What is SEO?
Quality Traffic: You want to ensure you are attracting people who are genuinely interested in what you offer.
Quantity of Traffic: Once you are attracting the right people to click through to your website, now you want to attract MORE of those people.
Organic Results: You can generate a lot of traffic to your website from paid adverts. However, SEO is about attracting organic traffic i.e. traffic you don’t have to pay for.
Why is SEO important for photographers?
Think about when you’re searching for a product or service. How many pages of results will you generally click through? If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t get past page 2. In fact, in most cases less than 2% of searchers make it to the third page of results on Google. That’s why it's important to get as far up the listings as possible, and preferably to page 1 of the results for your key search words and phrases.
How do Search Engines work?
Once your website is indexed, it can then be ranked, in other words, how high up the search results it appears. Google uses over 200 factors to rank your website including things like site speed, whether or not it’s mobile-friendly, its similarity to other websites and the quality of your content.
If you want to rank the best, you've got to be the best
- Is my website 10 times better than other sites that currently rank on the first page for my keywords?
- When someone visits my website from a search engine, can they find all the information they need quickly and easily so that they feel they don’t need to visit any other websites?
- When someone lands on my website, is it instantly clear what my website is about? Like I’m talking within 2-3 seconds. Ask someone who doesn't know you/your business well to look at your website and tell you.
- Is the website easy to navigate? Is it mobile friendly? Does it load quickly? Can important info be found within a few clicks? Is it obvious what the "next step" is for them to take?
- Does my website portray me as an authority in my industry? Would visitors trust the information they find?
- Is my website all about me or am I putting my client first? Am I showing them how I can help them? Am I addressing their concerns and "objections" that may prevent them from taking the next step?
Action Plan for Getting Started with your SEO
- Nail your keywords
- Put your keywords in the right places
- Get Linking
- Create great content
- Quality website
- Google My Business
- Tracking using Analytics
- Further Reading
1. Nail your keywords
What words and phrases are people not likely to search for to find you?
To start with, create a list of core search words.
What type of photography do you do?
Write down all variations of it e.g.
family portraits, family photographer, family photography, family photos, family photo studio
Where are you located?
City or Town
Nearby cities or towns
Nicknames or abbreviations for your town/city/county/state
Using this info, there are 2 patterns that tend to work well for photographers according to this highly detailed and useful resource: https://www.fuelyourphotos.com/seo-for-photographers
[city][type of photography] photographers
e.g. houston family photographers
[type of photography] photographers in [city, state abbreviation]
e.g. family photographers in houston, tx
You can use free tools like mergewords.com to compile a list with the variations based on your core words.
When you’ve created a list of keywords, use a tool like moz.com to see if people actually search for them, and check the monthly volume for them. After all, there’s no point optimising for keywords that nobody searches for!
When using moz, it’s a great idea to check out high volume keywords that aren’t necessarily linked to your photography but may be very much related. For example, say you’re a wedding photographer based in Yorkshire and you see a high volume search for “wedding venues in yorkshire”, why not write a blog post about the top 10 wedding venues in Yorkshire. People looking for wedding venues may also need a wedding photographer so you’re putting yourself on their radar by offering valuable information for something they are interested in right now.
2. Where to put your keywords
Think of your page title as your shop window. Your page title will show in 3 key places making it super important for SEO and clickability. It shows in 1) the tab of your browser, 2) as the main title in search results and 3) as the headline of a shared link on social media.
The title should describe the content of that specific page and make people want to click on it. You need to try and incorporate important keywords but bear in mind that you should stay within a character limit of around 55-60 characters.
An example of a page title for the home page of a Family photographer in Houston could be:
“Jane Coe Photography: Family Photographers in Houston, TX”
An example of a page title for our wedding venue blog post example:
“10 Best Wedding Venues in Yorkshire”
While not used for ranking by search engines, it’s still very important as it will help searchers determine if the content is relevant to what they’re looking for and likely to answer their question or offer the solution they need. It’s the text that appears under the title and link of a search result. Because it isn’t used as a direct ranking factor, there’s no need to stick it choc full of keywords. Instead, describe in clear, plain language what the content of the page is about that will make the searcher want to click to visit it.
