A couple of months ago I relaunched my photoblog at BridgeCity.ca. My photos have always been popular on Flickr (more than a couple million views) but I wanted some place to pull out and highlight certain ones about Saskatoon. When I saw www.bridgecity.ca was available, I bought it, found a template, and started to upload a photo or two a day to it.
This site averages 1000 visitors a day who view on average about 5 posts each time they stop by. The site has a large archive and benefits from a decade of people linking to it. I didn’t expect 1000 hits a day but I was really disappointed when I launched Bridge City and didn’t even get a single hit some days. Now a couple of months later traffic is holding steady at about 175 hits a day and growing. Here is what I learned during this.
- Use Google Webmaster Tools: This isn’t going to get you any hits but does tell you if Google is indexing your site which is really all you can ask for. It will also give you an idea of what people are searching for. Also use Bing Webmaster Tools. To be honest the amount of traffic I get from Bing is nothing compared to what I get from Google but some people still use it and Yahoo! Search so you might as well incorporate it into your site.
- Figure out how Google Image Search worked. Google has no idea what those images I was posting to my site are. They rely on the words in the attribute tag and the words I am using on the site to describe what I am posting. I had images on Flickr that had gotten thousands of hits but only 1 hit on Bridge City. The difference was that I described what the image was well on Flickr and had not on Bridge City. When I changed that, Google figured out what the subject was and suddenly ignored content was found.
- I don’t rely on SEO very much but I do use a plugin in WordPress to see what Google thinks it is seeing and then I do my best to accurately describe what it should be seeing. Huffington Post has perfected this but often uses misleading headlines and descriptions to drive traffic. I want accurate titles and descriptions so that people can find what they are looking for.
- The hardest part has been tagging the photos. Do I call that building office or commercial? Did I call others like it a restaurant or a pub? Is it a pub or a bar?
- Do I link to the business? I try to. It’s a site about what I think is cool and interesting about Saskatoon. Since I am using business names in titles, I tend to put a link back to the business or organization. That way if people are looking for something, with a click they can find it. I have also learned that some businesses have websites that are hard to find. If I can give it a good link, it helps them too.
- There are some boring neighbourhoods in this city. You can see where I tend to spend my time by the categories and the tags at the bottom of each page but there are some parts of the city that really have nothing interesting to photograph (I am looking at you Westview, Montgomery, and Wildwood) It speaks of some really poor neighbourhood design.
- Most of the shots are on foot. Wendy and I will park the car somewhere and go for a neighbourhood stroll. Since I take a lot of shots of schools, we generally go on the weekend so as to not freak out parents, teachers, police, RCMP, Interpol, the Department of Homeland Security… you know, those kinds of people.
- Some officers from the Saskatoon Police Service has taken a mild interest in what I have been doing. One time Wendy and I were kind of trespassing near the tracks by the grain terminals and a couple of cops wandered down to see what we were up to. When they saw we have cameras their concern wandered off an instead they questioned me on the lens I was using. The same thing happened downtown when I was ask, “Is it actually focusing on things”. I then explained aperture to the officers who actually took some notes. I find that so far the cops have been far more interested in mine and Wendy’s difference in cameras than what we are doing. They actually remind me of cops in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston who seemed to be drawn to the guy with the camera and had opinions on what to photograph than anything.
- Thank you to the City of Saskatoon for posting this neighbourhood map. It the official arbiter of what neighbourhoods are called and where the boundaries are. More than one time I have sent someone to it and heard back, “I could have sworn that X was part of Y neighbourhood”. I’ve done it myself.
- A lot of buildings downtown are double and even triple attributed by reputable sources to the same architect. I have brought this up to a couple of developers who all said, “I know”. It’s been fun looking back at contradictory archival data as well. I don’t think we will ever know for sure.
- I don’t get this but architectural websites don’t always list their own works. I have a feeling that there probably was some strong disagreements during design or construction and the architect more or less washes his or her hands of the project but it makes it hard to track down who created the project. Winnipeg has a building database. I wish we had one in Saskatoon. If for no reason than to help celebrate some of the great architects in our cities history. Hopefully a project like this will happen when Saskatoon finally gets a school of architecture.
- I wish the public and separate school boards would publish a list of architects of their schools. These are tremendously important to our community and so little is known of them. Either that or I am going to have to do it.
The five most popular posts are
- Affinity Campus
- 2nd Avenue Lofts
- Irene & Leslie Dube Centre for Mental Health
- John Deere Building
- Nuit Blanche
I am biased but there are my two favourites.