I know there’s a ton of you out there almost desperately trying to make a little (or a lot) more money as a part-time photographer. Up to this point, most of your business has come from family, friends, and referrals from family and friends. While that’s been great and all, you’ve come to the point where you’re ready to take it up a notch. You want to start bringing in some significant, steady money to pay for Johnny’s college tuition or grandma’s hospital bills. Most of you are housewives or stay-at-home moms, so there’s probably also one or two of you out there trying to establish some financial independence from your fat, inconsiderate husband. Many of you dream of being able to open your own photography studio and do this full-time. Whatever your motivation may be, hold on to it tight and read on.
This blog post will show you the quick and dirty way to make money as quickly and steadily as possible with your home photography business.
Note: What this blog post will NOT do is help you establish a long-term organic SEO strategy that will help you dominate your local market and be the backbone of your business for years to come. That would require two things of which you likely have very little – time and money. So, unless you have a very good friend that does SEO for a living and is willing to be very patient and spend a lot of his or her valuable time with you in exchange for cupcakes and pie, just keep reading.
How? Google Adwords
The easiest, fastest way to get your photography business in front of as many people’s faces as possible is by using Google’s PPC (pay-per-click) program called Adwords. You can read more about it on your own but, basically, Adwords lets you quickly create a text ad that links to your website, target what geographic areas and/or search queries you want it to appear for, and then set a price for how much you’re willing to pay for someone to click on that ad (hence, “pay per click”). It’s nice because you can set your budget limit and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad (even if you click on your own ad, so be careful). Now there’s some things to watch out for and ways you can end up burning through money pretty quickly but I’m going to go over all that, so don’t worry.
Once published, your ad shows up in Google’s search results which you may or may not have noticed before. Where exactly your ad shows up (top, right side, or bottom) depends on a few things, particularly your bid price.
Setting Up Adwords
Google has made getting started with Adwords fairly easy. And, here, I’m going to make it even easier by walking you through every step of setting up your very first ad campaign. Read through the whole thing first before you ask any questions. If you still don’t get it, feel free to contact me at Google+/ChaseBillow.
Step 1: Go To Google.com/Adwords
Open your favorite internet browser and go to google.com/adwords.
I highly recommend doing this on a desktop/laptop computer and NOT using a tablet or mobile phone or your XBox. I know, but as much as you don’t want to go all the way upstairs and clear out all the open Photoshop windows, trust me, doing this on a mobile device is going to be really annoying. While you’re at it, restart your computer because I’m sure you haven’t shut it down in at least a month.
Step 2: Signup / Login to Adwords
Maybe this goes without saying but, like I said, I want to make this very easy. Just look for the “Sign In” link at the top of the page and login with your Google Account credentials (same as your Gmail, Google Drive, etc.).
If you don’t use any Google products you’ll have to sign up for an account.
Step 3: Create Your First Campaign
Once logged in, you should get a screen like this. Click the “Create your first campaign button”.
You’ll be taken to a new page with a lot of different settings options. It’s important you get them right, so I’m going to break each section down into Steps A, B, C, etc. with screenshots of sections of the page.
These settings will apply to any Ad Group and individual Ad that you later create within this Ad Campaign. Don’t over think it or worry about that too much, it’s just the way Adwords organizes everything and it’ll make sense when you see more of the interface later. For now, just remember: Ad Campaign > Ad Group > Ad.
Ok, so let’s get started:
A. Campaign Name and Type
By default, Adwords names your first campaign “Campaign #1″. This is only an identifier for your own purposes so you can change it to whatever you want – “Main Photography Campaign”, “Lake Norman Photographer”, etc. – or you can leave it as it is.
For Type, you have a drop down with a few different options including “Search Network With Display Select“, “Search Network Only“, “Display Network Only“, “Shopping“, and “Online Video“. I’m going to suggest you choose the second option, “Search Network Only“. Without going into a long explanation, this is going to save you a lot of money in useless clicks by keeping your ads from displaying on websites that use Google Adsense.
Once you’ve selected “Search Network Only“, select “Standard” and you’re ready to move on. When you get a little more experience under your belt, you can come back and try “All features” but we don’t have time for romance right now so let’s keep moving.
