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Jun 2013


I am in the process of developing my own personal portfolio website(s) aimed at direct promotion of my stock portfolios to possible image buyers. I decided to mention it here and to share my thoughts about this topic with readers and perhaps to get some feedback on the topic.

Little note: This is my personal blog, so it reflects my personal thoughts and opinions. Through I strongly believe in my online methods and business strategies, I don’t claim that they are the only ones in the world and thus automatically best for everyone. Every single person and stock portfolio is unique. What works for me doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for you in the same way! Not to forget. One more disclaimer regarding stock image buyers who may be reading this article. Please – image buyers – don’t continue reading this article! ;)

OK, let’s get to it. I will try to divide it into sub-topics where I will address main arcs.

What is the "traffic sender" concept of a personal portfolio website?

And why it is better (for me) than a "direct selling" website concept.

A traffic sender type of personal portfolio website is a website where images are not sold directly in the way as they are sold on direct selling websites. On traffic sender websites buyers are instead sent to a source agency to purchase images there. This is usually done by a link, button or banner leading to a source agency. Some people just put a simple link somewhere on their website, while other people use banners pre-prepared by a stock agency to link to pages with search results showing their portfolio. To maximize results and conversions instead of pre-prepared banners I decided to use my own “PURCHASE & DOWNLOAD” button on every single large image page available on my website. Where button on large preview page of my photos is linked to Dreamstime and the button on large preview page of my graphics is linked to YayMicro. It is because I prefer to sell my photos and graphics completely separately from each other. Such as I sell my photos (only photos) at Dreamstime and on the other side I sell my graphics (only graphics) at YayMicro. In this article I will speak mostly about my stock photography portfolio and its impact on effectiveness of my websites. My graphics portfolio is still quite small, with something more than one hundred images online, but I hope to expand and diversify my graphic portfolio soon.

This is example of the button on a large preview photo page on my website:

The button at the bottom of page with the Dreamstime logo on it leads directly to the respective large preview page on the Dreamstime agency website. Every single large preview page with photos available on my website has this button. When linking is done in this way the chances of the button being clicked are much higher than if it was simply a generic pre-prepared banner. Most people tend to ignore generic banners so it is much better to use a button with a call to action - in this case a purchase and download button.

Another important thing that needs to be noted is that this button should always link to a respective image at the agency website. Whenever a potential buyer from a personal portfolio website visits and opens the large preview page with an image they are most likely interested in that specific image. As such they expect that after clicking the purchase and download button they will be taken to that image specifically at the source agency, not to some other page such as a user profile, author's portfolio or other location where they will again need search for their desired image. By not having access to just the image they wish to have right away this can prevent many sales from being successful.

In terms of possible click-throughs and conversions it is also ideal if a referral link is not apparent at all. Instead it is better to incorporate it inside another call to action script such as:

Many people visiting websites tent to move their mouse over a link they are planning to click simply to find out where that link will take them. If the link is a direct referral link chances of this link being clicked can be reduced and as such you may see a significant drop in your conversion rates. My link format implies that after it is clicked it will lead to a download page of the image which is better for psychological reasons. This type of link will maximize possible click-throughs and as such conversions as well. I have measured this behavior on a large number of visitors for various projects I own, experimenting with links containing keywords in URL such as purchase, buy, preview, or similar words. The result was that I have determined links suggesting immediate download are by far the best in terms of click-throughs and conversion rates. This behavior is based on simple human psychology, and there is no need to explain this in great detail. Crucial thing to keep in mind is that this behavior is statistically proven and so it is important fact to remember while thinking about website development, design and its usability that goes hand in hand with quality of conversion rates. This is particularly important if you are dealing with a large number of organic visitors (unknown people) coming to your website from number of sources.

At the beginning of this blog post I mentioned that for me a "traffic sender" concept for a personal website is better than a direct selling concept. One may wonder why this is. Operating a direct selling website, for example, can theoretically allow you to set your own prices and thus earn as much money as possible for each and every sale. While this is partially true overall prices for a single photo actually depend on a range of factors including portfolio quality, portfolio size, market demand, the overall competitiveness of your prices compared to other vendors and other similar factors as well.

Two main reasons why is a "traffic sender" portfolio website a better choice.

1.) The first reason is that there are many countries where it is not so easy to directly sell virtual goods, such as images. While it is not impossible it can be quite complicated due legal regulations and restrictions that may be encountered when someone wishes to sell images directly from their own website to buyers located in another country. For example, it may be potentially easy to sell images to customers based in the USA but it may become complicated when a buyer is from an EU country due to additional legal, tax and bureaucratic requirements that must be met each time a sale occurs.

