Advertising for the Wedding Photographer Part 5
Wedding Blog Advertising – does it work?
Chapter 1: Wedding Magazines and Print Advertising
Chapter 2: Directories, Google and Facebook cold calls
Chapter 3: Google Adwords and Facebook Ads
Chapter 4: Social Media
Chapter 5: Wedding Blog Advertising (You are here)
Chapter 6: Facebook Groups and Wedding Forums
Chapter 7: Wedding Fairs and Bridal Shows
Chapter 8: What works for me
Advertising and Marketing using Wedding Blogs
Before I talk about wedding blog advertising and promotion I’m going to remind you of the caveats from Part 1:
- This is based on my experience and mine alone. Everyone is different, everyone has a niche. Any information given is from my own personal experience. I’ll quote actual real statistical figures publicly available.
- I’m not here to bitch. Seriously, I’m not. I’ve thought long and hard about mentioning names and companies involved and I’ve decided to do so when required. So if you’re reading this and your name is mentioned then sorry about that, please read point number 1.
- I’m a firm believer in paying it forward. This whole photographer section of my blog is because when I started out people fell over backwards to help and assist me. So here I am, telling you about my mistakes so you can get to where you want to be quicker or at least with less financial grief. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.
- This is something that nobody appears to talk about or more importantly….and I quite seriously believe…..are scared to. You don’t need to be and I want comments and interactions on this post (and you can do so anonymously if you choose to). I want to believe that what I’ve experienced isn’t the norm. Prove me wrong.
- These posts are subject to change. Young and old we’re always learning. I’m happy to be wrong and will adjust this post to suit.
I’m also going to add another: If you run a wedding blog this isn’t meant to offend you.
Unlike a lot of other sources of advertising, using wedding blogs is one of the easiest to monitor. In nearly all cases there are three types of promo.
A straightforward advertisement in the form of a box or banner ad:
A promotional blog post bigging you up to the masses. (Blogger endorsement):
Or via a supplier directory:
There’s others, but these are the main ones and the ones I’ll be talking about in this post.
On a slight tangent, some of the researched figures and methodology mentioned here can be applied to all types of advertising online. Not just wedding blogs.
Whenever you apply to advertise on a wedding blog you’ll be sent a press pack (here is one such example) and in there you’ll find an intro, a bit of flowering up of the blog, some traffic figures, a rate card and some glowing ‘Urmagurd, I like, made so much money’ comments – (A bit like how adverts for gambling on the TV never show anyone making a loss).
‘We love advertising on ****** – we had our first booking within a few weeks of our advert going live from Australia! It’s so nice for brides (and us!) to have such a great local wedding blog as it really helps them to relate the images to their own wedding.’
‘Since the post went up last week, I’ve had 32 enquiries, 10 firm bookings and 5 enquiries about weddings outside of the discount offer, requesting a quote!’
‘I had a couple of calls but mostly price shoppers who wanted the best deal, it was excellent value for money and a great return on investment’
Here’s some quoted traffic figures for a well known wedding blog:
The first blog I advertised with was Rock n Roll Bride. Out of all the wedding blogs I do consider it the best of the biggies. Punky attitude, good readership and best of all Kat is exceptionally fast at responding to emails. I mean like a lightening bolt so Kudos is definitely deserved in that respect. In fact I’d say on balance her site is the best. Ads aren’t overcrowded, good response times and a nice identity.
I singled out Rock n Roll Bride as my first blog for one reason only. Lisa Devlin had an ad. That swung it for me as when I first started out I looked around to see who was well known in my area and saw that this was the only place she appeared to advertise. I thought ‘There must be something to this’ and placed a large order for £2124’s worth of ads in combination with the sponsored post.
This BIG newbie mistake for me was that many bloggers have photographers with whom they are in a symbiotic relationship with. i.e. they’re friends. It never occurred to me they were and placed a big outlay on what I saw on the surface. Would I of still placed the ad? Probably, but maybe not for 8 months.
