Blog Circles | What they are and how to set them up

blog circles

As a bonus to your HubHack membership, I knew I wanted to add the option to join an Instagram Engagement group.  But since many of my insta-friends also have photography businesses on the side, I thought I’d also share the opportunity to join in monthly blog circles.

UPDATE JANUARY 2017: In response to many questions related to blog circles from my members, I’m going to answer those specifically below – scroll to the end for the Q&A.  

MEMBERS: Sign up HERE to be included in this month’s circle!

I’ve been a part of a blog circle for over a year now.  I’ve definitely seen great results in terms of my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) (which is a fancy way of explaining how far up in the search results you are when someone googles “photographers in “your” county/city/area.”

Since I started my photography business like many momtogs, I initially did work for free, as portfolio building.  Then I tried to start charging a little bit.  But over time, I felt that I needed to charge for what my time was worth and for the fact that I had several years of experience, I continued to work hard to improve my photography and was recognized by my peers, in the form of publications, winning awards, and was hired by my city for their photography.  So, my stuff didn’t stink anymore.  I had figured out white balance and exposure.  I could now differentiate between a sharp photo and one where I missed focus.  I understood compositional rules.

When it came time for me to increase my prices, my friends (some of these I’ll have to use “friends” because the air-quotes are more accurate- it’s amazing how many friends you lose when you no longer do free photography, amIright?) were no longer willing to hire me/able to afford me.

So, my remedy for this problem was SEO.  I would find my ideal client that was searching google for a photographer.

I happen to be a bit of a nerd and find SEO fascinating, so I didn’t mind soaking up as much knowledge as I could.

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase – while I do take steps to optimize my website, I experienced the greatest increase in google leads after I began doing a blog circle.

Here’s why Google likes blog circles:

  1. Your site is linked TO and also links OUT TO  other RELEVANT websites, where hopefully those photographers (business owners) also attempt to do a little SEO themselves.  Google sees a website where the keywords “Atlanta Family Photography” are prevalent, linking to another site where the keywords are “Documentary-stye family photography” linking to another site where the keywords are “Family and Newborn photographer.”  This all makes sense to Google.  These sites are related somehow and must all be about “Family Photography.”
  2. Backlinks using anchor text is like a double cafe espresso for your SEO.  You’ve probably heard backlinks are good (other sites linking to your site) but the key here is the anchor text.

Anchor text is what you actually use as the link. So, here’s an example, if I’m talking about Instagram Engagement Groups, I’m going to highlight that text, click the little “link” icon in WordPress (or whatever blog editor you use) and that text is now blue or purple (I think this site makes them red, so that’s cool.)  That’s the part people click on.

I could say, “Click this link to be directed to an article on Instagram Engagement Groups: http://www.photographerhack.com/instagram-pods-engagement-groups/   But that way just puts in the whole URL.  It doesn’t look as pretty and it fails to use keyword-rich anchor text.

Your anchor text should contain relevant keywords – read: The stuff people are typing in the Google search field when they’re looking for you or someone who does what you do.  Don’t put “Crane Creek Photography” as your anchor text!  No one in my area, unless they’ve actually heard of my business name would search that.  They search, “photographers in gwinnett county” or “family photography in suwanee, ga.”

Here’s a little exercise for you…  Close your eyes.  No wait – not yet, keep reading first, then close.  So, pretend you’re looking to hire an electrician to do some wiring that needs to be done.

What do you type into the search field??  

electricians in duluth, ga
reputable electricians in gwinnett county
best rated electricians near me
affordable electricians in NE atlanta

Ok, now let’s try another one.  Pretend that you’re going to google looking for an accountant to do your taxes.

What do you type into the search field?

CPA’s near duluth, ga
accountants in gwinnett county
best accountants in atlanta
tax preparation in NE atlanta

See what I did there?  What do people search for, when they search for someone that does what you do?  They think in terms of location.  For me, Atlanta is a little too broad.  It would take over an hour to get to the other side of Atlanta from me.  I think the best search term is actually my county.  My county is pretty big, but consists of a ton of little small cities.  Way over a dozen.  Now, I can SEO for ALL of them, but again, think – is your client searching for “photographers in duluth, ga” then switching to “suwanee, ga” then switching to “sugar hill, ga” – No, probably not.  Those cities are fairly small and would yield too few good results.  I might search “family photographers in atlanta” in the hopes that I can then click around and narrow it down though.  I may use descriptors like “affordable” or “best” or “mini-session.”

Here’s the deal.  I raised my prices and show them on my website.  So, I use “best” because I want clients who are willing to invest in good photography.  I do not want clients looking for affordability.  I am not affordable.  If money were no object, and you were looking for the best of the best, that’s what you’d search for – “best photographers in gwinnett county” Right?  Yup – there’s my keyword phrase.  Now, you have to massage that a bit for anchor text.  It’d look totally weird if another photographer linked to my website saying “Check out Amanda’s work here: Best Photographers in Gwinnett County” (where the underlined part was a link.  See – I couldn’t even link to myself using that here! Ha!  Sounds so conceited, right? BUT – listen now, THAT is what I want for my prospective clients to be googling!  So, instead, the anchor text might be something close, like “Family and Child Photography in Gwinnett County.”  Keyword rich, still what people might search for, but without all the arrogance.  But I’m not saying I don’t use that phrase in other places where it’s not so visible – like in image titles, alt-text, meta-descriptions, that kinda thing.

