On Assignment: What's New from FreshTake Publishers
Kiwiana – Gumboots
Having almost waxed lyrical about No 8 wire, recently I pondered what would be the next comparable icon to puzzle non-kiwis. Someone drew my attention to that other staple of New Zealand rural life – “Gumboots” or wellies in the U.K. and rainboots sometimes in U.S.A. Gumboots, a work boot anything up to the knee-high are to be seen parked outside nearly every farmhouse backdoor.
Wellington boots came into being in the early 19th century being the brain child of the Duke of Wellington (of Waterloo fame). He had his shoemaker adapt the current fashionable leather Hessian boot into stronger less fancy footwear and hence after the advent of vulcanised rubber – Wellington Boot.
How did the Wellington boot morph mid century into gumboots. It may be because they were worn by the Dalmatian Kauri gum diggers as they worked on the marshy gumfields of New Zealand’s Far North. Alternatively the name may have come after the development of vulcanised rubber by a Mr Hutchinson, mid 19 century sometimes known as rubber gum or gum rubber.
This workaday item is associated with other New Zealand icons as disparate as a comic character with attendant song and cartoon strip and a New Zealand Olympic Gold Medallist.
Whilst British galas have their coconut shies, Scotland tossing the caber and USA fairs, heavy truck races, New Zealand has a gumboot throwing competition. This featured in a recent “Rural Games” where the ladies gumboot throwing competition was won by Valerie Adams, New Zealand’s world shot put champion. You never know gumboot tossing may become an Olympic sport. From an Olympic Champion to a cartoon character may seem to be a big leap but here goes. John Clarke aka Fred Dagg caricatured the New Zealand farmer and farming scene in his cartoon and stage act, Fred Dagg was always portrayed wearing a black singlet (a vest) baggy short and of course gumboots and accompanied by his floppy “dog.”
The almost anthem of gumboot enthusiasts is “If it weren’t for your gumboots where would we be” borrowed from Billy Connolly’s “If it wisnae fur your wellies,” etc, and the almost gumboot capital of New Zealand is a place called Taihape of gumboot tossing fame.
It is difficult to wax lyrical about gumboots but I reckon that they are almost as much a staple of kiwi rural life as No 8 wire.
This photo available as a Canvas Print for your Wall!
Guest Blogger - Susan Hammond
We are very excited to announce our photography products are now available at NZique (Unique l New Zealand l Gifts) in Petone, Wellington.
NZique (pronounced "en zeek") is the home of thousands of unique, New Zealand-made gifts, souvenirs and works of art. Everything sold there has been made in NZ by many different talented craftspeople and artists including us!
Each of our photos are unique and original and taken by one of us. We travel to the places (remote and urban), take the photos and then go the next step to design innovative products using our photos as the starting point. Just to emphasize it’s all done by us, look for the sign “Jen & Dave’s Photography”.
You'll find our booth in the back corner of the store. There you can find a selection of our custom photo T-shirts in a range of sizes for Men, Women, Kids and even Babies. It gives you a chance to see and touch the shirts before buying them.
We also have a range of our most popular local prints in a variety of sizes. We are offering some sizes and prices exclusive to NZique (so you won’t find them online).
Sample our very own chocolate photos at the checkout. Yes, edible photos…Yum! White chocolate is printed onto dark chocolate (55%) to produce a unique gift or souvenir. You won’t find anything else like it.
Also available are our NZ photo greeting cards. We just got in our new cards with a new selection of photos including three from Wellington, our beloved city as well as several from around the country including Auckland, Cape Reinga, Rotorua, and Central Otago.
NZique is at 154 Jackson Street, Petone, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
Can't wait to get there? Shop Online Now!
A frequently heard phrase when New Zealanders are involved in problem solving situations is “She’ll be right”. It is often said in tones of pride, alongside “Kiwi's have a number eight wire mentality”.
What is number eight wire and why does it define New Zealanders personality?
Number eight wire is a 0.16 inch or 4 mm diameter gauge wire used for years in fencing on remote sheep farms, so most farmers had roles of it on hand. They tended to use it for all sorts of mechanical or structural repairs in keeping with New Zealand do-it-yourself mentality -to mend gates, saddles, and lace boots on the spot.