If there’s one piece of advice I’ll give you is that people do copy others. If they think someone is a success they’ll try to emulate them in some hope it’ll brush off in their direction. I now see it, at the time I didn’t. DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE because if you copy someone you’ll also end up copying their mistakes too
What I should of done was question if the blog was right for me, was I in the right price bracket for her audience or if my face even fit in her demographic.
My results from this campaign were notable and interesting in that I was averaging 3-8 hits per day from my medium ad and the largest one Kat has on the top right of the blog netted me between 20 and 48 hits per day. The large ad being £500 per day at the time. Clicks were completely scalable based on the size of the ad. This shows good layout and positioning on a web page when things are linear like that.
Figures were impressive. No lie.
Campaign results: I broke even
- 5 enquiries in total.
- Three bookings as a result of the sponsored posts.
- Two enquiries from the ads but these fizzled out to nothing.
5 enquiries from an 8 month campaign and £2124 outlay is not a promising result. Even worse when the first 3 came from the sponsored post at the beginning of the campaign. It makes the ads themselves look really bad.
Looking for a cause there does appears to be a distinct issue over price.
Cost is one of the single most deciding factors in Wedding Photography. Here’s some related analysis from my own site:
Out of the three weddings I booked via Rock n Roll Bride:
- August wedding £849 all day
- December wedding £749 – Massive bartering on price for reduced hours
- January wedding £949 all day
As soon as I started charging over £1000 for all day cover and supply it went dead. Just POOF! gone. It seems price really is a limiting factor for many. Or at least, the majority don’t want to spend over 1k. Food for thought.
Blog advertising DOES work. Just that it has to be for the right people at the right price point, with the right look, with the right site. It’s easy to lose your shirt over it. With one person I know spending £600 on a sponsored post and nothing to show for it. That much buys you an all inclusive holiday to Egypt.
I also realised you shouldn’t believe the hype surrounding quoted figures.
Services love to quote figures but often they quote global fiqures. As someone who covers London and Sussex having 40,000 people in the US looking at my site really doesn’t have any value to me because, if you’re getting married you’ll exhaust the local talent before being desperate enough to search another countries suppliers. Like, duh.
Because of this I embarked on an experiment in number crunching as I don’t want to call a service junk if I can help it. I want to believe in advertising and wedding blogs in particular as my target market reads them.
The idea behind the number crunching was this. If I’m getting 35 hits a day from Rock n Roll Bride can I qualify them as they come in? Using Google Analytics can I nail down their rough location and decide if they are viable to me?
Turns out I could:
We’ve 6 things here going on in the above spreadsheet:
- The first column value has the total amount paid for the duration of the ad. The duration itself isn’t included but in all cases the advertising period was at least 6 months.
- Total number of clicks. Which is as it suggests the total number of clicks from the ad.
- Total UK clicks. Obvious I know but these are the total number of UK visitors via the ad.
- 3 Hour radius. These are the exceptionally important values. These are clicks to my site from areas I would actually travel to on a regular basis. No point counting a click from Scotland.
- Cost per (relevant) click. As you can see the least amount I paid for a click was 1.95 which was with Want that Wedding.
Other thoughts on the figures:
- This might not even be couples but marketers, SEO companies, other photographers and repeat visitors (making the numbers even worse).
- This is just my ad results and might not be a big enough sample, but similar results from 8 blogs is a good sample regardless.
- My 5 bookings were for sub £1000 weddings. All of them.
So what’s up with blog advertising?
I’ve participated in many discussions on this and have seen my experience isn’t isolated. Lots of people have had the same or worse experience as me with those having success being in the minority. Or at least they don’t let us know how amazing it was for them when the subject comes up.
When there have been successes they’ve often been via real wedding features. But this gets complicated further when those who say they’ve had results have had an ad as well as features. It seems that the number of people with successful campaigns are much fewer with just an ad alone. This takes us into free vs paid territory and raises the stakes. Again, cost appears a factor.
People are inclined to spend less, not more if it can be helped. The more you charge for your services the fewer relevant visitors you will get too.
Glancing at Rock my Wedding there’s around 30 wedding photographers on there. 30. All competing for the same space and the same market. There’s a one year waiting list for advertising and a mid placed ad will cost you roughly £175 a month.
Fancy your chances? Many do because they do what I did and just assume it’ll work.