Headings are designed to signify topics so are often looked at by search engines as indicators of the page content. There are various heading sizes with <h1> being the largest so it’s recommended that you use one of these at least on each page. You can use other headers like <h2> and <h3> for sub topics within the page.
It may be tempting as a photographer to avoid using much text on your pages and instead cram it full of beautiful photos. However, body text is important for SEO. Be careful to not just write text solely for the purposes of the search engines though – keep it natural and fairly concise. You don’t need thousands of words on every page but aim for around 400 to 800 words on your most important pages.
ALT text stands for Alternative Text and is used for accessibility. If someone has images turned off or is using a screen reader, the alt text is what will be shown or read instead. So your alt text should describe the content of the image and is a great place to include keywords. Alt text is also displayed on Google’s image search and when an image is shared on Pinterest, so bear that in mind too.
This isn’t a highly important factor for search engine ranking so don’t spend hours giving unique filenames to every single image you have on your website. However, keep it simple, and if showing images from a photoshoot, use a common name with a number suffix. For example, a senior photoshoot taken in 2 locations could be named using 2 sets of image filenames like:
and so on.
It’s easy to do this exporting from something like Lightroom.
3. Get Linking
It’s worthwhile to work on getting some good quality backlinks. Backlinks are basically any link from an external website to yours. The key here is quality over quantity. A good quality backlink from a popular, relevant and trustworthy site is worth far more than 100 links from dodgy websites. You can also link out to other websites which can result in further indexing of your website by the Search Engines.
- Connect with other vendors: If you’re a wedding photographer, reference the work of the other vendors involved in your blog posts. Post photos, reference the company, and link to their website. Linking out using a strong keyword will also help boost your SEO. Often you’ll find that they will be happy to return the favour on their own blog or social media. Some vendors may even ask if they can use some of your photos that feature their work. Just make sure they credit, tag and link back to your website.
- Get Social: Suss out social media groups or other relevant online forums. Engage with the people, be genuinely helpful, and offer your opinions on things people ask about. Drop the odd link to your website here and there if it feels right to do so, but don’t overdo it or you’ll just look spammy.
- Get Featured: Could you get yourself featured on a prominent online platform that is widely used for your particular niche? Or maybe an online magazine that is well respected and has a good following?
- Use your own social media: Don’t forget to include your web address on all your social media profiles – they count as backlinks too.
4. Create great content
- Do write for the reader, not for the search engines. Make it engaging, interesting and fun. Use simple, natural language that is easy to read.
- Do Think About a Good Title. Try to come up with a great title that will make people want to find out more. If you can include an important keyword in there too, all the better, but don’t feel like you have to.
- Do use your own language – be yourself. Don’t copy from other blogs or try to be someone you’re not. Stay true to your personality and allow yourself to have a bit of fun with it. People who connect with the true you are way more likely to become great clients.
- Don’t stuff it full of keywords. As I said before, search engines are way too smart for that and can penalise you for being “spammy” if you overdo it or are blatantly using keywords for the sake of including them.
- Do reference other vendors that may have been involved in the photoshoot – particularly useful for wedding photographers as there are so many vendors involved such as flowers, venues, cakes, dresses, groomswear etc. It’s a great opportunity to create backlinks with these vendors. You can also ask them to link back to you too – they may love the opportunity to show some of your images that feature your work and credit and link to you. A great opportunity for linking and further exposure.
- Do use your Headings wisely to structure your post and boost your search engine ranking.
- Don’t forget your image naming and alt tags
5. Quality Website
When I say you should have a “quality website”, what I mean is a website that:
- Loads quickly
- Mobile Responsive
- Easy to navigate
- Provides good content that interests the user
- ... and of course it should look good (you are in the visual business after all)
Optimising images (critical for photographers in particular who tend to have image rich websites. Make sure you compress them into the smallest possible file size that doesn’t compromise too much on quality. If you can’t do this through your imaging software such as Lightroom, you can use free online tools such as tinypng.com
Every year more and more people are using their mobile devices to browse the internet so it’s absolutely IMPERATIVE that your website looks and functions well on a mobile device. If not, users will simply leave your website and look elsewhere.
6. Google My Business
8. Track using Analytics
There are also some cool tools like HotJar that allows you to create heat maps of people scrolling and clicking and also short videos to track what people do when on your website. It can help identify problem areas, where people are getting stuck or leaving your site.
9. Further Reading