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Entries in building blogs (4)

Tuesday
Sep152009

Making Money From Your Photographs: Qoop - And Flickr!

A popular discussion on many photography forums is about how we can make money from our photography. I'm not talking about enough cash to give up the day job, but some extra income to pay for new lenses, bodies, accessories, etc. Stock photography sites are too difficult to get large numbers of submissions passed, and the chances of getting picked up as a photographer for National Geographic are pretty low...

Another common subject is image theft and the Internet - if you upload your photographs and share them, people will steal them and use them without permission. The answer could be to use watermarks, low resolution (or size) images, or just not share your photographs at all.

What we need to do is think about these two subjects, the strengths and weaknesses of both, and maybe come up with a solution that could earn us a few extra bucks.

Stock Photography, through sites like Istockphoto and Bigstockphoto, is very appealing - lots of photographs are sold through these sites, but it's very difficult to get lots of images in. People like to buy from these sites because it's simple and easy. Choose the photo you want, the size, pay your money and download the shot. Very, very convenient.

Image theft, where people grab your photo's from Flickr, your Blog, or any other digital source, is a fact. Most people who do this aren't aware that they're breaking any copyright laws. They don't think they're doing anything wrong, if the photo is on the 'net, it's ok to use it. Let's put the moral (and legal) question of that to one side, and ask ourselves about what opportunities and avenues do we give the people who look at our photographs to actually buy and use them?

When someone is doing an image search on Google or Flickr, maybe for a photo to use on their website, and they come across your photograph, how can they legally buy it? The answer at the moment is probably that they can't. Even if they wanted to pay you, there's no easy way, so they'll either "borrow it" and use it illegally, or head on over to a microstock agency to spend their money with someone else.

The answer? Quoop.

Many sites allow you to upload your photographs and sell them as prints or stock licenses. The difference with Qoop is how easy it is to import your Photographs, along with descriptions and tags, from Flickr. Spend half an hour opening an account and importing some photographs, then you'll be able to start adding links to the descriptions below your photographs on Flickr, or next to the images on your website or blog. Then, when someone comes across one of your photographs, if they want to use it they can click on the Qoop link and go straight to a page where they can buy a print, or a stock license for a download. Simple and easy, just like the stock photography sites, but without the moderators to reject all your favourite shots.

I can hear you asking, "Won't they just steal the image anyways?"

The answer to that, is yes. The people who were never going to pay you to use your Photo, never will. You haven't lost anything, because they were never going to give you any money anyway. What you have done is given the people who are willing to pay for your work, a simple way to do so.

Now, head on over to Qoop, open an account and import a few of your photographs from Flickr. Don't do too many at first, say around 10. You'll be amazed at how easy it is. Now we need to add some links that will take viewers from our Flickr pages to the Qoop page for that specific image.

Open up a simple text editor, Notepad will do on Windows. Paste the following text into the document:

<a href="URL" target="_blank">Purchase a print, or a stock license to use this photograph.</a>

You should have something like this:
qoop1


What we're going to do is navigate to the specific page on our Qoop store where the image is, copy the URL of that page, then paste it into the text document where it says URL in the code.

Click on "Store":
qoop2


Click on the photograph you want to link to:
qoop3


Now copy the URL (from your browser address bar), by highlighting it, right-click "copy":
qoop4


Now paste it over the "URL" bit in our text document, between the quotation marks:
qoop5


Now highlight all of the text in the document, and right-click "copy".

Almost done! Go to flickr, log in if you have to, find the photograph you want the Qoop link to appear in, click in the description, and paste the link into place:
qoop6


We're done! Now, if anyone is looking at that photo, and fancy using it legally, they've got a simple and quick way of buying a print or a stock license to use it!

The hard part is now to repeat this process for the rest of your photographs imported to Qoop from Flickr, but hey, no pain no gain, no guts no glory!

WARNING: ADDING THESE LINKS MAY WELL VIOLATE FLICKR'S TERMS OF USE, AND LEAD TO YOUR ACCOUNT BEING DELETED.

Cheers, Rob.
Thursday
Aug132009

Ten Boring, But Effective Plug-Ins For Your Self-Hosted Wordpress Blog

wordpress-logo-stacked-bgDon't expect anything exciting, but here's a list of the Wordpress plug-ins I'm using at the moment.

(Please note that these plug-ins are for self-hosted Wordpress installations, not those hosted on Wordpress.com).

The first thing to realise about plug-ins for Wordpress is that they can slow your blog down big time, especially if they load other code or pictures from other servers. That's why I don't use any of the really fancy ones, and I'd recommend everybody to take it easy with the amount of plug-ins you activate on your blog, but I understand that it's really tempting when you start your site!

1. Askimet. If you haven't got this plug-in activated, go to your dashboard and do it now. Askimet offers an excellent anti-spam commenting system that allow your visitors to have their say without slowing them down with hard to read "captchas" and prompts.

