Thursday, April 9, 2009

Seeing the "Big Picture"

Seeing the big picture

I once read an interview with a man who lived in the Canadian Rockies. He was quoted as saying that "…the mountains are OK, but they sure do block the view". I'm not sure that exactly applies to my following thoughts, but hey, I always liked that quote!

Social media is great. I really like the fact that I can let a lot of people know right away when I have new material up by just sending out a tweet, or making a quick post on Facebook. Looking at the "Big Picture" however, I also realize that it is very easy to get caught up in trying to get a lot of followers, and in general, spending an inordinate amount of time perusing various posts. Some of those posts can be very entertaining, but few are actually valuable to my goals. How many SEO tips does one need to read? In one post it was guaranteed that you could be in the top 10 of search results. I wanted to ask what happened if eleven people followed those tips….

I currently have just over four hundred followers on twitter, and something like 200 "friends" on Facebook. I have seen some tweeters (don't know if I am using appropriate terminology) with something like 100,000+ followers! But even if I were ever to get anywhere near that number of followers, would it be worth the effort? I doubt it. To get the kind of traffic I want to get to my site I really need to come up very early in search results. As big a number as 100,000 followers might sound, I want that number of people, or more, landing on my site each month. Those kinds of numbers can be much more efficiently achieved with providing quality content and optimizing for search engines. Social Media can be a part of that effort, but for me it is all too easy to spend too much time scanning posts. I would be much better served creating a new image, putting it up on my site, and making sure it is well key worded; and that my site is thoroughly optimized for those search engines.

For some, who perhaps are seeking a "True Fan" base, or need a more intimate connection with their "clients", perhaps social media is a more important endeavor. For me, I believe I am better off getting back behind the camera, pushing pixels with Photoshop, and doing what I do best: making images relevant to the market for stock photos. OK, I’m off to create an image (and maybe tweet about it).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thoughts on keywording

Keywords, the most important element of stock photography

Do you place enough importance on your keywords? If you do your own key wording do you spend enough time on the task? If your agency handles it do you check on them? I recently had an image go up on Getty’s site; An image of an impossible golfing green. In the picture is a small grassy area perched atop a steep rock formation on the jagged California coastline. It is hard to spot in the image at a thumbnail size, but as with any golfing green, a flag hangs from the pole that protrudes up from the hole.

Searching for golf, Chakras, and the Internet

If you do a search for golf on Getty’s site, you won’t find the image. Not yet, anyway, because that keyword was omitted. This is hardly the first time an important keyword has been omitted by an agency, and I am certainly not the only one it happens to. Another example of an egregious keyword omission happened with an image of Chakras. I even submitted the file with the name of jl_Chakra_001. But it took me weeks to get them to finally add that keyword! In yet another example, an image I created to symbolize communication and the Internet does not include either of those keywords, and Getty maintains that neither keyword is appropriate for the image. Oh well, I guess you can’t win every battle.

Mistakes are going to happen

If you made the most perfect stock photo ever, and it nobody ever saw it because of missing or inappropriate keywords, it would not sell as well as a mediocre image that was will key worded. In a sense, the keywords are more important than the image. People perform key wording; mistakes are going to happen. But its extremely important for all of us photographers to make sure that our keywords are done as well as possible whether we do them ourselves, or whether it is a matter of checking on the key wording of our agencies.

My strategy, the best and most appropriate keywords

As I write this I have just finished spending hours key wording the images on my own website. I still have hundreds to go, too. My strategy is not to load as many key words as possible with any given image, but rather to do as clear and concise a job as possible. I want people who search my site to find just what they are looking for and have as good an experience as possible. I don’t want them to have to wade through a lot of images that are not what they are looking for. Further, we have all heard it said that it isn’t nice to fool Mother Nature…and it isn’t nice to try and fool Google either! So when you do your key wording, think about the person who might be looking to find that image, and help them find it by providing the best and most appropriate key words you can.

Now and the future

I firmly believe that one of the best things you or any of us can do to help our stock photography businesses, both now and for the future, is to make sure the images are thoroughly and properly key worded. It might even be more important than the making of the images themselves.