This guest blog is by Ellen Petty, the Head Brandslinger at Identity Kitchen, a marketing and design studio specializing in photographers. She and her business partner Marty Thornley just launched a new line of affordable all-in-one WordPress portfolio sites designed specifically for professional photographers at PhotographyBlogSites.com.
Early in 2009, Marty Thornley and I sat down to discuss a more efficient way for photographers to display their work online. We had both, separately, been working with photographers, and discussed the idea of an all-in-one portfolio blogsite that looks and feels like a flash site, with all the SEO benefits of a WordPress blog. We made our wish list; social media integration, customization, easy-to-use backend, unlimited galleries, and integration of fantastic photography tools. After developing many, many custom blogsites for photographers, we saw our theories in action and set out to develop Photography Blogsites.
WE STARTED THINKING ABOUT WEB PRESENCE
Creating a web presence from scratch is simply too much work. You need a hosting account, a website, a blog, facebook, twitter, etc. etc… That’s already 3 or 4 places to login and update. If you have a second or third branch of your business this could be multiplied over and over. Like any software, WordPress needs to be updated from time to time. While WordPress itself has become pretty easy to automatically upgrade, sometimes the theme and/or plugins you have been using are not up to date with the new version. So you go through the automatic upgrade and your site breaks. To do this correctly you would backup your database and all your files in case something goes wrong. The problem is, do you know how to backup a database and restore it when something goes wrong? And if you do, you know this process takes a while. Again multiply this by all of your sites. It’s not fun.
We set out to make this faster, easier and less expensive, while still providing all the SEO benefits, the support, the security and backups, and the upgrades. All the difficult stuff becomes much easier because we are offering sites on a networked system. We can fix any problems, answer any questions and best of all, release exciting new features to everyone at once. You will always have the latest features immediately.
THEN WE PERFECTED THE FEATURES
a) EASE OF USE
Our system is a networked installation, called WordPress Multisite. We backup everything twice daily and upgrade all of our plugins and themes, as well as the core WordPress files ourselves to make sure they are up to date and will continue working without a hitch. The process is totally seamless to site owners, who will never see the upgrade messages or worry about backups or upgrades or broken sites.
There is no need for hosting. No need for installation of anything. Ever. You don’t even need to check your email for a confirmation link. The signup process takes about thirty seconds and your site is ready to start using. From there, our free trial period lasts 7 days. You won’t even be asked for any payment information from us unless you decide to activate a subscription plan.
b) ALL IN ONE SITE
One login gives you access to the portfolio site, the galleries, and the blog. Everything is all one. We offer unlimited galleries, unlimited informational pages, your blog, plus a hub for your social media marketing efforts. One address, one place to maintain so you can get back to taking photos, your passion, and the reason you got into this in the first place.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a huge, often misunderstood, topic. What it comes down to is making sure that your site is as visible and findable as possible. While search engines like Google are a big part of this, you also need to be found on Twitter and/or Facebook. You need to be visible to iPhones and mobile devices. This means that your site should built 100% using HTML, and not Flash. There are varying arguments in the whole Flash vs. HTML debate. The only way for Flash sites to compete in the SEO world is to have secondary version called mirror sites for search engines, and a third site for mobile devices. Not only do visitors potentially see three different sites but these are three different pieces of code to maintain and worry about upgrading. Add to that a separate blog, sometimes on a different domain that opens in a different window.
One more argument for a Flash-free portfolio site, just last week Google announced a new feature called Instant Preview, which adds a snapshot of your site to the right of your search results. Unless, your site is Flash, which previews as a grey box. This will revolutionize how potential clients will do their searching. You can find out more information on our blog.
WordPress takes care of 90% of the on page SEO. We have put in some extra features to help take care of the rest. All of the standard SEO plugins are installed automatically: All in One SEO PAck, SEO Friendly Images, XML sitemaps are automatically generated and sent to Google, Yahoo and Bing. We have also developed a plugin in house specifically for photographers called SEO Image Galleries. The only WordPress gallery that uses 100% HTML (no Flash) and automatically adds valuable ALT attributes to every images.
d) EASY TO CUSTOMIZE
Out of the box, WordPress is not an automatic website/blog. You need to hire an outside programmer/designer to work a theme to your liking. That is where we come in. We created themes where just about every aspect can be easily customized by uploading patterns, logos, favicons, social media icons, blog post separators, your photos, or choosing from the options we have included in each theme. You can change the color or fonts on your menu, change the color the menu rollover the background. The possibilities are virtually endless.
These sites replace a portfolio site, a blog and any hosting you might need for both. Our lifetime plans are a one-time payment, nothing else to buy ever, no monthly fees ever. Our monthly or yearly plans include everything – your full site, built in blog and hosting. For anyone totally happy with their current website, we also have a blog only versions of all of our themes.
We have put together a support site focused on our sites, but is also a great resource for anyone using WordPress. We have detailed documentation, tutorial videos and a forum. If you have a question or concern, we have a built in ticket system that can be accessed directly from your site.
g) SECURITY & BACKUPS
To help prevent problems, we have enlisted a number of plugins and settings to make sure spam is kept to a minimum and the security of the site is as solid as possible. In the worst-case scenario that something does happen, the best way to protect a site is to have a good backup plan. We backup our database twice a day and all of our content once a day. The backups are stored both locally on our server and remotely.
h) AND FINALLY WE LAUNCHED
We are proud to announce our first three themes in both blogsite and blog-only forms: Latte, Espresso and Cuppa Joe. Because we believe in our product so much, we offer a 7-day free trial. Take our sites for a spin. You can upload your work, writes some posts, link your Twitter and Facebook, and even seamlessly switch between all our themes.
We are offering an introductory lifetime membership for $499. That includes all our themes (now and forever), 4 GB of hosting on our screaming fast servers, our support, maintenance and much, much more. For a full list of features visit our features section. This offer will end on November 30, 2010.
We’d love to hear your thoughts as we will keep developing our sites to be the best they can be. As always, thank you so much for your support!
Win on BLACK FRIDAY 11/26/2010! Photography Blogsites is generously offering ONE LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP (Worth $499) to a Tiffinbox subscriber. Here is how you may be able to win:
1) Follow @photoblogsites on Twitter
2) Tweet the following:
“I just read about Affordable WordPress Portfolio Websites @Photoblogsites on @PicSeshu’s Tiffinbox. #photoblogsites Please RT!”
3) Comment below and tell me WHY you deserve to win. Don’t forget to mention your Twitter handle so that I can make sure you have done both. We need to see a minimum of 50 real, honest, entries before I can give this away on Black Friday 11/26/2010. So whatchawaitinfor?