Do you really need photos for your blog and social media posts? No.
Do photos make your blog and social media posts more effective and engaging? Absolutely.
So, you need photos. But where do you find photos you can use?
The answer is not “from anywhere on the internet I can right click and save.” Don’t do that!
Ok, let’s be more specific.
You need photos, but where can you find photos you can legally use?
This list only includes places that offer:
*100% free photos - you don’t pay when you download them and you don’t pay when you use them.
*They are attribution free - you don’t have to give credit to the photographer or website.
1. Death to the Stock Photo - This is a neat service that delivers a pack of 10 free images, all focused on a central theme, to your inbox each month.
I look forward to each 10 pack as if it is opening a present. They also get extra points for offering diverse photos (and it can be frustratingly difficult to find stock photos featuring humans that aren’t both white and male).
2. Unsplash - Unsplash will also send 10 photos to your inbox every 10 days.
3. Picjumbo - I purchased a premium pack of 600 photos for $14.99 a few months ago because I really like their photos and downloading them one by one takes a long time!
4. Pexels - When you sign up for their newsletter, you receive 40 free photos, but you don’t have to sign up to download single photos from the website.
5. Pixabay - Pixabay also has illustrations, vectors, and videos in addition to photos.
6. Stocksnap.io - This site is part of Snappa, Canva’s latest rival.
7. Splitshire - This is an ad-heavy site, which is understandable since they are giving away free photos. Just be aware of when you are clicking on a photo to download vs. an ad.
8. Life of Pix
So what do you do once you’ve gone on a photo downloading spree?
Organize them! Trust me! Having 300 stock photos to choose from is wonderful, but not if you can’t find the one you want because it is buried somewhere on your computer.
This is how I do it:
I have a folder on my desktop called “Stock photos” – the name isn’t creative, but that is on purpose. I used to call the folder “to use later.” Which was accurate, but I could never remember what I’d called the folder.
Within that folder, I have sub-folders such as:
Bodies of water
Sitting at a desk
Of course, my mental filing system might not match yours. But however you organize your photos, make it memorable to you.
Almost all of the sites mentioned have newsletters you can join to receive updates and get free images delivered to your inbox. This might be the fastest, easiest way to not only grow your collection, but also to remember to go back to the different sites!
How do I get more traffic to my site?
This is the question every business owner, blogger, and site owner asks themselves. I wish I could tell you the answer was simple, quick, and easy. I really wish I could tell you it is something you only have to think about once and then never again.
But I can’t do that.
I like to think of search engine optimization (the blanket term I use when describing how to attract people to your website) in two ways: a recipe and process similar to baking a cake AND a process similar to planting a garden. Yes, really. Bear with me.
Have your cake and eat it too!
Making your site both user friendly and search engine friendly is like a baking recipe. Too much of one thing and it doesn’t work. Too little of another thing and it won’t work. The goal is to find the balance where things work together to create a tasty end result.
If we’re baking a cake we need eggs, sugar, flour, milk, butter, and a few other things depending on the type of cake you are baking. Too many eggs or not enough flour and you might get something resembling a cake, but it might not be something you want to eat.
Of course, Google doesn’t give us the exact recipe to make your site irresistible to search engines but there indicators and ripples that point us in the right direction.
Plant You Garden and Watch it Grow
I love gardening. I love the research aspect and the chance to understand what each plant needs to thrive. Clearly, I’m a research geek!
If you plant a garden in hard, clay soil, the plants will have shallow roots. You’ll really need luck to grow root vegetables in hard soil (hello, stunted carrots!). If you toss up your website without doing a little research first, you’re basically planting in hard soil – and making it so much harder on yourself.
But what if you did a little research into how people look for your products? Which words they use? What kind of information are they searching for? All of those answers help you loosen the soil and make it more likely your site will thrive.
Both baking and gardening are all about mixing the right ingredients to get the right result. Driving traffic to your site is the same concept.
So what ingredients do you use?
1) Lay the Foundations
Onsite optimization including title tags, description tags, optimizing your images. I covered the five basics in my SEO 101 for Artists series
Install Google Analytics and Google Webmaster. These are free tools that will allow you to stay up to date and catch any glaring errors before they happen (or at least before they get catastrophic)
2) Talk about Yourself
You need to get comfortable with marketing yourself. You even need to fall in love with it a little bit.
Are you talking about your business online?
Are you using social media effectively?
Are you reaching out to other non-competing businesses to expand each other’s reach?
Social media is so much more than talking about yourself or shilling your product.
3) Be Useful and Helpful
Are you blogging? Are you sharing information and being helpful?
I know, I know. Not everyone wants to blog. If you hate it, don’t do it. If getting search engine traffic to your site matters, you really need to consider it.
Blogging adds more entries to your website, which means it gives you the opportunity to have more visitors. At home, if a visitor came in through a window, it would be a little bit odd. But online, the more entrances to your website the better.
However, like everything else, there are best practices when blogging.
4) Putting Your Name Out There
If you are a local business, have you claimed all of your local citations? These are things like the yellow pages, Yelp, and other online directories. It helps Google understand your business and your location.
Have you reached out to other businesses to share information and resources?
5) Planning for the long term
Attracting people to your website isn’t a quick fix or something that can be done once and never again. SEO is an ongoing process that is always changing and evolving based on how real users interact with your website. Ten years ago, who would have thought that mobile phones would be the go-to device for so many users? Five years ago, a mobile-friendly site was nice, but not necessary. Now, it is necessary if you want to be competitive and user friendly.
Things You May or May Not be Able to Control
Search engines (and users!) want fast websites. If yours is pokey, it could cause issues.
Age of your site
No, it isn't necessarily fair, but it is the way things work. Search engines tend to see older sites as being both more established and reputable. After all, a search engine stays in business by returning the best possible matches to its customer.
Things That Used to Work, But Don't Anymore
Do keywords matter? Yes (although, like so many things in SEO, there are qualifiers to this).
Does the "meta keywords" section of your website pages need to be filled out?
99.9% of the time the answer is no.
The thinking likely went something like this - if saying "perfect Hawaiian vacation" once works, then repeating it 10 times per 250 words must be the answer to fooling Google and getting to the top!
Once upon a time that may have worked, but now it can actually penalize your site. Also? That kind of writing is painful to read and provides zero value.
One of the factors Google considers important when looking at a website is who else is linking to it. The idea was that by paying a directory to link to your site, you could fool Google into thinking your site was more popular than it was. Don't do that. Earn your links.
Wrapping up, be a good internet citizen. Make friends, be helpful, and don't rely on any ONE method of marketing to be the solution.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.