After two years with Zenfolio, I recently switched my photo website hosting service to Smugmug. What disappointed me about Zenfolio was that even after two years, I could not get my photos to show in an image search. When I reviewed statistics for my site, I found that over half the new visits came from direct traffic, while internet searches provided only one-third of my new visitors. What this told me was very few people were finding my website unless I told them about it. When you have a photography website, it is vital for people to be able to find your images through internet searches. After doing extensive research, I found that this apparent lack of search engine optimization, or SEO, has been a long time criticism that does not appear to have been addressed satisfactorily. A photography website, by its nature, is generally not search engine friendly to begin with and when the hosting service does not seem to have adequate SEO, this can cripple the website.
In light of all this, I decided to give Smugmug a test drive and signed up for their free 14-day trial. What I saw during the trial was enough to convince me to make the switch. In fact, I didn’t even use the entire 14 days. I specifically liked the:
- Customization: Smugmug allows for a greater degree of page customization including HTML and CSS. While I don’t know anything about HTML or CSS, that flexibility exists should I want to learn it and make more substantial changes in the future.
- Thumbnails: The photo gallery thumbnails are significantly larger which provides a better viewing experience.
- Photo Preview: When a thumbnail is clicked, a nice large image is presented for viewing.
- Price: For the features I need, Smugmug costs 40% less than what I was paying.
- Custom Domain Setup: For someone who doesn’t already have one, buying and setting up a custom domain is very easy to do. In fact, Smugmug essentially takes care of all the settings needed to get your website up and running. All you have to do is purchase your domain name, enter your new web address in the custom domain box on Smugmug, and you’re ready to go.
- Customer Service: Having emailed customer service a question about their SEO, I found them to be quick and responsive. My question was answered within a few minutes of my sending the email, and they answered the question rather than talking around it.
During the free trial, there were two areas I noticed that could be construed as disadvantages. First, I found site customization somewhat confusing in the beginning. However, I would expect that given the degree of customization allowed. Fortunately, after working with it for just a small amount of time, it became much easier to use. The other disadvantage is that Smugmug does not have an integrated blogging platform. For a lot of people, this is probably not an issue, but it would still be a nice feature to have especially if Smugmug could partner with WordPress in this endeavor.
Although it has only been two or three days since I completely transitioned my portfolio to Smugmug and is still far too early to determine if the change will improve my search results, I have nonetheless been pleased with the overall results and have not regretted my decision to make the move. By clicking the tabs above, you can visit my website, Bob Henry Photography, to see an example of the thumbnails and the picture previews offered by Smugmug.