Through doing a blog circle, doing some SEO on my site using keywords that my target audience would use, I’ve gotten hired by clients that will pay me.  I do get asked sometimes if I offer discounts or mini-sessions and I don’t.  But I put my pricing on my website so that prospective clients know whether it’s worth it to call me.

Whew!  Ok – so now we know why a blog circle is so powerful, but how does it work?

Think of your HubHack membership as match.com for Insta-engagement groups and blog circles.  I can put you on a team.  Now, ideally, I’d LOVE for enough interest so that I could move people around so you’re not with the same people every month.  I think that’d be fun.  (That doesn’t work for engagement groups.)  I think a group of 4-6 people in a blog circle is ideal.  Less than that, and it’s not exactly a circle, but I guess a triangle would work.  More than 6 and you’ll lose people’s interest – no one has time to circle around to 12 people’s blogs.  Especially if you hope that people will leave thoughtful comments.

You can certainly set up your OWN blog circle, just ask your friends!  But while I’m throwing people in engagement groups, might as well do blog circles too.

Guidelines for a Blog Circle

I want to say “guidelines” as opposed to rules – “rules” just sounds so strict, and this really doesn’t have to be.  But there are some things that you want to keep in mind.

  1. Need a group of 4-6ish people committed to creating a blog post by a certain date, and scheduling to publish it by a certain date and time.
  2. They must all have a central location where they post their links and anchor text.  This can be a facebook group, a google doc, an email, or even an Instagram direct message thread, similar to an engagement group.
  3. They commit to posting between 5-20 pictures per post.  (I always did my 365 Project Favorites – definitely not all 30/31 pictures, but just my faves, maybe 10-12 or so.)  Please do not post way more than that – people get bored and it takes too long to scroll and perhaps your site loads slowly and you’ll lose people.  The key is keeping people going along on the circle.
  4. They link to the next person only, in the circle, using the anchor text.
  5. They promote the blog circle on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook.
  6. They circle around to all the member’s posts and leave thoughtful comments on each post (if post comments are enabled.)

Ok, I think that’s it!  Any other thoughts or questions?  Best practices from blog circles you’ve been in?  If you’re interested in joining a blog circle, you’ll need to be a HubHack member.  Just shoot me a message and I’ll let you know when I have a circle lined up for you!

JANUARY 2017   Q&A

Ok, I got two questions from members within a short time of posting about the January Blog Circle signup.  The question:

Q: What if I blog a client session?  How does that work?

A: Of course – you can still do a blog circle with client sessions!  You just have to masssage the language a little bit, since I’m sure that your prospective client will want to share your link to their friends, so it’s best to be subtle.  You still want your client to shine.
Here’s what I might do in this case.  In fact, I do have a newborn session that I’m working on and if a circle needs a participant, I’ll jump in too.

Here’s an outline of what the blog post would look like:

Introduction

I am always so honored when a family trusts me to come into their home and document their first days with their new baby.  It is such a special time, and so fleeting, right?  Photographing the Cook Family was such a joy!  I’ve been working on these photos and have enjoyed every minute of it.  They had their sweet baby girl just days before Christmas, and I got to capture their little routines as a family, together with their awesome 1 year old son too!

Oh, and I’ve got a special surprise at the end of this post!  I’m taking part in a blog circle with some photographer friends of mine.  We’re linking to each other’s posts, so you can check out what they’re up to. This month, I’m linking to a fabulous mum-photographer in Australia, who’s sharing what Christmas looks like down under in the hot summer sun!

Now, here’s some of my favorites from my in-home documentary style newborn session with the Cook Family.

(BLOG PHOTOS FROM NEWBORN SESSION)

(CLOSING COMMENTS ABOUT NEWBORN SESSION)

Oh and don’t forget to follow along the blog circle.  There’s a group of five of us this month, and next up is my friend Claire from Australia.  Click here to check our her blog post: Family Photography in Brisbane

(END OF POST)

Ok, so that’s an idea of how to word it.  The focus is still on your session, especially since your goal is for your clients to share it on Facebook, right? But you’ve thrown in a little extra, no big deal.

Now, do you see the anchor text? The anchor text simply refers to the underlined linked text.  What you do, if you’ve never added anchor text before (and I highly recommend for you to look for ways to add in anchor text – so much nicer on the eyes than a long ol’ URL) let me tell ya how.  Have the actual URL copied.  I mean, command C it.  Then, select/highlight your anchor text – the keyword-rich text that you’ll use as the link.  Click on the chain link icon in your blog editor. (I’ve used three different blog editors and it’s always a chain link, here’s a screenshot of mine in wordpress as I type this… screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-7-34-03-pm

Then paste, command V, into the box that pops up for your link.  Voila.

Keyword rich anchor text is so great for SEO.  You can see more examples in this recent post.  (<<< Poor example of keyword rich anchor text!  Ha!)  Actually, the whole reason for the press roundup posts is that it’s one more opportunity for me to highlight my members and add value by giving them a little SEO boost juice.  I’ve also done it in all the spotlights I’ve done too.  If my members succeed, I succeed.


I hope that helps and that the Q&A was beneficial.  What other questions do you have?

Thanks for reading!

Amanda

amanda@photographerhack.com or DM me @photographerhack

 

 

 

 

 

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