Naturally on a personal portfolio website it is not desirable to reduce your possible sales by limiting who may purchase them and to which country images may be sold to. Due to the fact that the numbers of regulatory differences are extensive for each and every country it is impossible to go into detail about them all here. What is important, though, is to bear in mind that the number of complications you may encounter when attempting to operate a direct sales website can be both extensive and severely limit your business’ overall success. As such I have come to the conclusion that it is better to leave this part of the business - the image selling aspect - to an external agency based in a country such as the USA to assist in handling all legal requirements even though it means sharing some percentage of each image sale with that external agency.

2.) The second and one of the most important reasons why I value a traffic sending concept over a direct sales website is the referral program. While this is only true if the promoted agency to which you are linking to has a top quality referral program such as Dreamstime. The potential profitability of this more than makes up for any potential financial loss you may encounter by sharing sales with the agency rather than selling images directly.

Quality referral program!

By "quality referral program" I am referring to one where once an image buyer is found through personal a portfolio website such as mine and he purchases promoted images in the source agency the photographer (user) from whose personal portfolio website this buyer came (through the referral link) can potentially earn multiple commissions from other purchases the referred buyer may make.

For example:

  1. The first time a newly referred buyer purchases credit or subscription package at Dreamstime the user (photographer, illustrator, etc.) who referred this buyer will get a 10% commission from the WHOLE package that the buyer purchases, regardless of whether the buyer purchases the photographer's images or images of someone else.
  2. If that referred buyer purchases the images of the author who referred him that author will again earn money. This is money earned through the sales of his own images - the same he would always earn when selling images.
  3. This is my favorite part - If the referred buyer keeps on purchasing credit or subscription packages the photographer (user) who referred this buyer will get a 10% commission from the WHOLE package that is purchased, EVERYTIME those packages are purchased, for a full 3 years from the day the buyer was referred. There is no limit!

Participate in Dreamstime referral program and enjoy all the benefits like me! ;)

Trust me when I say that referring of image buyers can earn you much, much, MUCH more money than you may ever actually make through only sales of your own images. How do I know all of this? Take a look at my Dreamstime profile and expand my referred members list if you want.

To save you the time of counting them all I currently have 22,860 referred members - about 0.4% of all Dreamstime users. Amongst those are xxxx active image buyers. I actually had even more referred members in the past but I lost many of them due to the 3 year referral limit. At the same time, though, the 3 year limit on old referred members is not really an issue as my main aim always lies in focusing on referring more and more new buyers. I have been doing this for many years through a number of different methods, both online and offline, although I cannot reveal you most these due strategic reasons.

Regardless of concepts how your referrals are referred what is important to focus on here is that the concept of the Dreamstime referral program is great the way it is now! It can help anyone who participates on it realize great benefits and help the Dreamstime community as a whole by bringing in new buyers regularly. Remember, new buyers mean new money for both the agency and its artists.

Any way you look at it the Dreamstime referral program is a win-win situation!

  1. When new buyer is referred to Dreamstime he purchases and downloads what he needs – images.
  2. The photographer or illustrator is happy because he sold his images and earned money.
  3. The agency has new buyer who bought credit or a subscription package. Plus there is always a chance that he will be recruiting buyer and that he will regularly spend his money in the agency. Remember images won’t cost more whether he was referred by someone else or not.
  4. The user who referred this buyer rightfully gets his 10% referral commission as a percentage of the whole credit or subscription package that is bought from the agency. Remember, without the referral effort this buyer and his money wouldn’t end up at the agency!

So who loses here? No one! And that is great!

So let’s summarize this subtopic. I am just an enthusiast photographer photographing things I like such as nature, landscapes, animals or cultural heritage pictures of castles, open-air museums and historical towns. My stock portfolios are not big enough nor diversified enough to satisfy the needs of most generic buyers. This means if I would be selling my images directly from my website (without a traffic sender concept) the few visitors I may find looking specifically for images I may have taken would most likely, soon or later, leave my website to search for some other source that could satisfy their particular image needs. This means that, without a referral program concept, I will be losing money on these visitors leaving my website.

Because of this it is far better for me to send buyers to a stock photo agency that I have chosen for them through a referral link. While they may not buy my images through the agency there is always a chance that they will choose from the millions of images available there and buy the images of someone else.

How biggest issue of direct selling website becomes the biggest advantage!

The biggest issue encountered by most direct selling websites – the departure of buyers to a competitor's website – is actually the biggest advantage of a traffic sending personal portfolio website concept as whatever happens the result is usually good for you. In the worst case scenario if the result is not good it is at least not bad but simply neutral. After all, what is the worst that can happen? Absolutely nothing as the worst scenario is simply there is no conversion for the current visitor.