2. All In One SEO Pack. Easily add titles, descriptions and tags (although tags aren't really needed), and Search-Engine friendly URLS. If you want Google to love your Wordpress Blog even more, install this plug-in.

3. Contact Form ][. A simple, quick plug-in to add a contact form (rather than a comment form) anywhere on your blog. Good for "Contact Me" pages.

4. Google XML Sitemaps. If you want Google, and other search-engines, to search your blog faster and more regularly, you need a site-map. Working with your Google Webmaster Tools account, this plug-in generates a new site-map every time you add a new post or page.

5. Privacy Policy. If you run Google's Adsense ad's, one of the stipulations is that you have a privacy policy on your Blog that details what information is being collected and stored about your visitors. This plugin generates a privacy policy automatically for your Wordpress Blog.

6. Wordpress Automatic Upgrade. Like any piece of Software, Wordpress is being continually improved, and sometimes patched against security vulnerabilities. This plug-in makes upgrading your instalation a breeze.

7. WordPress Database Backup. If someone hacks into your site, or your hosts server fails, what's going to happen to all your content if you haven't backed it up? This plug-in emails you an archive back-up copy of your Wordpress database automatically, removing that worry.

8. WP-Cumulus. OK, I guess this is a bit of a flash (pun intended!) plug-in. It turns a boring tag-cloud into an animated wonder.

9. WP Security Scan. Check the security of your Wordpress Blog with this plug-in. Only the paranoid survive!

10. WP Super Cache. If Askimet is The Daddy, WP Supercache is the Mummy that keeps your Blog running nicely - basically it turns your potentially slow-loading dynamic CMS site into a quick-loading static HTML site. Great for any webmaster like me, who's using cheap hosting that isn't the fastest...

Cheers, Rob.
Wednesday
Aug052009

Search Engine Basics: Get More Visitors To Your Photography Blog By Considering Keywords, Key Phrases and Relevance

logo-googleOne of the main reasons why we write our Photography Blogs and Websites is to share what we're doing with other people. We want them to visit our blogs, look at our photo's, read our posts and articles, and maybe even leave comments. The problem is, there's thousands of other similar sites out there, so we need to understand the basics of how Search-Engines, like Google, work, then implement some simple guidelines in order for the Search Engines to list our blogs higher in their results, and send more visitors our way.

We know that most people look for content on the web by using a Search Engine. It could be Google, Yahoo, Bing, or countless others. The Search Engine is a computer program that visits millions of web-pages, catalogues them, ranks and rates them, all so that when you type your search into that little Google box, Google will show the results that should be the answer you're looking for, in order of relevance. So how does it work all this out?

All of the Search Engines algorithms, or rules they use to order websites, pages and blogs, are top secret. They don't want people to know how they do it, because then disreputable Webmasters could "spam" the results, using that knowledge to get to the top slots, which send the most visitors, and can generate the most amount of cash. We can however make some well-informed guesses to how the Search Engines think, then use information to help Google rate our pages more efficiently.

The first thing to say is that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all working towards producing Search Engine Results that would be as good as if a team of millions of human librarians had catalogued and sorted out the web. They're not there yet, but they will be, and probably sooner rather than later, so don't ever try to "spam" or deceive the Search engines with deceitful or "black hat" practices. They may well get you short term gains, but in the long term these methods will not work, and could get your site or blog kicked out of the results altogether, or back a few dozen pages, which is about the same thing.

Google looks at every single web-page or blog post and analyses the content. It looks at the words, phrases, sentences, links, pictures and videos. It looks at which other sites link to that page, and at which site that page links out to. Google looks at what people do when they visit the site - how long they stay, where they've come from and where they go next. Google will then give that page a rank, almost like a score, which will vary depending on how "relevant" that page is to a particular search. (This is different to Google's PageRankn that appears in the Google Toolbar, and can be misleading).

Let me explain. Let's say we've written a review of a Canon Camera, and we want visitors to read the article who are interested in reading a review of this bit of kit, let's say the camera is a 350d.

Google will look at the title. Let's say we've written "Canon 350d Camera Review". That's OK, but if we really want Google to understand the relevancy of this page, we need to think a bit harder and guess what a potential visitor might put in the Google Search Box. It could be "review", with "Canon 350d", or "Canon EOS 350d" or "Rebel XT" or "Canon Digital Rebel XT". We should include as many of these "keywords", or "key-phrases" in our title as is practicle.

The same goes for our text in the main article or post. Remember or imagine what your potential visitors may be typing into Google, and always include those variations in your writing. Don't keep repeating the same phrases or words, mix it up a bit, just like real people do. So if I was writing about HDR Photography, I'd be mixing in "HDR", "High Dynamic Range", "Tone Mapping", "How To", "Photomatix", etc.

