Coinciding with iSyndica's announcement of the official launch of their 'promotion service' I thought it was time to share a few preliminary results of my investigation into promotion with 'free stock photos'. Even before I wrote the article microstock photos for free I've had been redistributing some of my images for free on various websites with somewhat inconclusive results.
The following table shows the sites I have uploaded images to, the number of images, image views recorded by those sites and the number of times someone clicked a link to my website. Measurements for the first 4 weeks of September 2009.
|Site||Images Uploaded||Approx Monthly Views||Click Through||Image Type + Notes|
|Flickr.com||193||No Stats||0||Stock Portfolio|
|Flickr.com||109||No Stats||0||Personal Images|
|Stockvault||43||4000||3||Reduced Resolution Stock Images|
|Webshots||300+||2000||0 *||Travel Photos (* no direct hyperlink makes measurement impossible)|
|Panoramio||51||Unknown||0||Travel Photos (geo tagged)|
|Picasa||2000||4000(guesstimate)||0||Travel Photos (linked in description)|
|Morguefile||18 Free + 22 CC||1000(guesstimate)||0 *||Sample Stock, (lots of views, no hyperlink makes tracking impossible)|
|sxc.hu||36||800(guesstimate)||1||Sample stock images (reduced resolution)|
Caveats and Notes:
Results of click throughs were collected using web server stats, and in some cases where zero results were seen I confirmed this against google analytics.
The same images were not added to each site (making this a less than fair comparison), some of the sites contained stock images, some contain travel photography and some more creative/abstract work or my personal images.
On almost all of these websites the images are provided in return for a link attribution, traffic generated from these links is difficult to attribute to just one source, but this link-back forms the primary rationale for 'giving the images away'; this very important factor is not included in the table.
The results do not show the 'branding impact' generated, even if viewers did not click they probably saw my name or pseudonym, perhaps even the url of my website. Like other forms of advertising these 'sightings' can help you get noticed in ways that are very hard to measure, e.g. the next time that person visits a microstock site they are more likely to notice my name or brand as familiar. Unfortunately for me there are a few photographers called Stephen Gibson, even one sharing the same middle initial... so choose your login / profile name carefully when you are setting up accounts on social media and sharing sites.
In some cases I was able include a non hyperlinked url in the image description, (on sites where I could not include a link in my profile), these are noted and will have skewed results.
Depending on the site, having a link back to your own website / portfolio can be an SEO thumbs up in a search engine even if you don't see many visitors (this depends on the link having a suitable title and not having a nofollow tag).
Well I didn't expect a lot of clicks but I did expect to measure more than four!! I thought at first it was somehow to do with nofollow links not being tracked by stats software, but I can see clicks coming in from comments I've made on blogs so that appears to rule that out. I was hoping for these results to show a little more than this, helping to quantify which sites were more useful, clearly I'm measuring the wrong parameters here!
The above table leaves me with nothing but the question "how do we measure the impact of our branding" it appears not to be by looking at clicks! I'm certain that people have visited some of my sites after seeing images shared on the websites above, but without better measurement these results leave me unable to devote more than an hour or so each month to such 'photo sharing promotional activities'. In the case of flickr I will still contribute as I find it a useful community, but the other sites will have to lay dormant.
Has anyone else seen results from their image uploads that can be directly measured? I'm the first to admit that none of my flickr accounts could be described as popular although they do receive a quite pleasing number of views.
I know that this style of promotion is working to some degree, I have one web domain with no content which receives a steady stream of 'Direct address / Bookmark / Link in email' (i.e. the url was typed or the browser did not disclose the referring page). That domain has never had anything more than a holding page on it - I think that's purely off the back of the fact that the domain matches the username (with .com added) I use on some forums and social network sites.
How is isyndica helping?
If the results above are anything to go by then you can't afford to spend too much time uploading images to sites like flickr and picasa, the new isyndica promotion feature allows you to distribute your photos to more than just the microstock sites you normally use. Currently isyndica supports 5 'promotion channels' including facebook, flickr and picasa, twitpic and yfrog (both twitter image hosts). Images you choose to 'promote' are resized and watermarked with a quite clever 'fine grid' which I'd think to be almost impossible to remove but squint and you can see the photo composition almost unhindered, this along with an 'isyndica stamp'. This watermarking is an important point, the promotion feature is designed to promote not "give away" images, so while related to the results above it's not a direct help.
The promotion feature is free to use for images and costs 2c per video upload. I've only had a quick trial of the promotion with flickr, connecting the service was as simple as logging into flickr and clicking to accept the connection. I'm not quite certain how this can be fitted into my strategy, or quite how these watermarked images will be accepted by viewers on flickr. The twitter possibilities are interesting, and I'd like to see the photographers name or website (perhaps optionally) included in the watermark.
I would remind everyone that although I find flickr a great website there is more to it than just uploading photos and I feel that a lot 'ordinary stock' images will be of little interest to flicker viewers, more on that in 7 reasons your photos should be on flickr.