I’m skipping over “Devices” even though it’s included in the screenshot. That’s because, as you can see, “Ads will show on all eligible devices by default“. Here, they’re talking about mobile devices and this would be a great place to scold you for not having a mobile-friendly website that responds to different devices and screen sizes but, I know that, circumstances being what they are, you’re doing the best you can. So we’ll save it for another day.
So, on to “Locations“. Now this sections is important because, here, you can target certain geographic areas where you want your ad to appear. And Adwords let’s you select down to the very town if you want. Properly setting your Locations is going to make your ad campaign as efficient as possible – only showing your ad in places where you want it to be shown.
If I was a photographer, I would be doing family photography and I would select all of Mecklenburg and Iredell counties, because I feel like that pretty much encompasses the places where my target clientele is going to be. They’re either living, working, or playing somewhere around the Charlotte and east Lake Norman areas. You can adjust yours accordingly.
D. Languages, Bid Strategy, Budget
Once you have your Locations figured out, you want to set limits on how much this is all going to cost you. (Go ahead and skip over “Languages” unless you want to target someone else besides English speakers).
Next, select “I’ll manually set my bids for clicks“. If you want, you can let Adwords select your click bids for you but, I like to do things myself. Plus, this will give you the chance to set high clicks bids to increase your chances of having your ad show at the top of the page versus the side or bottom areas. As is noted, your default bid applies to all ads in your first Ad Group (and any other Ad Group you later create within this Ad Campaign) which we’ll create once we’re done with all these Ad Campaign settings.
Now, you’re default bid is probably going to depend on your daily budget, which is going to depend on the total amount you want to spend on all this. Remember, you can spend as much or as little as you want and you can always pause or delete your Ads even once they’re running, so you always have control over your money.
For example purposes, I’m going to stay with my hypothetical. I’m a part-time photographer with a couple kids and not a lot of extra money floating around. I’m willing to put $100 into this to see if I can get even one new client before I’m willing to blow anymore money. You may have more or less money you want to invest, but you can start with as little as $100. (There’s even a ton of Adwords coupons out there where you get a $100 in free advertising after you spend $25, so you can really get started with only $25. The trick is you have to open a new account, so you can’t keep getting free money unless you’re sneaky about it – and sometimes not even then). Below is a legit coupon I was emailed not too long ago. I’m not sure how many times that coupon code will work, though, so – first come, first serve.
Once you’ve decided on your budget, it’s time to set our Daily Budget and what we’re willing to spend for every click through to our website. In general, high bidders get high ad placement on Google search results. But what is a high bid? Where do you even start?
There’s a lot that can go into it and a lot of research and experimenting you’re going to have to do to figure it all out but we’re going to skip over that and I’m going to give you a suggestion based on my own experience and research (no time, remember). Besides, just because you bid $100 for a single click, doesn’t mean you’ll be billed $100. With Adwords you’re *supposedly* only billed for the cost of the click based on everyone’s bids.
In some verticals, like personal injury attorneys, a single click can cost several hundred dollars. Fortunately, photography isn’t quite as competitive. You wedding photographers will pay a little more dearly than say, most family photographers.
Coming back to my example, I’m going to make my Default bid $25.00 (per click) and I’m going to set my Daily Budget at $50.00. (I’ll tell you right now that, in reality, in my hypothetical example market, with the keywords we’ll be targeting, each click will likely cost somewhere around $7.00 and you might get 2 clicks per day).
E. Ad Extensions
Next, we move on to Ad Extensions, which are fancy little additions to your text ad. Again, for my hypothetical example, I’m going to assume the worst and pretend I have a website that is not mobile-friendly and there are no targeted inner pages I can send people to. In other words, I want all my visitors clicking my ad and landing directly on the home page. I do, however, want my phone number to show on the ads so I’m going to make sure to select “Calls“. (Hint: So should you). Click the “New phone number” button and you should get this popover:
Here, you have the option to have your own phone number display in your ad or to have a Google phone number display in your ad. The advantage of using a Google number is that you’ll get cool Call Reporting information that will show call duration information, the number that called you, etc. The downside is that Google chooses the phone number that is displayed, which could have a local area code but could have a 800/877 area code. It’s up to you, but I’m going to keep it simple yet again and select to show my own phone number – because I think people in my area like local numbers.
Once you’ve entered the phone number you want to ring when people call, slick the blue Save button. The popover will disappear and you can click the blue “Save and continue” button at the bottom of the page and we’ll move on to your Ad Group settings.