‘They must be great with so many togs advertising on there and a huge waiting list right?’
Well, who truly knows for real. Unless you have all the results from all the advertisers you’ll never confidently know. It could be mass hysteria or they’ve just got budgets to burn.
Or that it does actually work and I’m just an island.
Whenever I called time on a particular campaign I’ve let the bloggers know my results and many, many times I get told ‘That’s unusual because many of our advertisers have had great results with multiple bookings’ – But they always fall short of saying WHO. I can’t check the claim because of this but it does make me scratch my head and wonder why a campaign failed to live up to a bloggers claims.
Especially when conversations like below are more and more commonplace:
First thing I looked at was price. Most of my success with blogs has come at a time my pricing was sub £1000. Love My Dress netted me 2 bookings but after the first couple of months all enquiries ceased and this happened at a time when I upped my pricing.
The importance of price in the scheme of things is more crucial than your relevancy to a certain blogs niche. In fact I would say it’s 85% of the deal. Sounds a lot no?
When I look at my website analytics at least 30% of the people who land on my home page go to the pricing page. Then my blog, then the rest move around my portfolio.
Some might scoff at my estimate of 85% but look at it from a couples point of view. They aren’t photographers and a lot of the time they won’t spot the differences between £750, £1250 or £1850 photographers like we would.
When there are so many ambiguous signals out there determining quality, price is a dependable one that wins out most times. You can’t really inform couples about yourself fully via a click through ad. You really can’t.
So pricing is a big deal.
I’ve spent a lot of time soul searching as to why, I’ve done ad rotation, number crunching and an entire site redesign. I changed EVERYTHING except lowering my pricing and the results from blog advertising remain unchanged. I could of written this last year but I wanted to really be sure I’d ruled out every. single. variable I could before writing about it.
At my current pricing, I feel that the amount of people with that budget are in a much much smaller percentage, say, 5% of couples vs the rest of those with a budget of 1k or less or who don’t have a photographer at all.
This has an impact on the figures.
If I have 35 hits a day from a blog but only 10 are relevant for my location…. only one of those clicks will have the budget for me anyway.
That person has also got to like my style and have a partner who agrees before so much as sending the email…and depending on the blog you use to advertise I’ll be up against 20+ other photographers too.
The other problem with pricing is you have to factor in the ads worth. As mentioned earlier one blogger charges £600 for a sponsored post. I kid you not. SIX HUNDRED POUNDS. If you didn’t get anything from that is it something you would swallow? Because even if you charge 1k per wedding you’d need 6 bookings to make it pay.
In business, people charge what they can for something because people will pay it. Not always because something is worth it.
On the flipside, there are a lot of excellent smaller blogs who for £300 or less will give you a ad on every page of their site for a year. Harder to find, but much less of a risk if you’re in the mood to advertise.
A couple of other things often said:
- ‘Exposure is good for branding’. A small business isn’t a brand and sharing advertising space with 29 other advertisers, many of whom will be cheaper than you isn’t ‘good exposure’.
- ‘It’s good for SEO’. It’s not. The search engine of choice, Google, will in the mainstream only count one link and discount the rest. Google will not necessarily pick that link from the blog homepage, it could be from any page containing your ad and you’re sharing that space with loads of other advertisers. It’ll be almost worthless. Certainly not worth paying hundreds for. Even if it did help, once the ad is gone, so are you.
It could actually get you a penalty. If Google sees 2000 links to your homepage it might discount all of them. At one point I had 6 wedding blogs pointing to me with no perceivable benefit. And trust me, I know SEO. Google is focusing less and less on links and more on content. I get more work from my own blog than I do via advertising….and it’s my work for all eternity, all of it free.
That’s my experience with actual paid blog advertising . I didn’t mention the directories but they’re essentially the same in results and to be honest, are a recent thing all the blogs have jumped on as an additional revenue stream. My experience of those is limited.
Real wedding features
These are free ways to put your work out there which do have success providing you are on a popular blog.
Whoever you choose to promote your work via a sponsored post, choose wisely as some have no traffic whatsoever. Find a happy medium.
