This is the second of a 4-part transcription of the video Making the Web Work for You. Featuring an extended conversation on blogging and social media with three influential leaders in the Photography community: David Nightingale (Chromasia), David Hobby (Strobist), and Seattle’s own Chase Jarvis (Chase Jarvis’ Blog).

Make the Web Work for You Pt2: David Hobby

David Hobby:  Thank you. I am going to have to take a moment to pull the screen resolution up here. There we go. It’s a lovely screen. It’s our psychedelic version today. Hi, my name is David Hobby, and I began in 2006, publishing a new website, which is not really blue. It’s actually more of a gray. It’s kind of weird what’s happening in there.

Coincidentally enough, when I started deciding that I wanted to blog, I had no idea what this would grow into, what kind of business it would be. And I went around looking at other people’s blogs and I went to the blogs that listed the other photo blogs and the first place they all pointed me was to Dave.

I’ve never met Dave until this week, but I followed his blog since easily early 2006, maybe January 2006. So, he was one of my compass points and also one of my very first links on the links pages. Every page of my blog that has been published has been published with a link to his blog.

So, when I started it in 2006, it seems like forever going now there. There’s been so many blogs. Those of you who wonder about the scope I know the number that’s being thrown around right now, there are approximately 200 million blogs on the Internet, which if you think about it that’s five per billion, that’s one blog for every thirty people in the world. When we take the entire world into account, that’s kind of a scary thing if you’re thinking about getting into this now.

But, I started it in April 2006, and all I really wanted to do was to educate young photographers about smart flash lighting techniques. There were two reasons. Number one because I felt there was a big gap between what I learned in school and what I really needed to know when I got out into the field.

And number two which is the motivation behind a lot of the things that I do, it was to get out of doing extra work. And the extra work in this case was going once every two or three months to my friends lighting class. She taught photography at a local college and she liked me to come down and talk to her kids about lighting.

Well, I figured I would write this down one time, you know, save some time. And I would never have to worry about lighting again. That was the plan. In the time saving sense, it has failed spectacularly.

But, my target audience were those people coming out of college and the people in college, your young pros. And from day one, I wrote to myself as a 20 year old photographer because I wanted to write the kind of information that I would have just loved to find early in my career. This is the kind of place that I would have just clicked all night long, 300, 400 times and not get any sleep that night because that would have been the most valuable thing that I could give myself 20 years ago I thought it would be valuable to other people.

Now, over the last two years and the site just turned two years old, it’s gone from one or two visitors a day to roughly 60,000 page used a day from just about every country in the world where there is Internet access which never ceases to amaze me. In fact, when Israel and Lebanon were shooting at each other, I was really pleased to see that we had photographers from Israel and Lebanon meeting in our groups and talking to each other about life. On the one hand I’m like, “Man, don’t you have something more important to worry about right now?” But, they were talking to each other ,so I thought that was very cool.

So, we’ve grown into a worldwide community of photographers in large part because of a site called Flickr, which you may not be able to access from here depending on your Internet provider. But, it’s a wonderful place where people can post pictures and comment and talk and talk about pictures. And Dave’s got forums and such on his site. I don’t have forums on my site. I don’t have the time to administer them. I try to be a working photographer at the same time. So, my philosophy is it is better to have a friend with a boat than to have your own boat. So, you can just offload that work and still have the fun with it.

But, I thought this would make my life a little easier because it would offload the work, again everything motivation laziness, and I pushed it off to the side and it just kind of blew up too. Every month, I would find that I have ten percent more traffic than I had the month before. And the pictures started coming upstream. That was the thing that was amazing to me and the quality of the pictures except for all the blue ones in the middle.

What was amazing, I saw people that were fourteen, fifteen year old learning how to light. And amateurs learning how to light and pros learning how to light differently. And parents with new kids saying, “Look at this baby picture that I shot because I’ve learned how to light.” And that’s one of the coolest things in the world for a photographer and a parent to be able to see that you are influencing people in that way.
And over the years the site traffic has just been continually grown. I mean, every month it just seems to be a little bigger than it was before and I honestly believe that it is not so much a result of all the little tricks and bells and whistles that you start to learn as a web person. But, the main thing behind it is that you are giving someone something that is of value. Especially if you’re giving someone something that’s of value free and that something is free something of value for free is a very powerful tool.

There are other things that kind of help the traffic come to my site and I want to talk about those in a couple of minutes. But, if your compass point is to educate people or to show people something that’s interesting or has value, that will always come back to you. If your compass point is to go out and make money on the web, that will almost never come back to you. You have to have the first thing because the value drives traffic and the traffic drives everything else.

My particular site is dedicated to teaching photographers about life. That was the original purpose. But, since then, it has grown to growing a community of photographers who want to learn more about life because that creates stickiness. People come back. They form relationships. I have a Flickr group that I saw a bit earlier, there were about 25,000 people just in that Flickr group.

If you’ve got a question about a flash or a lighting technique or something is not working and you go into that group and you ask it, it’s going to be answered from several different places in about five to ten minutes. If you ask it before you go to sleep and you wake up, you’ve got some reading to do in the morning. And I think that’s a cool thing because there’s never really been a place where all the lighting geeks in the world could kind of come together. And I’ve made that funny little bar. We think of ourselves sort of the Panogiele, which was the bar in Paris where all of the painters hang out in the 1900’s. Well, this is a little dusty corner of the world where all the lighting photographers like to hang out and trade ideas.