Then the phrase number eight wire mentality came to be used to describe, on the spot repairs, with a system of using the nearest available materials; not necessarily the most appropriate materials.
Number eight wire might be used for first aid on tractors, spades, car doors, or making do with straw to tie jackets, and tyres to repair gumboots. All of these could be described as evidence of the number eight wire mentality!
Funnily enough, for something that was almost a New Zealand icon, until 1963, all number eight wire was imported!! Nevertheless, number eight wire came to represent the ingenuity and resourcefulness of New Zealanders.
The phrase “a number eight wire mentality” then came into being to note an ability to create or repair machinery, with whatever scrap metal was on hand (not always number eight wire).
Not only were the sheep farms themselves remote and hence a distance from commercial outlets where farm supplies could be replenished, but New Zealand itself is a distance from other countries (except perhaps Australia). Folk had to invent substitutes for goods they couldn't easily obtain, unless they imported them.
The number eight wire mentality was a perceived competitive advantage in a pioneering world, but the she’ll be right attitude often lead to compromise and making do! In the present global economy, excellence in engineering and similar fields is expected to always be better than just good enough.
Kiwis are still noted for the ingenuity and self-sufficiency, and have a deserved reputation as do-it-yourselfers!
As the number eight wire fades into folklore, what will be the new universal sticking plaster (band-aid)?
Guest Blogger - Susan Hammond
Today we begin a short series of blog posts on New Zealand Colloquialisms and Kiwi Slang. In particular their origins and meaning (we are not setting ourselves up as experts, just sharing things we found entertaining and fun). While our iconic calendars and cards and other photo presentations give a view of New Zealander’s hidden corners there are other Kiwiana (for want of a better word) which visitors to New Zealand or Kiwis might find interesting.
When Jennifer first arrived in New Zealand curious neighbours might throw a party and she would be invited to attend and “to bring a plate.” Her first reaction was to think she may have over-estimated her neighbour’s economic capabilities and to arrive at the party with a bottle and two best dinner plates. Little did she know that her hosts were expecting the plates to be filled with edible goodies such as sandwiches, sausage rolls or the ubiquitous asparagus rolls!
This habit or turn of phrase is thought to have originated in New Zealand early days (19th or 20th century) when individual homesteads were miles (or kilometres) apart and families only met for special occasions such as marriages, deaths, barn raising and cattle sales. A meal of some sort was an expected part of such proceedings and housewives would value the chance to show off their speciality, a special sort of bread or pie or cold meats.
These gatherings were community affairs with no special hosts or guests. Somehow the practice of bringing food to a social gathering has morphed into the expectations that guests will instead of perhaps offering up entertainment at a party that they will “bring a plate of food.”
Somewhere along the way the “bring a plate of food” became just ”bring a plate”.
Guest blogger - Susan Hammond
This photo of a Pohutukawa tree at the Ahipara end of Ninety-mile Beach is our January shot for our 2017 New Zealand Calendar.
Jennifer chose this picture in part because it represents the close affinity many New Zealanders have with the beach (the other reason for including it this year's calendar is that Ninety-mile Beach is a significant landmark that is often overlooked for inclusion in calendars or greeting cards). I'm sure the scene is repeated many times over, up and down New Zealand over summer; a group of friends gathering to play volleyball.
It is something many New Zealanders appear to take for granted but for Jennifer raised in the United States it is something that stands out.
As someone born and raised in the Far North I think it has less to do with taking access to stunning beaches for granted and more to do with the laid-back approach to life than many New Zealanders have and is especially prevalent in New Zealand's Far North. This leads to what I would call a laid-back appreciation of our beaches.
This laid back appreciation can provide the appearance of taking things for granted when in fact people care deeply; be it our beaches or many other aspects of our life in New Zealand. While this phenomenon is something that transcends New Zealand culture it is extremely prevalent in the Far North of New Zealand.
I say laid back appreciation because there is an invisible boundary or line, that if it is crossed by organisations or individuals, people will react quite strongly to it being crossed. Which is a sure sign that things are not being taken for granted. I think "laid back appreciation" is a moniker that fits well with the Far North of New Zealand.
