A Blogger's Guide to Image and Media Hosting - Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg

We have all heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”. When it comes to blogging, a good picture can MAKE a person read a thousand words. There have been countless occasions when I have read a blog I normally would have skipped simply because the photo was so striking and captivating. Knowing how to unite written content with visual imagery is an art in itself. A photo will capture our emotions before the words do, and a good photo will help the words shape our experience in reading the article. Psychology has a heavy hand in this, as it is a fine science that can play both on our conscious and subconscious awareness. But how should bloggers use image and media hosting?

Getting Started 

Before selecting a host, you need a server as a base for powering your efforts and marketing your content. The Digital Signage Server provides a powerful advertising engine that has advanced features to tie in with your Flickr or Picasa. This Media Cloud takes that which is common or standard, and transforms it by building an elaborate Digital Signage Presentation. Once you have signed up, the next step is to consider a good host to integrate into the dynamic server.

Making the most of the host 

There are many hosting solutions out there. Many have some great tools and features. There are sites that review hosts such as Picasa, Photobucket and Flickr. What can be confusing is that these sites pretty much tend to differ in where they rank these, though the three  mentioned seem to be the overall top runners. Before you start delving into the nuts and bolts of these hosts, make a list of things you want the host to do to make your blogging experience better. Some important features you should consider include

·      Ease of use
·      Tools and Organizational features (i.e. libraries)
·      Space and data limitations
·      Photo quality
·      Social Networking capabilities
·      SEO capabilities

Simple is good

Flickr, for example, ranks very highly with bloggers for being user-friendly. You can automatically post a photo to your blog by clicking the “Blog This” button. Talk about “knowing where to hit all the right buttons” a cakewalk! First, you must configure Flickr to work with your blog (You Tube has free video tutorials). This will save you the time in having to generate the appropriate HTML for the photo you with to use. Also, you would need to know the URL for the actual image, as well as for its source page. If, however, the photo is your own, Flickr provides assistance. All you do is hit the “All Sizes” button. Then for the given size of the photo you can copy and paste the HTML that will be generated under “Copy and Paste this HTML into Your Webpage” .

What a tool! 

And I mean this in a positive way! Picasa has a plethora of editing tools and organizational methods to make your blogging experience with photos very easy. Based on storage space, you can have unlimited albums with titles to help you find that image you seek in a timely manner. For example, if you wish to “humanize” your blog by showing a photo of a person, you can create an album titled “portraits” or “people”. Or you can get more specific by creating a catalogue of specific people to deliver a precise vibe, such as “athletes” or “elderly people”.  If I knew I was going to be blogging often about “meditation” as a subject, I may want to have an album of images for this subject, such as waterfalls, sunsets, or Buddha sculptures. Get the picture?
Picasa 3.9 has some amazing editing tools and let’s you post to Google+ with the push of a button. It even permits you to crop your images and  use creative filters such as vignette and duo-tone. You even have the option to add different types of borders.
There is also a great side-by-side tool that lets you simultaneously compare and edit two similar photos of the same subject. This will not only help you decide which one to use, but what editing features work best for that particular subject.
If you are a Mac user, Picasa allows you to export albums from iPhoto to Picasa, and vice versa.

Room to grow

Knowing if you will be a heavy, moderate or light user is key. Photobucket is the only host to offer unlimited storage space. If you blog often and use lots of photos, then you may want to consider Photobucket above the rest. But test those scales and put them in balance. If you only blog a few times a month, and limit your blog to one photo, you may be able to get by with another host that offers limited space you can work within, but that has tools vital to your needs that Photobucket lacks. Be sure to do your research based off your list of needs, but be sure to give yourself the room and space room to grow.

It has to look good! 

Time and time again I find myself telling clients to junk their poor quality photos for something HD quality. Your blog either promotes your business or your hobby, and image is key. If you were a realtor, would you drive up to a showing in a broken down Pinto in front of potential clients?
Picasa has a tool that permits the user to change the quality of their photos, where as Flickr can only exhibit the quality of the photo as it was originally created. Photobucket permits users to change the quality of their videos, but not the quality of photos. So if you opt for either Flcikr or Photobucket, make sure you only upload HD quality images, if you wish to convey a positive and professional representation of your site.

Build Your Audience and Control it

Some say, “a cigar is just a cigar”. Freud begs to differ (unless he is the one smoking it).  Utilizing a host with social networking capabilities will put you in front of a massive audience, and will get people talking about the catchy topics, ideas and photos you display. Integrating your blog posts to Facebook is great, but be sure to also tap into the one million fans on Flickr’s Facebook page. As the days pass, you will get a flood of traffic. This is of course a good thing, but it is meaningless if you can’t control and monitor things. In an article by Om Thoke the author stresses the importance of working with an advanced media hosting service to assist your site with all the traffic surges. This is when the Digital Signage Server becomes your best friend, and orchestrates and controls the increase in traffic you will get from your media hosting efforts.

SEO

If a site has 40 million users and over 4 billion photos uploaded, it is worth tapping into. Flickr results are heavily indexed in the search engines and they often rank above non-image links. If used correctly, Flickr can be a useful SEO tool for branding, but it is seldom used that way due to the time it takes to maintain a photo-stream in a manner that implements SEO. Every photo you upload to Flickr can be given a custom tag and description. When tagging photos and describing them, use key words that will optimize your photos. This will ensure that your photos and website will be found.  Descriptions can also link directly to your website, and will appear in Google under the link to entice online viewers, so be sure to use enticing descriptions (such as ‘is a cigar just a cigar’). Flickr also allows you to geo-tag your photos. This is a key feature to use if you own a business with a physical location. For example: if a tourist is in San Diego and the types in “scuba diving the kelp beds”, he very well may find himself on a dive shop’s website with a picture that has been given this tag.

Being active in the Flickr community is an important way of optimizing your account, both in Flickr and the search engines. There are thousands of Flickr groups where people photo-share. Posting images in relevant groups is key for proper optimization. Search for industry-specific groups to join, and start posting! Keep in mind that photos can get buried rather quickly, and depending on your account type, there are certain restrictions as to how many photos you can post in a group and how many groups your pictures will appear in. Therefore, it is vital that you move them around on a regular basis as ongoing maintenance for optimum exposure.

Monitoring the activity of individual photos and adjusting your efforts will ensure that Flickr and the search engines are finding your account and website. Remember, Flickr is also a social network. When you have a number of people following your posts, you can draw them to your website. Also, be sure you build a successful network by liking other’s works, adding remarks, and commenting on individual photo-streams within groups. These actions will make you stand out in the community.

Final Thoughts

I bet you can see all this traffic now.  Sounds great, right? Well be warned, it can be a very overwhelming force to deal with. If you are getting thousands of people to your site each day, or millions to your site each year, you might as well have had a mere handful of viewers if you can’t control the traffic and monitor effectively. Your first step should be to put yourself in good hands by utilizing the Digital Media Server to be your workhorse and to make you flourish at what you do best.