As a photographer, you can blog about nearly any facet of your experience. My experience is lighting and that’s what I write about, but as a photographer, you can write about anything. You can be an amateur photographer and throw pictures of your kids and your flowers and your sunsets up there.

You can be a professional photographer and throw what you’re doing up there. Many, many people are doing that now. There are so many benefits to doing that.

So, around the world, photographers are discovering that having a blog is just this wonderful amplifier to what you do. It informs people on a daily basis about what you do. Your audience can be your friends, it can be the general public, it can be potential clients. And things just start growing and growing.

If you’re a potential photographer and you blog, and a client finds you because you because they found your blog, they can go through and read the last year’s posts. They can learn a lot about you and have a high confidence level in hiring you. Or, frankly, a very high confidence level in not hiring you, depending on what the read.

But, I like the fact that photographers are going out there and living on the Web, sort of in the goldfish bowl and letting people into their lives. I can tell you for a fact that it has really increased the footprint and the brand of many photographers. Some already had a big footprint and brand Jason’s a good example.

But, there are wedding photographers that were kind of here and started blogging about it and now they’re just off the hook. They’re just doing crazy stuff. There’s a corporate photographer in Colorado, in the United States, named David Tejada. He makes videos, writes about assignments, and that’s very cool because he’s educating all the younger people who are coming after him, but he’s also educating all his potential clients.
When they see him, they come to his site, they don’t just look at a group of pictures. They can read his diary. They can see video after video of him shooting on location. The first time they work with him, it’s like they’ve been working with him for six months. That’s a wonderful thing.

Let’s see if I can forward here. Am I moving? There we go.

The benefits of blogging as a photographer. Number one, it helps you grow. Just the idea of talking about what you’re doing and teaching other people what you’re doing, it makes you think about it in a different way. You can know how to do math, but you really don’t know how to do math until you teach people how to do math. The old joke about “those who can’t do, teach,” I really flip that on its head. Because I think you don’t totally understand something until you can teach it to someone else.

It helps others to understand your work. Those others might be your relatives, your friends, just the general public. Or it would be clients, and that’s a really cool thing if you’re a photographer.

The neatest thing I think that works for us as blogging photographers is what it does for Google. There are two people in the front row that I happen to know. We’ve got Adam right here and we have Nash. They were in my class they other day.

Say that Adam and Nash are both wedding photographers in Dubai. Nash has a website that puts, “I’m a Dubai wedding photographer. Here are my pictures.” He does all the little things with the meta tags that you’re supposed to do: Dubai wedding photographer, wedding photography, wedding photography Dubai. All of those combinations to help Google find him. But, it’s one static group of pictures a page. Every now and then he makes a good picture, so he updates his portfolio maybe.

But Adam, on the other hand, has a portfolio site, but he also blogs about being a wedding photographer in Dubai. Over the course of the next couple of years, Nash’s site will have that one or two mentions of the keywords and hope Google finds it. Adam’s site will have hundreds of mentions of those particular keywords. The phrases “Dubai wedding photographer” and “wedding photography in Dubai,” and all those sorts of things, will be pop up in his blog over and over and over again.

Now imagine that you are the Google computer and you’re looking at all the sites that talk about wedding photography in Dubai and you’re ranking them to decide who you’re going to point people to first. Which site do you think is going to pop up to the top?

Let’s say, for example, that Nash is a much better photographer than Adam. Do you think Google understands that? They don’t. They understand that Adam’s site talks about wedding photography in Dubai over and over and over and over and over again. So, when those search results come up, Adam is going to beat Nash every time.

And as you start to learn more about Google and as you blog and learn about how the search engines work, you’ll find keyword tools. If you go to Google, for instance, and search the phrase “keyword tools” they will send you to a site that’s designed to help you choose how to embed little phrases in your copy, the things that you’re writing.

If you were to type in “Dubai wedding photography” it would show you in the order of search frequency every permutation of “Dubai wedding photography.” Wedding photo Dubai, cheap wedding photography Dubai, wedding photography Dubai location. It will show you those keywords in the order that people actually use them to search on the Web, because Google knows that better than anyone else.
So, you take those first five or six phrases and start using those in your site, and now all of the sudden not only are you catching all the traffic for “wedding Dubai photographer,” but you’re also catching all the traffic for the ways that people go to search for “wedding Dubai photographer.”

Now, if you’re over 40, you probably think of the phone book when you go to look for something you don’t understand. If you’re under 40, under 30, the younger you are the more likely you are to Google it. Google is a verb. If you’re looking for a plumber in the area and you don’t know one and you don’t have a friend that knows one, you’re going to Google it. The first plumber in a city that understands search engine optimization never has to worry about getting another job.

Is that odd, a guy that goes and twists pipes? The first person that sits down and learns how to be number one in the Google response, he’s going to get all these things just coming in. And the beauty is, it’s all free. He’s never buying an ad in the phonebook. He’s never putting up an ad on a billboard.

So, that’s sort of my philosophy with the positive vicious cycle that can start to happen if you go online and explain who you are and what you’re doing. It helps you get better. It helps your clients know who you are. It helps Google know who you are, which makes new clients find you all the time.

So, as an example, next, I’m going to turn over to Chase Jarvis, who is someone who was already successful before he went onto the Web. I think, you’ll find that things go crazy, they steamroll. It just makes things happen in cool ways. So, I’m going to pass you over to him.