June 9, 2018

Pre-Launch Checklist: How to Start an Online Photography Business

Reading time about 11 min

Looking for tips on how to start an online photography business? Just follow this checklist and you’ll be ready to go!

Launching your new online photography store can be quite the task. There are so many different aspects of your website that you have to be mindful of, and yes, a lot of things can go wrong.

However, it’s not that difficult to make sure that things flow smoothly and you’ve covered all of your bases.

This nifty checklist will help you make sure that you get the fundamentals right. From checking your website responsiveness to ensuring that you have the proper SEO elements in place, following these steps will ensure that you don’t miss a thing.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!

Plan out Your Website Design

These days, web design is primarily centered on responsiveness and making information readily available for your website visitors. Navigating between pages and finding the right information should feel very intuitive for the average user.

That’s why the first thing that is usually advised is to check out the general “feel” of your website.

Here are the questions you should be asking as your review the flow of your site:

  • Is the layout and interface clear?
  • How responsive is my website? Does it look good on all devices?
  • Are buttons placed at convenient places with colors that help them stand out?
  • Is it easy to navigate and make a purchase?
  • Does it provide a good shopping experience?

If your answer is “yes” to all or at least most of these questions, we can move to the more technical aspects of your website design.

Check Your Site Speed (Especially on Mobile)

Keep this in mind

A lot of your potential customers will be viewing your online photography business on their mobile devices. This means that your website has to be mobile friendly. According to some SEO experts, mobile usability can also help you rank better in organic search engine results — especially if the search user is using a mobile device — as Google looks for sites that give the best possible user experience.

There are a lot of tools available to check and Google has its own mobile-friendly test that you can use in Search Console.

Mobile friendly test on google search console

Alternatively, you can use your Google Search Console to check out “Mobile Usability.” This will give you some suggestions on which pages need improvement in order to optimize for mobile.

Mobile Usability report

In addition to providing an optimized mobile experience, your site also has to load fast enough. Remember, a few unnecessary seconds can mean the difference between a conversion and a “bounce.” Google PageSpeed Insights can help you with identifying the loading time of your website.

While there are a ton of elements that you can optimize for speed, you can achieve a decent load speed most of the time just by optimizing on-page content, images, and any javascript and CSS being called by your site.

pagespeed insights

Another great tool for testing load speed is Pingdom.

test site speed with Pingdom

Run this test to check if your website works on all the major browsers and loads quickly enough to prevent any issues with SEO.

Create an Intuitive Navigation

Ensure that navigation is a breeze to avoid any unnecessary “back and forth” visits between individual pages. At the same time, you should aim for your site to be as intuitive as possible. The fewer clicks a user has to take, the better your conversion rate will be in the end.

One great way to do this is by grouping your photos into categories that make it easier for users to find them. If you’re looking for a photo of a mountain landscape mixed in with photos of nature, cities, and people, it will be much easier to find it in the “Mountains” or “Nature” category.

Also, make sure that you have some way to easily search your website for specific items. This search feature can be enhanced by making sure that you tag your images with relative terms to create sub-categories.

Make sure your photography store website is searchable

Once the designers have finished working on your website, you can choose to spice it up using various WordPress plugins specifically tailored for eCommerce stores that offer a whole lot of new and interesting features.

Get Your Analytics in Order

Any campaign, whether digital or physical, is only as effective as the data on which it’s based. This data allows you, the marketer, to know who you’re targeting and how you can link the offer to what they want. In order for you to adjust to your customers, you have to ensure that you have the proper analytics in place to better understand their interests and preferences.

Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking this user behavior on your site. With it, you can see where people are going on your site, which pages and categories or most popular, and where people are getting stuck. This makes it much easier to optimize for conversions down the line.

If you haven’t already set up your Google Analytics account, here’s a quick guide from Google:

Set up Google Analytics for your online photography business

Audit Your Content

Once you’ve got the technical side of creating your online photography store complete, it’s time to figure out how to bring more people to your site organically. The best way to do this is through content.

Never underestimate the power of a blog. It’s the best way to target long-tail or strategic keywords in online searches and drive the people searching for these terms to your website.

However, this makes creating website content sound much easier than it actually is. Content has to be properly implemented if you really want to achieve success. This means that there is no room for grammatical errors or poorly written content. Be sure to invest enough resources in order to ensure that your site contains high-quality content that provides real value for your users.

Run all your content through tools like Grammarly to quickly check for grammar and spelling issues. They even have an extension that you can use on your browser for free.

