will say is that sumbleupon and reddit are “easy” social networks to market to. By that, I mean that I’m really only submitting images to them and writing catchy headlines. I do very little connecting on those sites and utilize them as bulletin boards. They always send new traffic our way (not always great) and they are very unreliable. But if the Alliance has a 1500 visitor spike in traffic, it’s because an image or article went semi-viral on one of these two networks.
Okay, so that’s a breakdown of which networks I’m utilizing (notice, by the way, that Twitter isn’t in my top ten). Now, let’s look a little deeper into the quality of each traffic source. Here are the top 10 sources based upon how many pages per visit users clicked on:
(One note here: This list has been filtered and is showing only sites with at least 25 visits.)
The grey area of the graph is the other 93% of my referral traffic. Combined with the data above, I can draw a few conclusions:
My high traffic sources don’t produce the same quality of visitors
More visitors doesn’t equal greater time looking at the site
At most, users click only 10 pages of our site, which has 100 archived photos and articles
Let’s look at one more metric and then we will give some analysis of what all this means. Here is the same list broken down by time users spend on the site:
I like this metric, but I would say that it’s not a good measurement for a photography blog. I know this from my own behavior looking at other blogs. Unless it is a photo blog that is text heavy, I would suspect that visitors will move pretty quickly through your images and not spend a great amount of time on the blog. Three minutes on a photo blog is probably a long time for most users to spend on your blog. I included this metric for those who have more text on their site or more photography articles. These take longer to read and this can be a good indication of whether or not people are spending time reading your articles.
I want to highlight several things to take away from looking at the traffic sources and numbers in the graphs above.
1. Market your blog to people who want to see photography
If you’ll notice the last two graphs, my quality visitors come from referral links on individual photo blogs. I get a link on their sites because they are a part of our collaborative photo blogging project or because I’ve formed a relationship with them. Either way, our link is on their site. And you know who looks at photo blogs? Photographers. Who is my site aimed at? Photographers. I’ll leave it to you to connect the dots. Figure out who you want to spend time with your site and try to get your link in front of them as much as possible.
2. Understand the behavior of users of different networking sites
This is an interesting aspect of taking a high level view of your visitors. Stumbleupon, Facebook, Twitter — these sites are all competing for your social networking time, but they are also quite different; each brings a different focus and user to the table. Facebook is commercial and the masses get it and use it. Even your grandmother is on Facebook. Twitter is a little more geeky and draws a younger audience that has time to text on their phone a lot and the ability to (most likely) utilize the capabilities of a smart phone.
Stumbleupon is a B-list social network that is quickly moving its way up the ladder. In fact, I just saw a story that said the site had 27.5 million stumbles in a day. That’s a lot of surfing. The nature of the site, however, is that you jump from one site to another based upon broad categories (one being “photography”). What you have to understand about this traffic is that they’re just not going to stay on your site very long. I’ve stumbled quite a bit and if the photograph just wasn’t that interesting to me, *click*, I just stumbled away from your page after only a few seconds. As the Alliance has begun to gather Stumbleupon and Reddit traffic, our time on site has plummeted. On the flip side, our percentage of new visitors to the site has skyrocketed so we’re a mile wide and an inch deep. This is important to me as I’m trying to spread the message of the Photoblog Alliance far and wide.
Reddit is a different animal altogether. You can get huge numbers of people coming do your blog through Reddit by creating great headlines. Where viral content on Stumbleupon and Digg is heavily promoted by a small group of individual users, when you post to Reddit, it goes right to the top of your category — in our case, Pics. There is a chronological list of submitted photos and you could be at the top of that list for any number of people at a given time. Writing great headlines can make you stand out from the list and get people to click through. This has worked for us to the tune of thousands of visitors the past two months and will work for your images, too.
3. The hardest links to get are the best links
This concept is a similar vein as point #1 in this list. The visitors who have been the best quality for our site have come from referral sources that are more difficult and time consuming. In the mainstream networks, Facebook and Twitter are more time consuming than Stumbleupon and Reddit. They require more relationship building but the visitors are also more likely to look through your site and spend some time there. Bounces are also reduced with Facebook. Other sources of good, quality links are from comments on popular blogs in and around your category of blog. We get good traffic from popular blogs in the photography category.
4. Networkedblogs.com is a rich resource for bloggers
If you haven’t ever heard of this, you need to check it out. On Facebook, there is an application called networkblogs. It’s a similar concept to Facebook in that you choose to follow (friend) blogs in the directory and when there are new posts to those blogs they show up in your blog stream (just like your feed). It’s part RSS reader and part social networking platform. Readers can then give a vote of confidence to the post and also rate the blog (0-5 stars). As more major bloggers begin to utilize this resource, I’m slowly replacing my RSS feeder with networkedblogs since I’m already using Facebook.
For the Photoblog Alliance, this is one of our best resources for visitors, time on site, and pages per visit. This is a gold mine of visitors and you need to be connecting your blog to it.
5. Get thee a mailing list!
This is last, but certainly not least. My absolute best traffic, whether in terms of time on site or pages per visit is from my mailing list. Many of these are repeat visitors, as well. Sending out an email to a person who has opted in to hear what you have to say is about as important as any marketing tool online. So if you haven’t started collecting email addresses, look online and find out what you need to do to get them so you can begin reaping the benefits.
So there you go. A brief breakdown of the first several months of our collaborative photo blogging project and a little analysis.
Is there anything else that you see from these numbers? Are they similar to what you’re experiencing? Do you have some other gems out there for photo bloggers?
J BRIAN HAFERKAMP is a photographer from the United States who has close to 15 years of photography experience shooting in film and digital. His favorite subjects involve the urban environment and he has shot in New York, L.A., Chicago, and Seoul, not to mention many points in between. He currently lives with his wife and two daughters in South Korea and is the founder and editor of the Photoblog Alliance. Take a look at Brian’s newest photography project, Korea in Two Dimensions.