Consider generic phases like "I took this HDR photo with my dSLR" and change them to phrases with specific key-words, "I took this HDR photo with my Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT dSLR". It seems a bit long winded (and you wouldn't repeat the key-phrase too often), but if someone was searching for "HDR" and "Digital Rebel XT", your article could well end up higher in the Search-Engine Rankings, and get more visitors as a result.

Google looks at the links on your page. If you're writing about black and white conversions in Photoshop, do you link out to other articles on other sites about the same subject? If you do, that's good, because you're adding relevance. Is the text used for the link relevant too? Use phrases like "another great article on b&w conversions" rather than "click here".

Probably the most important factor in how Google will rank, or rate your articles is which external sites link to them, what words they use in the link text, and how relevant the text is on that external site to what you've written about. This is hard to control, and I wouldn't worry about it too much. If you concentrate on producing interesting, informative posts, other sites will link to you as a matter of course.

What we can control is the text we use in the links on our own sites. Make sure that in a review of the 350d, we use text like "Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT dSLR Review", don't undersell the text in your links.

I hope this brief introduction to the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of your Photography Blog or Website hasn't been too confusing. To summarise, just think about these points:

1) Consider all the the key-words or key-phrases (and variations) that's someone would type into Google, or other Search Engines, and include them in your title, and in the words in your post or article.

2) Include some of those keywords in your internal links, avoid "click here".

3) Link to other, relevant articles, from within your own, use specific, relevant keywords in the link text, and again avoid "click here".

4) Don't get sucked into swapping links, or involved in reciprocal links schemes, with other sites. You don't need to. It's a waste of time, the sites asking for the links will be "spammy", and you're better off concentrating on writing great posts that other blogs will link to naturally.

5) Content is King. Write great posts or articles and you will get lots of visitors - it might just take a while.

For further reading, check out the Webmaster World Google Search Forum, The Search Engine Journal, and The Search Engine Round Table.

Hope this helps, Rob.
Saturday
Aug012009

Beating Bloggers Block: New Categories And To Do Lists!

If you've got your own blog or website (and if not, check out my post on how to do it, it's easy!) the main problem, after an initial flurry of content, is coming up with new ideas for posts and articles.

Without new work, even the best blogs will start to dwindle and die. In my experience the most important thing is to base your blog or site on something you're passionate about (photography!), so you won't get bored writing about it too quickly. Even then though you'll get to a point where you'll be scratching you head about what to do next.

The next point is that Google, and the other search engines, love sites that get regularly updated, and will index them in their results faster, leading to more visitors and a higher search-engine ranking.

It may sound simple, but I've found the best way is to keep a simple to-do list. Then what I do is as soon as I get an idea for a post, or a new category on my blog, I quickly make a note of it. Then, when I'm stuck for ideas but have some spare time to write, I'll look at the list and get inspired. (I also do a similar thing for my podcast).

You could use a pad or just a piece of paper, but hey, we're probably going to be writing our articles on our PC or Mac, so let's keep our list on our computer!

At the moment I'm using Google Tasks, which is an add-on widget for Google Mail, and it looks like this:

google_tasks


I've blurred my mail account, but you can see the Google Tasks box in the bottom right-hand corner. To turn it on in your Gmail account, just click on the tasks link on the left-hand side of the screen. You can even make it pop-out and open in its new window.

Google tasks is pretty basic, its just a list, with no different types of tasks, but you can re-order them and remove completed things.

If you're not using Gmail, you could just use a text editor and save your list to your desktop, but if you want a really great to-do and task manager, that's web-based, consider Remember The Milk.

rtm


RTM offers a comprehensive tasks manager in their free web version, plus applications for the iPhone, Gmail, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and much more. If you're after a task manger with serious horse-power, Remember The Milk is a good way to go.

The key to these services is to keep it simple, and to actually use them. Whenever you get an idea, no matter how far fetched, make sure you add it to your list for future posts. Believe me, if you don't have lists, you'll forget so many great ideas and will end up writing less and less.

Another tool for for keeping fresh content flowing for your website and blog is to write down, and add, new categories or sections to your site. For example in my blog, I'm considering (they're in my tasks list), new sections on Lens Reviews, Video Creation, Building Websites and Blogs, and Lensbaby. You'll come up with more, and by have these sections or categories that'll need filling with posts and articles, you'll find new ideas just popping into your head.

So, in summary, find a Task or To-Do list manager that's simple and works for you - and make sure you use it. Record all your ideas for new posts and articles in your list, and then use it when you're suffering from Bloggers Block.

Think about new sections or categories for your blog / website, then start to populate them with articles and posts. Before you know it you won't have enough time to write your content, you'll have so many great ideas, and writers block will be a thing of the past.

Hope this helps, Rob.