You can also use a plugin like Yoast to make sure that each page is optimized for the right keyword. Then use tools like Google’s keyword explorer to find new keywords that are related to your photography business.

Optimize your online store content with Grammarly

Optimize Your Website Security

Your site-hosting platform should be able to provide you with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) in order to facilitate secure data transmission on your site.

Remember that this is an important step because some people will only conduct business with a site that has a robust security framework in place.

Make Sure Photos Are Optimized

When you’re trying to figure out all of the steps on how to start an online photography business, make sure you don’t forget about this one! After all, you’re likely going to have a lot of photos on your site.

Your pictures need to have alt tags that explain what the pictures are and help target strategic keywords. There shouldn’t be any compromise on that. It helps Google Images naturally rank the pictures on your website so people can easily find them in an image search.

While you can (and should) try to include your keywords in image alt tags, make sure you do not keyword stuff. This can have negative consequences on your SEO if it looks too unnatural. Instead, strategize your alt tags in a way that both explains the image and includes a keyword.

Audit Your On-site SEO

You can do a lot of things to improve your SEO. In fact, we could dedicate entire articles (or even blogs) on just this topic. However, let’s stick to the basics for now.

First, make sure you have a set standard for what keywords you want to use per page on your website. Do not allow any keyword cannibalization – that is multiple pages using the same keyword. Some people think this can hurt your ranking, but in general, it’s also just counterproductive. Instead, create unique pages that serve different purposes to reach all of your potential customers.

For example, if you’re starting your online photography business with photos of urban landscapes, you shouldn’t have two pages that both talk about the same type of landscape (e.g. ancient cathedrals). Have one dedicated page for each of your targeted topics.

Second, get your site schema together. Schema allows you to rank better with major search engines because it helps explain your data to them. This makes it easier to appear in rich content results (like the featured snippet cards in google) and normal rankings as well.

Use Schema to better communicate the data on your online photography business website with search engines

Thirdly, make sure that your title tags and meta descriptions are optimized. Don’t forget to include your keywords in your page titles.

But, don’t overdo it.

optimize your photography store pages for SEO

You can use Yoast SEO or a similar tool like totheweb to check if you’re going beyond character limits.

Provide Clear Contact Information

Make sure that you have relevant contact information displayed prominently somewhere on each page. Contact numbers or emails are the easiest CTAs to implement. This improves the customer experience of your website.

Streamline the Shopping Experience

This is essentially the most important step because it’s the foundation of how you can monetize your online photography store. You have to ensure that users can either create accounts or use guest checkouts with ease. These processes also have to be speedy to facilitate a better user experience.

Utilize dynamic catalogs because users do not want to keep navigating from one page to another to make purchases. This means that you can show users what they recently looked at, as well as make suggestions based on what they’ve already viewed or added to their cart.

But wait, there’s more.

Before you wave the green flag at your site and push it live to the world, make sure that you have completed a test purchase to check how your site handles a customer’s purchase information. This will allow you to iron out any final kinks that your site may have with transactional emails, on-site user experience and communications, or any other part of the purchase process.

Make Sure You Have Email Opt-Ins

You can get fancy at this point and add a lead generation magnet or a way for customers and site visitors opt-in to receive store updates so you can send out a regular newsletter. This way you’ll be able to get their email addresses and start a following.

This can prove useful in the long run when you are attempting to launch something new or share your latest photography collection. It’s another great touch point that makes it easier to build relationships with your biggest fans and stay in touch outside of social media.

Using lead magnets — such as freebies (or a discount even) — is a great way to entice even the most casual shopper to opt-in to your store’s newsletter and start nurturing these relationships.

Once you have their email address, you can use a newsletter template to design your own campaigns and start sending the information that matters most to your subscribers!

Tick the Last Few Boxes and Continue Improving

If you have a developer and SEO expert working alongside you, they will be able to help you make the last few technical checks to be sure that you are ready to go. A website is never fully finished, as you can always add or adjust the content, make technical optimizations, improve user experience, find new keywords to target, etc.

But all of that comes after you’ve laid the proper groundwork following the steps above. Once you have these steps hammered down, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch your site go live! Once you’ve got some visitors and a decent following, you can then start investigating how to continue improving your site, either for SEO, conversions, or general user experience.

About the author:
Catalin is the founder of Ecommerce Platforms and Web App Meister. He’s a design enthusiast and loves matcha, and is uber passionate about blockchain technology and travel.

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