We get it: Search Engine Optimization can seem complicated, and…
We’re big fans of Portland, Oregon based photographer Carli Davidson, which is why we profiled her and her adorable pet photography just last year. Carli – an animal caretaker turned pet photographer – inadvertently accomplished the marketing fantasy of photographers around the Internet. In the past few months, her gallery “Shake,” featuring dogs and cats caught shaking off water, went viral, appearing in major national and international publications, photography blogs, mainstream news’ sites, and passed along via countless emails, tweets, Google+ and Facebook shares. The result? Her website traffic increased 370 times. Not 370%. 37,000%.
- How did Shake get to be so viral?
- What ‘big name’ blog shared the gallery first?
- How is Carli leveraging all the attention to help her photography business?
- Is she freaking out?
Without an intentional marketing plan in place, we were curious to chart the path of a gallery gone viral. It’s not that we think there is necessarily a replicable formula for any photographer can use, but the success of Shake does point out that good content that captures people’s fancy can drive significant traffic (and hopefully sales) to even an individual photographer. Luckily, Carli was in New York recently, so we invited her in to PhotoShelter to pick her brain on the sharing of Shake.
Here’s what went down:
- Carli enters Shake into PDN’s Faces Contest and becomes a finalist.
- As a finalist, Shake is set to appear in PDN’s August issue. But the gallery is up on PDN online (#76,295 most popular site. Source: compete.com) in July. PDN typically receives close to 25,000 unique visitors per month.
July 28, 2011:
- PetaPixel (#12,690 most popular site. Source: compete.com) features Shake. The post is tweeted 2,506 times, shared on Google+ 793 times, and liked on Facebook by over 62,000 people.
- Carli receives a >500% increase in visits to her site. Damn.
August 8, 2011:
- Shake is featured on The Huffington Post (#40 most popular site. Source: compete.com).
- The story is shared on Facebook 5,076 times, tweeted 282 times, emailed 517 times, and shared on Google+ 62 times.
- Shake is shared on BBC Brazil, which gets over 9 million unique visitors a month.
- On August 8th, Carli receives 97,290 unique visitors directly to her site.
August 16, 2011:
- Carli is featured in The New York Times Lens Blog (#64 most popular site. Source: compete.com). @nytimesphoto shares the article on Twitter. They have close to 190,000 followers and the post is retweeted by 32 people. Carli gets 24,000 visits to her site that day.
Upcoming in September 2011:
- Shake will be featured in Italy’s Vanity Fair. With previous posts also found on German, French, and Italian blogs, Carli Davidson is officially an international phenomenon.
Between July 17th and August 31st, we see that Carli’s numbers rocketed through the roof. Here’s a snapshot of how people found her and the degree of traffic that came her way during that time:
- Direct: 686,491
- Facebook: 150,535
- Petapixel: 97,948
- Twitter: 10,392
- Google: 7,983
- Lens.blogs.nytimes.com: 2,404
- Huffingtonpost.com: 1,469
The traffic increase is significant, but so is the sheer quantity of top quality backlinks and social media buzz that will undoubtedly increase her SEO. This is true even though the vast majority of people didn’t find Carli through search engines (by the way, she is result #11 for the word “Shake,” which is amazing for such a generic term, especially when you consider that Apple is #9 and Microsoft is #10).
In June, Carli received an average of 27 visits to her site each day. Today, she sees an average of 10,000. “The most amazing part of this is that this isn’t just a viral blip,” Carli says. “It’s been months now and the buzz for Shake is still going strong.”
Today, almost two months after the initial pop, Carli Davidson Photography has received over 1 million unique visits to her website. An elated Carli found this out as we were sitting down together checking out her Google Analytics. We high-fived.
As important as the big name media outlets were to the success of Shake, the analytics suggest that Facebook was crucial to Shake’s virality. A few thousand people might have seen Shake on The New York Times website, but hundreds of thousands of people used Facebook to spread it. In other words, if Shake was Avian flu and Facebook was an airline, you wouldn’t want to be on that plane because you’d get that virus.
The gallery also appealed to people all over the world because the content was not specific to one country or culture. And we see that although Shake was popular, web traffic to her other galleries also caught fire along the way.
Carli believes people are interested in Shake because very simply – it makes people happy. “I can’t tell you how many emails I get each day from people thanking me for making them smile.”
Carli has now secured a book agent and is working to put Shake onto the pages of a photo book, which if online interest is any indicator, we have a feeling will do just fine.
- Contests can give you good exposure, but make sure you stick with reputable ones that will drive eyeballs to your work. PDN doesn’t have stellar traffic, but it’s well-respected in the photo community.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a strong Facebook post. Have you ever said something stupid, but received tons of comments? You just can’t predict what will catch the attention of the masses.
- Be ready to take advantage of spikes in traffic by increasing your merchandising opportunities, or advertising your services in a very obvious way. Having lots of traffic is worthless if you can’t convert it into revenue.
Wanna learn more? Download our free guide “Freelancers Online Marketing Blueprint.”
p.s. Here’s the human equivalent of shake, courtesy of Petapixel, called “jowling.“