For the last two years, I have used Smugmug to host my photographs and serve as the platform for my website, and my overall experience was certainly satisfactory. But, I decided it was time to leave Smugmug and migrate everything to my own self-hosted website.
There were several things I liked about Smugmug’s service. They allowed unlimited photo uploads (and video if you like that sort of thing). They had a number of website templates that were fairly easy to customize using the drag-and-drop feature. They allowed you to create your own domain name. I liked how easy it was to upload new images to the site, and I really like the way those images were displayed. Overall, I was pretty happy with the results.
However, there were two items that bothered me for those two years. The first issue was the inability to completely remove all of Smugmug’s branding from my webpages. I could pay for a higher, more expensive level of service that would allow me to eliminate the logo, but no matter what level of service I chose, their branding was still going to be there in some form. I guess that makes sense, though, because they make money by getting people to pay for their service, and they can’t get people to pay if those potential customers don’t know they’re out there. But, the idea that I was providing them a free marketing service (actually, the way I look at it, I was paying them to help advertise their product) was somewhat annoying to me. But given the things I liked about their service, I was able to look past that minor indiscretion, if you will, for two years, and I probably would have continued to look past it if not for my second, and biggest, reason for leaving, which is. . .
Smugmug has never integrated a legitimate blogging platform. I knew this when I first started with them, so I created this free WordPress.com site to set up my blog. I would upload my images to my Smugmug-branded and hosted website and then use their sharing feature to embed the image into my blog post. This set-up has worked relatively well, and while I was never really happy with what amounted to having to maintain two separate websites – an image site and a blog site – I made it work. So, why, after two years, change now? It came down to a little something called search engine optimization, or SEO.
Now, I don’t know much about SEO, but the one thing I do know is that search engines just love to see activity on a website. In fact, generally, the more activity a website has, the higher it will be in the search rankings. However, a photography website, by its very nature, is generally stagnant. New pictures may occasionally get uploaded, but that’s about it. Search engines do not like this lack of activity. They consider it to be an indication that there is no new content to index (which is technically correct) and will eventually begin to ignore the website. And, this is bad.
For a photography website, there are two ways to maintain an active site the search engines will want to visit. One is to upload new images on a regular basis, and for a photography website, that is the way I would want to do it. But, that isn’t always a realistic and feasible method of generating activity.
The second way is to maintain a blog to which you regularly post at least every few weeks. Search engines eat this stuff up. There’s activity. There’s new content. For a search engine, this is like an all-you-can-eat buffet! This whole concept was demonstrated perfectly with my WordPress.com blog site. Usually within a day or two of a new post, Google would have it indexed. However, when I uploaded new pictures to my Smugmug website, it might take a couple of weeks before they were indexed. Unlike my blog site that the search engines loved because of the new content, there just wasn’t enough activity on my photo site to convince them to visit it very often. So, I decided it was time to bring everything back under one roof, so to speak, and use new blog posts to generate the activity needed to keep the search engines interested in my entire photography site.
I hope you enjoy the new site!