A few months ago, PhotoShelter simplified the ability to insert Google Analytics into our photographer websites. At that time, I asked a number of our users to share their analytics with me for the purposes of creating some aggregated intelligence as a general baseline for all photographers. Twenty-four photographers shared their information with me.
I present this survey of the findings knowing full well that the sample is too small to be statistically significant, but still, it represents a range of photographers, and gives us the first published set of data regarding photographer websites. If you’ve heard me talk before, then you know how passionate I am about analytics and getting photographers to think about their websites as marketing tools, not just a display of photos.
I’ve chosen to report on the default set of “dashboard” information rather than diving too deeply into the other statistics. Because the data from any individual’s website is so specific, it would be foolish to create decisions based on this survey. Analytics gives us a way to measure a baseline of activity, and then work to improve our own metrics over time through our marketing efforts.
In order to compare apples to apples, I have selected the defaults date range of one month in Google Analytics spanning April 20, 2009 – May 20, 2009. For purposes of comparison, you might want to set your dates to the same.
Google defines a visit as any contiguous activity within a 30 minute time frame by a web browser.
I feel that 1000 visits in a month is a minimum amount of traffic that photographers should be driving to their websites in order to expect any 1) reliable data on which to base marketing decisions, and 2) create a funnel of potential customers that is wide enough to produce monetary results (either through e-commerce on the site, or interactions via phone/email).
Photographers who aren’t hitting this threshold should examine whether they are doing any marketing activity at all. If not, potential areas to investigate include:
- Mailers: postcards, calendars, etc
Each time a user hits a page, a page view is counted. Traversing back and forth between two pages will still increment the number of page views. A high page view count is an indication that you have sticky content for your demographic.
Pages per visit
Pages divided by visits. This number helps give us a better indication of user engagement irrespective “size.”
The high of 30 was a clear outlier (the median was 4.83). The interesting observation was that some of the lower trafficked sites had higher pages/visit, which would seem to indicate that they were doing a better job of attracting quality traffic. This might have been an event photographer that shot an intimate gathering. In any case, it speaks to the fact that large amounts of unqualified traffic is not the goal of a non-ad-supported website.
In fact, in earlier months, I observed one photographer who had placed Google AdWords text ads to drive traffic to his content. But that traffic was of a very poor quality based on many of the standard metrics.
Commonly referred to as the “I came, I puked, I left” stat. A bounce is recorded when a user hits a single page on your website, then leaves to another website. Typically a good indication that your content did not meet their expectation.
A bounce rate below 40% is considered to be very good as a rule of thumb.
I was pleasantly surprised at the low bounce rates. The high of 65% was actually anomalous compared to the photographer’s previous months.
Average Time on Site
Another “quality of traffic” indicator.
Low: 1m 26s
High: 10m 23s
Avg: 4m 35s
Again, I was surprised at the average time on site. But it seems to validate how sticky photos are, and how psychologically important they can be to a viewer vs. text.
% New Visitors
Google Analytics places a “cookie” on a users browser which lasts for 18 months. So any user that returns within that period isn’t counted as a new visitor. The only caveat to this presentation of data is that many of these photographers only have a few months of data. Therefore, the % new visitors is probably skewing high compared to what we might have in 12 months.
The source of traffic is instructional. If a lot of traffic is coming from referring sites, then we’re probably doing a good job of link building, which is important for SEO. If you’re deriving lots of traffic from search engines, you probably already have good SEO.
The percentages by themselves aren’t terribly informative because you have to monitor the % with the absolute number. There is no ideal mix of traffic sources — again, the goal is to improve the absolute number of visitors by traffic sources over time. From a purely SEO perspective, I like to see search engines representing 30-40% of the traffic.
Other sites that link to your website are recorded as a referring site.
Someone who types in your URL or has your website bookmarked appears as direct traffic.
This number surprised me because it was so low, but it validated my thesis that most of your audience does not know who you are. They don’t know your URL and/or they don’t have your site bookmarked. Therefore, there is a big opportunity to improve your marketing to drive traffic to your website.
A user who initiates a search through a search engine and finds a matching page on your site is recorded as search engine.
Since we are in the business of displaying and selling images, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at this number. However, there are so many on-page factors that photographers can employ to increase their visibility to search engines, that it is a shame that this number is not higher. Make sure you are aware of all the on-page SEO factors affecting photography websites.
Want to share your photography website analytics with me in order to help future surveys? You can follow these instructions to share your account with amurabayashi[at]gmail.com. We promise not to disclose any individually identifying information.