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Keeping Your Website Real

Recently, Chris, from Design4Real.net, and I ventured down to Posada Yum Kin Hotel in Tulum, Mexico to work on their next web update. It has been a little over a year since images and content throughout the website have been updated, so once again, it is time to refresh everything.

Our trip went smoothly with a nice flight down, easy transfer over to our rental car and a fun, but relaxing 2-hour ride to Tulum, Mexico. Chris and I love working with Dan and Balvina, the owner’s of Posada Yum Kin. They are creative entrepreneurs that have stuck their heart and souls into this little piece of heaven and it is slowly, but surely paying off for them. Posada Yum Kin in the last year has consistently ranked at number 7 or above in Trip Advisor in the Tulum area.

The hotel, as always, was pristine and perfect. As a special treat, Dan, the owner, had placed us in their best suite, The Kinah (#7). It is a huge, oversized-suite with 1 king-size and 1 queen-size bed. It is the perfect room to be able to ‘live’ and work at the same time. Chris and I were happy to make it our ‘office’.The Kinah -Suite # 7

One of my favorite things to do while staying at PYK, is to visit with the guests. Besides great conversation, I always discover new insights from them. While chatting with recent visitors, Bob and Susan, from Whidbey Island in Washington State, Bob commented that our website images ‘fairly represented the hotel’. Well, of course, I thought “Shouldn’t they always?” What his comment pointed out to me though was that this should be a main focus, as it is a major concern for all travelers buying online. As Bob said “It’s disappointing to get to a hotel only to find that the images are either far out of date or perhaps appear a bit fake.”

As always, working onsite at any hotel is a fast-paced, multi-tasking challenge.  As Chris got comfortable with some initial shots of the property, I worked with Dan and the hotel staff on some issues like property management system implementation, training and work coordination.  As a small hotel, working efficiently takes a team coordinated effort to meet and track guest requests and keep things running smoothly. Our time went quickly.Jennifer and Manuel

With a small hotel like Posada Yum Kin, making every single peso count is key. One of our greatest challenges has been creating professional-quality images. How could we find models that fit our budget? Could social media help? I thought so and decided to test out the theory. I’ve been reading and writing on several of the local Riviera Mayan forums and found a very active online community. Starting with a simple post on a forum looking for people that would be happy to be included in our photoshoot for a very nominal fee, I was delighted to find travel blogger, Jennifer and, professional portrait photographer, Manual Salazar to sit as models –just for fun.

Jennifer and Manual, two ex-TV professionals, have a great story, which can be found on Jennifer’s blog “Bi-Coastal Living“. Describing themselves as a combination of expats and vacationers to the Riviera Maya area, they are a light-hearted, inspiring photographic and content-creating team that is bound to thrive in this entrepreneurial area. Their portrait portfolio quality far exceeds any that we have seen. Art Director, Chris Schudy from Design4Real.net said “Manuel and Jennifer’s work is some of the best I’ve seen. It beats some of the portfolio’s of the Fortune 100 companies that are out there right now.”

The day of the DIY photoshoot with Jennifer, Manuel and several guests was beautiful and went off without a hitch. Chris got some great shots that included ‘real-life’ pool shots with Jennifer, Posada Yum Kin’s massage therapist, Elvira and even the personal taxi driver, Artemio. Our goal of updated images was realized with Chris’ great new perspective.

The next day, we headed home and are working now to select the best images, ready them for online viewing and insert them in the site. It’ll be a week or so, but PYKTulum.com will have a facelift very soon. Watch for it!

Image Basics for Bloggers

Attract their attentioncamera and scanner for use in blogging

When it comes to blogging, we all know that it takes great content to attract attention. Part of this is the written content, but just as important part are the visuals you find to support your words. Yes, the secret is in the pictures. Adding just 2 images can increase the time someone stays on your blog by up to 300%. This happens because a person’s eyes are drawn to the photo and they study it. If the photo is good enough to attract their attention, then they are more likely to read the content.

Keep it simple for the web

The two nicest things about using photos on the web is 1) aesthetically, they do not need to be ‘photo shoot’ quality and 2) by file-size standards, they can be small, low-resolution images.

What do these two things mean to you? Not needing to hire models, hire a dedicated professional photographer and buy props will save you thousands. Thousands you probably wouldn’t want to spend anyway. And by being able to save your images at a small file size, lower resolution of 72dpi (dots per inch), allows you lots of flexibility. But again, what does that all mean? It means that you can practice, practice, practice on your low-cost digital camera, smart phone and scanner then quick and easily post them to your website and blog.

How to pick an image?

To choose an image, you really just need to tie the writing and the topic together. I do that by closing my eyes, thinking ‘big idea’ and seeing what comes to mind. A 30 second brainstorm. It usually works and my first impressions are usually the best ones.
Simple doodles, scanned on a low-cost scanner, and household items, taken with a digital camera, make great fodder for blogging images. Here are some examples based on topic:

  • Confusion, use a quickly drawn question mark and scan it
  • Buy Local, take a quick shot of your dad or uncle farming
  • Strategy, take a quick shot of Monopoly, or your favorite boardgame pieces
  • Sustainability, take a picture of your recycling by the curb
  • Planning, scribble out a ‘flow chart’ on a scrap of paper and scan it

See! That wasn’t so hard, was it? Keep it simple. That’s what works for blogs. Just tie it in to your topic and you’re all set.

Then what?

After you have your images, you can save them at 72dpi, which is usually a default setting on your camera (lowest quality). I suggest for the first few months of blogging you take lots of pictures and label them with keyword(s). Put them in a folder labeled for images that you created (and own).Blog Library

Pay attention to events you may attend for that perfect photo opportunity. For added impact, give your camera to friend and have them take some pictures of you, the author. Little by little, you’ll perfect your skills and build that perfect blogger’s library.

Next week. Finding free and legal images –online.

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