Step 4: Create Your First Ad Group
The Ad Group settings aren’t as tedious as the Ad Campaign settings so don’t get overwhelmed, but if you need to take a break or go check on the baby, now is a good time.
A. Landing Page
Once back from your break, go ahead and the URL of the page you want people landing on once they click your ad. In our case, just enter your main domain name, whatever it is (“myphotographywebsite.com” is just an example, don’t use that!).
B. Ad Group Name and Keywords
Name your Ad Group whatever you want. This is similar to your Ad Campaign name in that it is for your purposes only. You can even leave the default “Ad group #1” if you like.
Now comes another important section – keywords. Here is where you decide what types of queries, or searches, you’ll be targeting. In other words, when your potential clients Google search “wedding photographer”, if you want your ad to show up in their search results, you add that phrase (“wedding photographer”) to this list. Adwords typically broad-matches these queries so you don’t have to add every specific variation you can think of. My suggestion is to start with just a few. Something like this:
Note: Beware that, for some reason, Adwords automatically creates a second Ad Group for you. Make sure to click the “X” to get rid of that second Ad Group.
When you’re done with keywords click the blue “Continue to ads” button and we’ll make your first ad.
Step 5: Create Your First Ad
This is the creative, fun part. Here you decide what actually appears in your ad and Adwords shows you, on the fly, what your ad will look like in Google search results (except for the Call Extension that includes your phone number). Play around with this and decide what it is you want to advertise. Remember, you can always create more ads later but the more ads, keywords, etc. you have, the more difficult it becomes to manage and keep track of what’s going on. Here’s an example that may help jump start those creative juices:
When you’re happy with your ad, click “Save” and you should get something like this:
You can review everything you just did to make sure it’s right or change it, but you’re probably ready to just get this thing published so click “Save and finish”.
Of course, Google wants their money first:
Click “Save and continue to billing” if you’re ready to enter your credit card info and get to advertising online.
Step 6: Billing
Select your country (which happens to be one of those annoying alphabetical lists that doesn’t have “United States” as the first selection). You’ll then be sent to a page where you can enter your billing info.
This is kind of cheap, but I’m not setting up an Adwords campaign right now so you’re on your own from here. You’ll notice that “How You Pay” is set to “Automatic” and notes that you can set a predetermined spend amount. Google no longer has a “prepay” option when setting up a new account. Once signed up, though, you should be able to go into the Billing section of your Adwords dashboard and choose “Manual Payments”. **More info here**.
Step 7: Monitor Your Ad Performance
Once your ads are running, you can do a few searches (if you live in your target location) with the keywords you are targeting and you may even see your ads (don’t click on them it will cost you money).
Spend some time getting familiar with the Adwords dashboard and you’ll start seeing how many Impressions, Clicks, and Calls you’re getting. There will also be notifications if your ads are ineligible for any reason or have stopped displaying. The cost you pay per click will also be available along with query information.
If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can see if people are visiting other pages on your site after clicking your ad, how long they’re staying, etc. I always recommend using a secondary analytics software for understanding what happens on your website and mitigating the effects of click fraud (happens a lot). My favorite software is StatCounter, especially for lower-traffic websites like those most photographers have. There’s even a WordPress plugin that makes it easy to add to your Wordpress blog.
Carefully monitoring your ads’ performance will help you determine how much you’re spending for what types of clicks and if your investment is paying off. Without the help of a pro by your side it may be pretty overwhelming at first, but there’s a ton of resources online.
I Think I’ll Just Keep Using Facebook or Pinterest
I’m going to go ahead and assume that you already know that the internet is where it’s at and that Google pretty much owns the internet. Sure, you and all your friends spend all day one-upping each other on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and you can find great ideas to decorate the house you’ll never have, but when it comes down to business, when there’s something you need, you find that search bar and go into feeding-frenzy mode.
Adwords may be unfamiliar territory and, yes, it can drive even the most experienced SEO people a little crazy. Fortunately, you’re a smart, driven entrepreneur and there’s not too much you can’t figure out. Boosting your photography business with Adwords is not outside your ability to conquer and, if you just spend the time figuring it out, may help you start bringing in the right amount of money you need to realize your dreams, whatever they may be.