For example, some possible positive outcomes could include:

The potential buyer leaves your personal portfolio website through your referral link and:

  1. Purchases your images at Dreamstime. That is very nice!
  2. Purchase images of other artists (your competitors) at Dreamstime. That is great!
  3. Purchase your images and images of other artists (your competitors) at Dreamstime. That is even greater!
  4. Buyer becomes recurring. He keeps on purchasing images at Dreamstime all the time. This is the greatest thing ever! Along with the first goal of referring more and more new buyers securing a recurring purchaser means a steady income for you. A constant inflow of new recurring buyers is the best possible scenario that may happen.

Alternative some not very positive (but still not tragic) scenarios may include:

The potential buyer leaves your personal portfolio website through your referral link and:

  1. They land on the Dreamstime large image preview page but immediately, or potentially after some time browsing, close the Dreamstime website and leave Dreamstime without registering. This is of course not the best scenario, but because the buyer used a referral link the Dreamstime referral cookie is stored in his computer for the next 30 days. Because of this there is always a chance that within the 30 day timeframe he will return to Dreamstime and register. Once registered you will then receive commissions for any purchases they make over the next 3 years.
  2. In the worst case scenario the visitor will leave Dreamstime without registering within the 30 days timeframe and thus the commission potential will be lost. While disappointing it is still not a major issue as it can easily be countered through referring additional people.

This last case is actually the most likely scenario that happens most of the time as the absolute minimum of visitors who will visit an author's personal portfolio website will actually become long-term image buyers at Dreamstime.
That's why personal portfolio website needs traffic! Lots of traffic!

Want a traffic boost? Translate, translate, and translate!

And don’t forget about long image descriptions!

The best way to attract buyers coming from external search engines is titles and descriptions describing your images in detail. I personally prefer long story-like descriptions of my images, telling about scenes seen on my images in great detail or stories behind the scenes that are depicted by the image.

Some examples of these on large image preview pages are:

I am in the process of adding longer descriptions to my personal portfolio websites. Most of my images still don’t have enough long descriptions as I would prefer them to be. My aim is to have all images that are available on my personal portfolio websites described with at least 200 word long descriptions.

Of course the uniqueness of the descriptions is important as well so I plan to have my descriptions different from those that are available on my images in stock agencies. This of course requires additional effort but it is better for the overall ranking of my personal portfolio website.

Long unique descriptions bring traffic from external search engines. Of course most of this traffic will be people that are not image buyers (for now), they may simply be people searching for examples or facts about locations such as the famous Orava Castle in Slovakia and may be brought to a preview page such as:

Regardless the more traffic my website receives the higher the chances are that I will attract buyer(s). Basically it is just a game of numbers, nothing more! Of course there are many factors that can impact results significantly, such as the quality of traffic, quality of website content (on-site text) and visual quality of images. These factors are directly connected to external factors as well such as rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) and paid advertising.

Probability is also important factor here. Of course every person is unique individual, so interests of possible website visitors may diverse, but the number of people on this planet, and so people using the internet is limited thus if a set amount of traffic (visitors coming to the website within a certain timeframe, such as the number of visitors in a month) is large enough there will be some image buyers present inside that set amount of traffic - always!
(If that set is big enough.)

Have enough traffic and soon or later you will bump into some image buyers!

How big that set number should be to realize actual buyer conversions you will need to find out through measuring the statistics of your own websites. I have my own statistics, based on various projects I own, but that doesn’t necessarily mean yours will require the same. Each case is unique to each website and your efforts in developing it.

You can call this method of "bumping into" buyers as a type of brute force approach, where the absolute majority of website visitors (for example visitors in a traffic set in some timeframe) coming from external search engine(s) are not image buyers, but if there is even a small fraction of image buyers hidden within that traffic set it is a success! This means that this kind of approach is one of those (of course more approaches are possible) that will work for finding image buyers, though its efficiency may be low at first glance.

What is important to consider is what steps need to be taken by a webmaster in order to try to multiply (raise) that traffic set. How? By taking steps as webmaster that will result in more visitors (ideally targeted visitors - such as visitors similar to those present in traffic sets which proven to be image buyers) landing to your website. By targeting these visitors specifically amount of (quality) traffic is multiplied (raised), as is the potential for possible conversions and earnings as well.

Of course as I have stated there may be some fluctuations, depending on various factors, though regardless the more traffic you are able to drive to your website the less evident these fluctuations will become and conversions will become more stable.

Let's hypothesize a little bit about traffic sets.