Each new NZ calendar of ours always raises questions each year about the process we go through to compile photos for our calendar.
So this year we are going to do a 13 part series of blogs that takes you beyond the photos and the landscapes, and talks about the different locations chosen and the people who live in each location. And more importantly what they say about New Zealand culture and identity.
It is also going to give us a chance to showcase lots of really cool photos that have not featured on our website before.
But first a reminder
For us there are a couple rules for our calendar images; firstly, all the pictures must be originals; secondly, we must have physically travelled to each location.
This has some pretty cool implications. It means we need to travel to all sorts of different places in New Zealand. As an example, both these shots below (and used in this year's calendar) of the Hokianga Harbour in the Far North of New Zealand and Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu at the bottom of the South Island, were taken by us.
It also means by visiting different places you can pick up a vibe or a feel for a place. This is important because landscape or iconic photos are only half our calendar.
For us the writing that accompanies each photo is just as important. This is because the hundred words or so that accompany each photo is commentary about what the photo says about New Zealand culture (occasionally, we intersperse some interesting facts and figures amongst the cultural commentary). And you really can't do that if you haven't visited a place in person.
The last few blog posts have focused on SEO (search engine optimisation) and running an online photographic-based business.
One thing you will have picked out is how important it is to have good writing and to have a naming convention that matches the requirements of Google and the other search engines.
I guess the key takeaway from all this is how precise you have to be, and that search engines’ make judgments about your site based not on the quality of the images (the main focus of the search engines in relation to photos is assessing whether or not they have been compressed to speed up the time it takes for website page to be uploaded) or how great the website looks, but at whether or not you have followed their indexing and writing conventions.
I think this is one of the most frustrating things for photographers, is having decisions about a website’s quality based on whether or not you followed a particular writing and indexing convention. So unless you get the writing and indexing right, you won't rate in Google or the other search engines regardless of how good your photos are or how innovative your products are.
I guess it's a reminder that at the heart of most computing systems are based on simple mathematics (in other words, they are really not that sophisticated) and that any translation of the numerical terms into written language is going to follow this simplicity so that it can integrate with the mathematical formulas behind search engines.
This has taken a long time to get our heads around this; that the Google rankings are not a commentary on the quality of our products, be they calendars, greeting cards or canvas prints. Instead, they are a commentary on our ability to understand Google's indexing system.
And that, even if you get the writing spot on, if the other websites aren't linking to your website and in the process giving your website credibility and authority in the eyes of Google and the other search engines, your ranking will be lower than other websites that have more links to their website, even if the photos or the products aren't as good.
This leads to a very important point that is often not made by businesses that promotes search engine marketing services. Getting other websites to link to your website is actually about a whole lot of off-line relationship building (in short, getting out and talking to real people about your business).
This last point only become crystal clear to us in the last little while (not the bit about building business relationships off-line, but rather the impact off-line relationships has on building links to your website).
Getting your landscape photos to an audience in this day and age, in one sense is simpler than it used to be, but in others it is a lot more complicated than just letting people know that you have great canvas prints, greeting cards, calendars, photos printed onto the chocolate, or photos printed on the T-shirts and hoodies (and hopefully other clothing items in the future).
If you've looked at our website recently you will have noticed there are several different collections where our "Canvas prints NZ" feature. Either as a solely Canvas print focused collection or all part of a larger collection that focuses on a particular geographical location.
This has not happened by accident, one of the things we have discovered in the two years since we set up this website is the fact that people use all sorts of different search terms and that your website needs to cater to as many different search terms as is feasible so that people can find our landscape and documentary photos.
The most obvious example of this is “Canvas prints NZ and “New Zealand panorama Canvas prints”. In your mind, this may appear to be an unnecessary doubling up but to Google and the other search engines, these terms are totally different and someone using the term “NZ panorama Canvas prints” is unlikely to find our Canvas prints, if our prints are listed only as “Canvas prints NZ”.
This gives you an idea, of how precise you have to be in the language you use on your site. It is kind of scary when you make stop to think about it, that such a simple tweak of the terminology can make a big difference whether you are found not by someone using a search engine.
