Revealed: The secret formula of Zanzig.com

Everyone is amazed about the success of Zanzig.com. It has grown from a tiny homepage to a huge website serving more than 40,000 readers each and every month. The first question I usually get is: How did you achieve this?

To be honest: there is no secret formula to it (sorry for the catchy headline)! ;-) I am just presenting useful, unique, high-quality content to my visitors. They read and enjoy my pages, they recommend them to others, they link to the pages (some of them also hotlink to my images, which is not welcome). And I write text along the photos. I am not just a photographer who enjoys putting nice pictures online. I am presenting them within context, otherwise they are of little value to my visitors.

There is nothing worse than a picture that does not tell about the where, why, and what? Sure, some photos look nice on their own (when presented out of context), e.g. a beautiful sunset, but if you tell your readers where the sunset was taking place, if you describe what the scene was looking like, if you share the experience, then people get attached to the photo. A sunset is just a sunset. Put into context, the same sunset makes people think.

Context is also one of the reasons why I am doing so well in Google. In January 2007, a whopping 90% of the traffic from search engines was coming from Google. 5.4% was from Yahoo!, and 2.2% was from MSN. The rest of the traffic was coming from smaller search engines and web directories. I know that 90% is not a very balanced traffic stream, but so far Google has not disappointed me. Apparently, the other search engines do not consider my site as quality site, but as long as Google loves me, I don’t care.

And the truth about search engines is that you have to be on the first two pages of the search results, or you won’t be seen at all. My log analyzer presents some interesting data specifically for traffic coming from Google. Roughly 8,000 search terms (January 2007) were bringing people from Google to Zanzig.com. 81% of them clicked on a search result on the first page. 9% clicked on a search result on the second page. Apparently only 10% of the clicks came from page 3 and beyond. This behaviour has been pretty much unchanged since I started to track it in March 2006. The very rough guideline is always 80/10/10 (first page/second page/all others).

If you are a photographer thinking seriously about publishing on the Internet, I can only encourage you to not only think about your photos but also to write excellent captions and other useful copy. But do not design your pages for specific search engines. If you want to attract Google traffic, you will want to have a look at their excellent Webmaster Help Center. But I’d recommend to just make your site useful to your visitors. Then the results will follow.

For me, this has worked very well. :-)

How can I create a Google-friendly site?

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