As I already mentioned most of people that will "bump into" website full of images are not image buyers (for now). Maybe they are just looking for some facts about famous Orava Castle that are present on website in form of on-site text on large preview pages (titles, descriptions, etc.), or they just like the image they saw. Let’s call all of these people "generic traffic set" (it is amount of generic traffic picked in some timeframe). Now all I am saying here is that when the size of a "generic traffic set" (with those generic visitors/people present inside within specific timeframe) will cross a critical point of size it will expand more and more and will start to be so big that it will – sooner or later – break into segments of other traffic sets and absorb them partially or whole, including a "quality traffic set" containing those so much desired image buyers.

In other words, a "quality traffic set" will be just a subset of a huge "generic traffic set", and when visitors from that huge "generic traffic set" will land on your website the final conversion rates will be the same or even higher than if you were to simply target a "quality traffic set". In fact, final conversions could be even better due to the fact that other subsets within "generic traffic set" may also contain some "lost" image buyers.

This – picking of huge "traffic sets" from search engine results pages (SERP) - is of course true especially for those "big" websites and it is something that can be of course very hardy achieved, or close to impossible to achieve on small personal portfolio website(s). It may depend on many factors, such as portfolio size – amount of large preview pages with a lot of on-site text on them that will pick traffic.

Rising of traffic is first step to success!

Either way, I stand by my word that multiplying (rising) of traffic is first step to success! This is true for almost any type of website, whether it is a small portfolio website or "big" agency.
But how can you harmlessly increase the amount of traffic for ANY website, multiplying the visitor count (traffic) many times? There can be various ways to do this, though one that I will mention today is suggested in the subtitle. Yes, an easy and harmless yet very effective way for raising traffic coming from external search engines are website translations, translations, translations, translations … and did I mentioned translations? ;)

Fatal mistake most English speaking webmasters make!

This is also true for other native non-English websites that are not translated to other languages.

A common mistake English speaking webmasters make is that they think that due fact English is such a widely used international language it is the best language for their websites and they think that any other language is not worth trying. This is fatal mistake! While there is no doubt that English is a great international language assuming that every person who is looking for something online automatically uses English is wrong! Most people use their own native language when they are searching for something online, and if this language is not present on a webmaster's website these people (often potential buyers) will never reach that website through external search engines as that website will be not even included in the search engine results pages (SERP) for that language’s specific keyword(s) or phrases.

Don’t get it wrong, the buyer who is initially searching in external search engines using foreign keyword(s) or phrases may be a good speaker of English, or at the very least he may be good enough that when he will finally land on an English version of a website such as Dreamstime he will be able to register, purchase, or simply be able to use the English Dreamstime website normally. At the same time, though, if the visitor has a choice of searching in his native language in external search engines in most cases the native language will be used.

That moment when some person is searching in an external search engine is crucial as it can mean the difference between that potential buyer finding your website or not. By not being able to attract him to your website you will miss this critical moment and as such possible buyer will not click-through to Dreamstime using your referral link, which means loss of potential revenue for you. All this simply due to the fact that you do not have an appropriate translation present of your website.

Loosing potential buyers to this is pointless and is not what any webmaster is looking for when he creates a website aimed at promoting your stock photo portfolios.

Remember: potential buyers that were lost may have bought significant amount of credit or subscription packages from Dreamstime where you are linking to. They may even be recruiting buyers spending tons of money every month!

This is the reason why my personal portfolio websites are available in many languages. They are still in heavy development and thus far from fully translated. Parts of my website(s) that are not translated yet to respective languages are temporally running in English, but I am recently trying temporary translations of those untranslated parts using automatic translator. Yes, I realize that some parts of my website(s) are now running with very poor translations. This is just temporarily issue. My aim is to have my personal portfolio website(s) 100% human translated, including titles, descriptions and keywords of my images, but because this is done by paid native speaker translators it is a very slow process. But soon or later all of my personal portfolio websites will be hopefully 100% native human translated.

Most native translators translating for me are stock photographers as well as I realized that when a translator comes from a mickrostock background he is usually better in translations of mickrostock related websites than a professional translator. There have also been some slowdowns with these translations because, as I have already explained, I plan to have unique descriptions on my images – descriptions that are not available on my images anywhere else. This of course requires time to rewrite them and after that allow them to be translated by a native speakers to every respective language available on my personal portfolio websites.

Simply put, my aim to have 100 % human translated personal portfolio websites will just require some time to be done.

Let's leave something also for the next time.

And with that I think I have said enough for the day. Maybe next time I will talk about some other aspects concerning personal portfolio websites. If you have any comments or suggestions about my website design, usability, something that you may do differently or even what you miss on my websites you are welcome to leave a comment. It is always enlightening to read fresh, unbiased opinions from independent points of view of other people!

Thank you for your attention! ;)
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