It is likely in the future that as well as the geographic collections that we have, that crossover between different product types, we will have specific geographic collections solely focused on a Canvas prints. This is to ensure we have a wide spread as possible.
Given we have five different product lines such as our NZ calendar, greeting cards, handmade chocolate, Canvas prints, and various clothing items from tee shirts to hoodies, you can imagine the number of variables that we need to cover off.
Believe it or not there are tens of search term variables that someone could use to try and find a calendar in NZ. It is literally mind-boggling, the array of possibilities that exist for what you expect to be a simple and straightforward search. And where you rank in these searches will depend on very subtle variations in the wording in terminology that you use and how often you use the word.
A few variations could be NZ calendar, NZ calendar 2017, calendar NZ 2017, NZ photo calendar 2017, and NZ photo calendar. It is worth bearing in mind, that if you add plurals to each of these search terms they are considered separate search terms by Google and other search engines. And that's not including the full spelling of our country instead of the abbreviated form that I've used in this example.
There was also another reason why we need to provide Google and the other search engines, and their algorithms with variations in search terms. The search engines match the terms on your website, such as “greeting cards NZ “or “NZ greeting cards” with an individual's personal preferences.
The simplest way to explain this, is that the various search engines record all your previous searches so they have an idea of what you like and what your interests are, so they will try and retrieve information that they consider will be most relevant to you. So this means that while a website will have a ranking or rating in Google or the other search engines for a particular term, it will feature in a different position for each person's individual search due to variations in their past search history.
The best way to counter a person’s previous search history is to have a higher search ranking in the search engines for a particular term be it Canvas prints NZ, greeting cards NZ or calendars 2017 NZ. This is because the higher up you are in the search ranking the more you are viewed in a search engine, as being the authority on the subject matter being searched, and therefore a website people need to visit regardless of their personal preferences.
The lower down Google or any other search engines rankings your website is, the more the individual’s search history plays in where you are ranked in that particular individual’s search. In theory, you could be ranked at 105 for a particular search term and still end up on someone's first page of their search. But this would be almost entirely to do with the individual’s previous search history and their particular slant on things rather than the search engines viewing your website as an authority on a particular subject.
In the last few days I have been talking about what you need to do to get a photographic or image-based business found online. I think what will have surprised many of you is that it's actually the writing that is more important because the algorithms that search engines use, understand and interpret the written word much better than photos.
Continuing on with that theme today, I'm going to take a look at what happens when you have a whole range of products, as in our case, where we have everything from Tee shirts to calendars as well as greeting cards and canvas prints (not to mention our handmade chocolates).
In some ways having a range of products like we do can be a bit problematic for search engines. How do you describe yourself on your homepage in your meta data when you do all sorts of different things?
Yes, we are NZ landscape photographers but we are so much more than that. Not only do we take the photos but we turn the photos into all sorts of different products that are not items you normally associated with photography, such as printing of our photos onto the chocolates or Tee shirts and hoodies. And, while we have the word publishers in our title we are not exactly a traditional publisher.
Given, there is a limited number of characters you can use in your meta data for the search engines look at your homepage. We have tried to keep everything short and sharp in an attempt to cover off as much as we can, with the limited spacing available.
We have then focused much of our energy on the individual collections or products where we can use synonyms in the meta data for our different products. We can go into far more detail for the meta data with the different collections than with our main page.
While we have been focusing on the individual collections, we have also been quite conscious of using terminology that crosses the different collections when we have been working on the individual collections. In particular, the words “photo, photos, print, print, and printing ”, this is so that Google and the other search engines get consistent information about our website.
A search engine like Google records the number of times a word and its derivatives is found on your website and the more often it is found on your website, the greater significance it's algorithms place on it. In essence, the number of times a word is found on your website is telling a search engine what your website is about.
So it is no good, to have really cool meta data for your homepage and your various collections if you don't reuse those words and terminology consistently throughout your website. If you use different words and terminology, it is likely to indicate to the search engines that your website is about something very different from what you're trying to tell it in your meta data.
