As a photographer, there are few marketing tools and tricks at your disposal quite like SEO. Search Engine Optimisation centres on more than getting a website to the number one Google ranking spot. It’s about putting you right in front of your customers, creating a regular, mixed stream of visitors, and continually boosting your online presence.
SEO does this through a number of different methods, whether that’s on-site optimisation, with things like HTML tags, or backlinking from other sites, all have the focused aim of making your website more authoritative, trustworthy and easier to locate.
The major benefits from getting SEO spot on are huge. A steady stream of interested potential customers drifting onto your site, unsolicited. All without you having to waste huge sums of cash on Pay Per Click (PPC) or any other form of marketing or advertisement. With companies spending an increasingly huge budget on digital marketing, its value is essentially proven. Name me one online business form that doesn’t thrive on a regular, reliable visitor stream? This is great for literally any online business, but for photographers in particular.
When it comes to getting your name out there as a photographer, it’s all about becoming an authority. Once you’ve become something of a go-to individual for an industry like photography, you’ve basically made it and can just start steadily raising your rates, and keeping doing what you’re doing. But till you’ve got that steady stream of clients, you’ve got to establish yourself, and SEO can be one of the simplest and most straightforward ways of going about that. No faffing about on LinkedIn, no endless cold emailing, just a consistent application of some of the key rules of search engine optimisation.
When you’re just starting out, photography is definitely one of the most daunting industries out there. The web is thick with competition, the most successful people all seem to have outrageously expensive equipment, and it can be very hard to land your first well-paid gig. You’ve read all you can about networking and self-promotion, and got yourself a website featuring some of your portfolio, why aren’t the orders just rolling in?
The answer is always going to be SEO. SEO takes into account a more technical approach to increasing web traffic, while fine-tuning your site for both visitors and search engines. SEO has the power to literally and figuratively set you aside from all the other quickly created WordPress photographer sites out there, and put your website closer to the front of the shop window.
The Basics of Photography SEO
Photography SEO as a phrase covers a wide range of refinements and methods for getting your website the attention it deserves. First, you’ve got to understand the basics of SEO. Initially, all that matters is that your site has been indexed by Google, as without this you can’t start to rank properly, the index being what Google scans through when a search query is made. Once your site has been added to the Google index database, you can start considering all the different avenues of search engine optimisation.
Google is known to incorporate over two-hundred different ranking factors into its ranking algorithm, and with this number of different factors, gauging every angle of your sites validity, value and authority, it’s simply not possible to fool them anymore. In days gone by you could simply put keywords everywhere, and other easy techniques, and expect your site to jump right to the front of the queue. Nowadays, beyond having good SEO, you need a good site. If you want to rank the top result, be the absolute top result.
Okay, that might seem a little hard. After all, when it comes to creating a new business site, it can seem very hard to match those already at the top. Combining decent website design and good value content, with a reasonable approach to SEO, can yield some pretty great results for the vast majority of businesses, and you can always grow from there. The issue with a lot of smaller business sites, photographers included, is that they don’t employ a balanced approach when it comes to their marketing, web design, SEO, advertising, self-promotion, etc. You need a balance, one that prioritises different things at different stages in your growth.
One of the first things to make a start on when it comes to your own photography site SEO is to look at what tools you’re going to employ. There are lots of different tools and software suites out there, all promising to get you to the number one position with minimum effort, however, very few deliver the standards they promise, and with the prices many charge, those aren’t nice odds.
Of course, there are several old reliables, like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, but beyond those you’re just going to have to find the SEO suites that work for you. There are a good few decent ones out there, but the best and most professional options are always going to cost you a professional price, that’s why it’s a good idea to take advantage of the many month-long free trials advertised, and just do your first couple months of SEO for free, while jumping from software suite to software suite. Some great starting points are Moz, SpyFu and AWR Cloud, all of which have either free trials or free functions to try out for your site. Bear in mind, however, that when you do settle on your software, it can cost you a fair amount on a regular basis. There are plenty of articles and reviews out there ranking some of the best and worst software suites too, so you don’t have to go in blind with a new suite, and potentially save some time on real duds.
Your Photography Site’s Technical Setup
Another initial consideration that you’ll want to take into account from the get-go is your choice of website platform. There are tons of website building tools and applications out there, much like SEO software suites, you need to go out the and find the one the works for you, but you have to take into consideration the individual platforms SEO capabilities, and what you can do with it. While it’s definitely always good to go your own way, cut your own path and all, with platforms like WordPress making up such a substantial chunk of websites out there (28% of the net, according to their site!), there’s got to be some logic behind that, and there is. WordPress is pretty great for SEO purposes from the start, and is a pretty straightforward and easy to use website building tool, perfect for any prospective professional photographer. Some other potentially useful options are Squarespace and Showit5.
Site structure is important. You want it to be easy to navigate, and for users to be able to see where they’re going with ease. No convoluted messy pages, with unclear structures. Ease of navigation and clarity is always going to be better than a gorgeous but messy page. That isn’t to say you can’t be creative and original in your structure, but keep it functional.