If you have an active twitter account and blog a fair bit you may find that there are some wedding bloggers scraping for content. One such blogger was asking to use a wedding I’d blogged within 24 hours of each submission to twitter. Which is always complimentary but not always a good thing for you to accept the first offer. Other bloggers might want it. Spread the love. Build bridges.
I have had work via real wedding features but often a duty of care is missing and I’m not the only one to mention it on Facebook groups and forums.
One big problem is the submission ‘ordeal’ that couples and the photographers have. You’ll submit a wedding and not hear back at all, ever.
Now I am admittedly miffed with this because guys, if you’re reading this. WE ARE YOUR CONTENT – I’ve had several emails from couples who submitted their wedding to blogs and have not heard anything back.
These are couples who chose your blog over all the others, who followed and supported you, recommended you and yet after sending their work in you didn’t bother to even acknowledge it. Rock my Wedding is very well known for this. Come on guys. It’s rude.
*UPDATE* Rock My Wedding has now ‘moved and improved’ their submission process to an online system for wedding submissions. Best of all there are continuous status updates to let you know when something has been accepted, is under review or declined. Great stufff team RMW.
- The other is the time it takes to go public: I’ve a blog that had the info and photos sent over, at their request three months ago which still hasn’t been published.
- Exclusivity periods: Commonly there is an exclusivity period. If you submit a wedding to a blog they’ll go ‘Hey lovely you can’t let any other blogs show this for at least a year’. Then a lot of the time if you do use it somewhere else they’ll expect the next blog to credit the original blog with an ‘as seen first on xxx’ tag.
I mean, the last bit sounds absurd? I submitted a blog, supplied them with the couples details, my images too yet they want a credit on another blog that could potentially stop the other blog using it.
That’s some kind of crazy right?
The common sense approach for me, and hear me out, is that I get the exclusivity thing. I totally understand that. But make it more like 3-4 months and give clear signals when it will appear so we can line up other blogs to promote it when the time has passed.
Give us a timeline. Consider us. And we’ll support and supply you. Promise, with bells on xoxoxo
There are so many blogs and so so much content out there people will most likely not remember it anyway and if it’s a great piece of wedding copy the audience will appreciate seeing it again anyhow.
- Watermarking: A big bone of contention with photographers is that most bloggers won’t let you watermark the images and this is where it goes wrong in quite a spectacular fashion.
The privacy of the couple is not protected. I’m sure nobody wants to their images used to promote other sites of various means.
There are also content farms who will rip a blog post and host it on another site. We don’t want that either.
Pinterest – expanded: Bloggers are happy to stick a Pinterest button on the images as an overlay essentially granting permission for readers to use the images outside the blog it’s featured….but many visitors to blogs are commercial entities looking for content to use themselves as well. Couples give the blog permission to use the images. Not everyone else.
It’s fuzzy logic when bloggers don’t want to mess up their blogs chi with a small watermark but they’ll have a pinterest button over every image. this doesn’t make sense. The no watermark for cosmetic reasons argument dies there.
Two years ago where were we in regards to Pinterest? Nowhere. Yet a wedding blog now has not just legacy posts but plugins that allow Pinterest pinning on those old posts. Who knows where we’ll be in a few more years. Our work must be protected and so must our client privacy as once it’s out there, it’s gone.
Jeff Ascough famously had a mini spat with a blogger over their refusal to his images being watermarked. Yet Jeff is one of the UK’s leading wedding photographers, well known and followed by photographers worldwide.
How many other high end photographers out there would submit work if watermarking was allowed? How many high end weddings might appear as a result?
In conclusion, blogs do work, but research them thoroughly first before putting your money down. Take on board what I said about price being a big factor and ask difficult questions. Remember this is a business transaction not a buddy system.
Comments are open. Let me and others know your experiences in the world of blogging as these are just my observations. I want to hear your voice too.advertising advice, advertising costs, advertising on love my dress, advertising on rock my wedding, advertising on rock n roll bride, advice for wedding photographers, chris giles, chris giles photography, does advertising on wedding blogs work, does blog advertising work, love my dress, rock my wedding, rock n roll bride, wedding blogs, wedding photography