When we started out, we had no idea about any of this and the importance of using these keywords consistently in our website. As an example, we inadvertently had the word “new” as our most prolific word, which meant the number known to us Google and other search engines were focusing on the word new rather than any of our products. We are now more conscious of doing this, and a lot more deliberate about what we write and how we write it.
We certainly, now make sure that we use words like photo, landscape, calendar, canvas prints NZ, greeting cards, handmade chocolate, Tees and hoodies in our text.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the word “new”, in the world of search engines and algorithms, it is nondescript and puts us at the back of a very long line of websites that talk about “new” things, when we would in fact like to join a much shorter line for NZ calendars and canvas prints NZ (nevertheless they are still long lines but definitely a lot shorter than the one for the word “new”).
In the last couple of blog posts, I talked about our experiences of starting up an online photographic business and what we've learned about getting found by search engines.
Today I'm going to talk about how the writing needs to linkup and integrate on a particular web page. While we have a range of products, I think our “Canvas Prints NZ” is probably the best example of what not to do.
As artists, we loved giving our print really cool titles. Unfortunately, calling something “undiscovered beauty” as the title of your webpage is not a good idea as we discovered.
This is because by giving our page title for this particular canvas print as “undiscovered beauty” we were now signalling to Google and the other search engines that this particular web page was about undiscovered beauty (which, when you think about it could be about a plethora of things totally unrelated to a really cool photo from an isolated spot in the Far North of NZ).
What we learned is that the title should be descriptive and easy for Google and other search engines to interpret. And that the title of the webpage should link to a term that people are searching for, such as “Canvas Prints NZ”. And you might very well ask, well why not “NZ Canvas Prints” or “New Zealand Canvas Prints”.
There is a really good reason for that; believe it or not there are more people using the search term “Canvas Prints NZ” than the other two terms and this particular search term has limited competition (you can find out which terms people searching for and how competitive it is by using a tool in Google ad words; even if you have no intention of using Google ad words to advertise I would encourage you to set up an account so that you can find out what search terms are competitive).
So by putting the term “Canvas prints NZ” in the title of the webpage you are telling the search engines this webpage was about Canvas prints in NZ.
As I mentioned in my earlier post two days ago search engines interpret NZ as being New Zealand whereas if you use the full spelling the words get interpreted as separate entities. And the words could then be separately associated with other keywords on the site (or for that matter very unimportant words that just happen to be used on a lot) and is something you want to avoid.
Secondly, after we use the term Canvas prints NZ we needed further information on the page title. So we used a geographic location. This enabled the search engines to be able to interpret a particular canvas print as being about a certain location.
Having established, the title of the page we needed to provide some information on the body of the page. Again, we were extremely naive about this, and wrote some excellent prose about a particular photo and why we had taken it. Unfortunately, this prose did not link to the title very well at all.
What we discovered is that the first few words should link back to the title of the page. Ideally, mentioning both the words Canvas prints and the location. Search engines compare the information in the title of the page with the first few lines of the page. This information needs to match up, otherwise the search engines will interpret your page as not being about what the title of your page says it is about (however good your writing is).
This will result in your page being ranked lower by the various search engines.
Not only should the first few words link back to the page title but the rest of the commentary on the page should attempt to intersperse the commentary with synonyms for some of the words used in the web page title. This is so search engines such as Google can confirm that your page really is talking what your page title says the page is about.
So, in our case we might talk about words like photos, photography, image, images, picture, shot, and shoot. If it's about a particular location, we might include any alternatives a particular location is known by.
Or if it is about a particular plant or animal we might include the Latin spelling or the Māori spelling as another sign post to the search engines that while the web page title refers to is, in fact, what the web page is about.
The big thing about adding these synonyms is that they need to be added to the text in a natural way. So that your writing flows and is not forced. If it looks as though it is being forced search engines such as Google are likely to pick up on it and lower your ranking.
This means aiming to write good-quality prose and then adding the synonyms at the appropriate times. In other words, you need to be subtle and thoughtful about it, so that anyone reading the page gets great content which in turn means the search engines will rate your information.
And you thought selling photo-based products was all about the pictures! (Trust me, that's what we naïvely thought at the start of FreshTake Publishers).