As a business, you need to focus your efforts as much as is possible. This means one website, with a blog within. No separate sites, no separate blogs, absolutely minimise anything that could be diluting your primary sites search engine optimisation efficacy. It’s easier to maintain one site, and it can make your aims and efforts a lot clearer and more straightforward.
Aesthetically, you should have it covered. You’re a photographer after all, so you’ve probably got a good eye for this kind of design. Remember, there’s no point trying to do something totally unheard of, innovative and original in your design. With so many websites out there, and so much money spent on professional web design, at best you’re wasting your time. Just create something easy to look at, navigate, and use. Something that displays your work professionally.
On-page Optimisation for Photography Sites
When it comes to photography websites, your on-page SEO optimisation is even more important than that of most websites. Why? Because yours isn’t going to be anywhere near as text heavy. Text and links can often prove an easier route to better ranking, but photos, used correctly can be very effective too.
The first thing to bear in mind is responsive design. You want your website to load quickly, on desktop and mobile devices, both to minimise bounce rate, and as a ranking factor. Because your site is going to be full of large, beautiful images, you want to make sure these are the minimum size they can be, otherwise your site is going to take an age to load. Think 500kb maximum per image. It should also be optimised for mobile browsing, which is of increasing importance, with so many internet users doing their browsing on tablets and phones (even more than desktop nowadays!).
Next up is keywords. Keyword research and implementation can really define your content plan and strategy. While you might not be planning on having too much text content, that’s what your onsite blog is for. Here you can target and draw in all those keyword-based searches, in a planned strategic manner.
It all comes down to good keyword research, targeting long-tail keywords, the keywords with minimal competition, and incorporating them into your content strategy. We go for the long-tail keywords, because if you look at the high-traffic options, the competition is simply too heavy for it to be worth your time. You’re better off going for more niche keywords that’ll definitely yield some traffic. There are tons of tools and software suites for keyword research, as well as checking out the competition, as mentioned earlier.
Meta descriptions are the line or two of text you see directly under a Google search. You need to include your keywords in this, same goes for your URL, as both create a relevancy signal to Google, and increase your chance of ranking highly for that particular search.
Lastly in on-page optimisation is headings. When it comes to your websites headings, use the heading tags (H1-H6). This are intended to allow you to control the layout and style of the page, but Google scans them first for keywords and topics. However, this isn’t too crucial, and you shouldn’t bother to do it religiously, just a couple of H1 and H2 tags per page should do fine.
There’s a lot online about how to best optimise website text for SEO purposes, especially for longer form blog posts, however, what do you do when your pages are predominantly image based? There are ways to make your pictures almost as appealing to Google as text!
First off, once again, you need to make sure your images aren’t huge. There are so many photography sites that are guilty of this. If you’ve got huge beautiful images all over the place, it’s going to impede your pages loading time, badly. And this is going to limit your page in terms of Google ranking. So make sure your phots are sub 500kb!
When you upload a selection of photos from the same set or event, chances are they’re going to have incredibly similar file names, bar maybe a digit or two. Change this. If you put a more descriptive filename, you’re distinguishing each image, and presenting a more varied and rich texture to your website for the search crawlers.
Alt text, meaning alternative text, is hugely important. It’s the text that Google or whatever search engine reads when looking at your image. This means you need to take special notice of how you use alt text, as it’s probably the most important way of demonstrating the varied value of your images.
Overall, you need to use a combination of the above to really utilise your beautiful images. If you fail to do one of two things, it’s no big issue, but neglect this altogether and there’s a very real risk your images, which take up most of the page, will go ignored. Finally, you should be linking thoroughly, in posts and under images to your social media.
Backlink Building for Photographers
Why are backlinks important? Well, first off, they direct users to your website from other sites. They provide a fresh route to your site, with a signal of your authenticity and value from a potentially trusted source.
This forms an authority and authenticity signal to Google, which can improve your overall ranking, and get you in that first page. Beware, however, you need to be using trusted, quality sites for your backlinking. Tons of links from low-traffic, poorly-optimised and suspect websites will get you marked and penalised by Google, so be sure to go for quality over quantity, and don’t risk penalisation. On top of that there are plenty of ways to go wrong with backlinking, but stick to the rules, and you will reap some potent benefits.
Your backlinking can be as simple as writing a couple of articles that either feature yourself, or your photos, and linking back to your site, and getting that posted on a trusted authority site. You want to camouflage the backlink with other sources throughout the article, or you risk looking like black-hat SEO spam.
Grow your Photography Business with SEO
Giving your photography website the attention it deserves in terms of SEO will always put you a cut above the competition. It defines you as someone who uses all the tools at their disposal, and shows you aren’t just creatively-minded, but technically capable as well.
What’s more, a lot of the tweaks, methods and refinements detailed above do more than get you ranking higher, they help you create a fuller, richer and more professional website. All while giving you more traffic and attention. This combination of factors is always going to see your business growing, increasing authority, and giving you that steady flow of clients that’ll allow you to put marketing to the back of your mind, at least for a little while!