UPDATE, Jan 2015: I have finally moved, copied, or more accurately, re-exported from Lightroom and then made a new import to PhotoDeck, all of the photos that were stored on Zenfolio. This weekend, I migrated my domain name. It was not painless. It was a huge amount of work, and now that I've migrated the domain name, I have to go and fix each and every blog post that had an embed from the Zenfolio site. So it's still not finished.
BUT... the images on the new http://alisontoon.com were showing up in Google search in under 24 hours! "Not a Zenfolio issue", I was told, over and over again. Yeah, right... Conclusion: PhotoDeck is much more expensive, and it takes a heck of a lot of time and effort to migrate once you're already established somewhere else. But the SEO improvements, the licensing and sales functionality, make it well worth it. Don't forget: use the code below if you're trying PhotoDeck. You'll get a discount!
UPDATE, Sept 2014: I'm in the process of migrating all my photography, and my domain, to PhotoDeck, It is going to cost considerably more than Zenfolio--and that is a big downside--but the major upside is that photos are now being indexed and found, almost immediately. The PhotoDeck functionality for stock photographers is just what I was looking for. (If you want to see the work-in-progress, go to http://alisontoon.photodeck.com. Once all the photos are moved and everything has been redirected, I'll move the domain too and it will go back to http://alisontoon.com.)
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ORIGINAL POST, Jan 2014: I've been hosting my photography portfolio on Zenfolio for over a year now: http://alisontoon.com. The music can all be found at http://alisontoon.com/music. I really like the ease of managing the site, and the way I can design it to look the way I want it. I like that I can create URLs specifically to sets of photos--URLs that make sense, like http://www.alisontoon.com/aftershock2013 or http://www.alisontoon.com/raccoons or http://www.alisontoon.com/marillionweekenduk2013sunday. But I don't like the SEO. Really, I don't.
I've had an ongoing discussion with the Zenfolio support team (who always reply to support calls very, very quickly, even if it is me rattling on again about SEO). Individual images on Zenfolio sites do not appear to be indexed by the major search engines. I believe that this is, in part, due to Zenfolio's site maps only reaching the gallery level--the collection of images--and not each page of the site which contains each image's own, often-unique, keywords and text. Despite all my best efforts at keywording, tagging, labelling and otherwise adding text wherever possible to enable good searching, I cannot find any way for Google, Bing etc. to identify and find individual images. (If you Google some of my pictures, you'll find that they are either found on this blog, http://alison-toon.blogspot.com, or if they are found on http://alisontoon.com, they are tiny thumbnails, found on a gallery page and not the image or image pages themselves.)
So when I saw info about PhotoShelter's advanced SEO and free trial, I thought I'd try it out and compare with Zenfolio. Here are the results. I'm not including price in here because it wasn't a big concern--functionality was the priority.
What I loved about PhotoShelter:
- Setting up licensing and prices. As a mostly editorial photographer, I have to be sure that the licensing is correct and that editorial images are not sold for commercial purposes. PhotoShelter not only makes it easy to set up licencing in many different forms, it also uses pricing from fotoQuote(r) to help you to choose your pricing--not essential, but a helpful indication of the prices you might charge.
- The concept of image-page-level sitemapping, and automatic upload of the sitemap each and every week to Google. However, after more than a week using PhotoShelter, I did not see any of my PhotoShelter images appear in Google searches, but I know that I had not given it enough time to really test it. Would be interested to hear from other editorial photographers about their success.
- Image security. It's really difficult for anyone to copy photos with the PhotoShelter security settings. Of course, there's always a way around it, but what PhotoShelter does makes it really difficult to "borrow" a decent image. But...
What I did not like about PhotoShelter:
- Online image quality. When I exported the same photos from LightRoom and uploaded them to both Zenfolio and PhotoShelter, the quality of the image as displayed by PhotoShelter was just bad. Many of my concert photos are taken in (very) low-light environments, and PhotoShelter appears to increase the noise that I've spent ages cleaning up. And Zenfolio does not. (I've printed poster-size prints from my Zenfolio collection, so I know that the images themselves are fine. This is just down to how PhotoShelter renders them for the internet.)
- The time lag between uploading photos, and seeing them on the site. I.e., if I uploaded an image, saw that it looked horribly grainy, worked on it a little more, uploaded the same image again... the first version would remain on view for hours. And hours. PhotoShelter support told me that it can take up to 24 hours and that this is expected behaviour. And there's a time lag or a bug in how gallery links are displayed to visitors versus a logged-in photographer, too, but I didn't get to the bottom of that one (and yes, all the galleries were set to visible).
- The very limited functionality for design of my web pages, in comparison to Zenfolio. While PhotoShelter has new layouts, and some of them are really nice, there's a limited selection and limits to what you can do with them.
So... my decision is, for now, to stick with my Zenfolio-hosted site. And keep working on the SEO. I'm told that the more people visit my site, the better the SEO will be... even if there isn't an image-level sitemap. I'm sceptical, but if you'd visit the site, or link to it from yours, you might help me out.
Go visit! http://alisontoon.com