Like most photographers, you probably have a website. And, like most photographers, you’re probably aware that Visitors To Website (typically) = Bookings. And, like some photographers, you’ve perhaps heard the term “SEO,” and understood it to mean The Way I Get Lots and Lots of Visitors To My Website. But what is SEO? And how do you make it work for you?
We brought in Corey Potter, the mastermind behind Fuel Your Photos, to educate us on all things SEO!
Photo by CAMILA CORDEIRO
What the heck is SEO? (And why should I care?)
If you’re a photographer, you have probably heard that you need to “improve your SEO” or some kind of similar (yet vague) advice. Maybe you understand the basic concept, or you know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but you have no idea how to improve it or even what you should be looking for. If that is you, let’s start at the beginning.
Organic (non-paid) search engine traffic can be one of the most reliable and steady sources of free leads for your business. Hundreds of people are searching for photographers in your area every single month. If your website shows up in those searches, you’ll have a steady stream of inquiries that requires very little ongoing effort.
Google and other major search engines work behind the scenes to sort all of the websites on the internet and then display results that are ranked in order of relevance. To do this sorting, they use hundreds of factors, complex algorithms, and even machine-learning to figure out which websites are the best match to the query (the words the searcher typed into the search box).
SEO is all about understanding how the search engines process and rank your website, and optimizing the site so that it gets the best score possible. It is a lot like a photographic print competition. The judges are trained to look at a set of core elements, some more important than others. When a print comes around, they consider all of those elements and then give the print a score. Google is doing the same thing to your website, and the higher you score, the higher you will rank. Just like in print competition, once you know the elements, you have a much better shot at getting a higher score.
Photo by DAVID LEZCANO
How do I know which keywords to use?
If I could only give you one piece of advice for optimizing your photography site for search engines, it would be this: Be the most RELEVANT result for the words that people are typing when they look for a photographer. In other words, you need to get inside of the heads of your potential clients and answer every question they have (often before they even know they have it).
Before you can make your website the most relevant result, you need to know exactly which words those people are using! There are two keyword templates that I have found to be universally common.
[specialty] photographers in [city], [state abbreviation] (example: wedding photographers in Atlanta, GA)
[city] [specialty] photographers (example: Atlanta wedding photographers)
Seems obvious, right? Even so, I see dozens of photography websites every week that don’t even mention these terms anywhere on their site.
Use these keyword templates as your base, and start doing some research. You can use tools like Moz Keyword Explorer, KWFinder, Ubersuggest, Answer the Public, and Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner to get more suggestions based on these keywords. Look for variations with lower competition, look for long tail keyword ideas (longer, more specific terms that get less search volume), and look for opportunities to rank for similar searches that might be part of your potential client’s research process.
For example, I have an article on my photography website about my top 7 favorite wedding venues in my city, and it gets hundreds of visits every month from people searching for places to get married in my city. They may not book me right away, but now they are familiar with my work and my brand and will recognize it when they start searching for photographers.
Photo by CAMILA CORDEIRO
I hate writing. Can’t I just let my photos speak for themselves?
Most photographers I talk to are not big fans of writing. In fact, many of them don’t even like the way that words look on their websites. I’m here to tell you that words are important for SEO (and also for getting people to hire you).
Look, I totally get it. I’m obsessed with design. I don’t want a website to be simply functional, I want it to be functional and beautiful. Sometimes the balance is hard to find.
However, as much as I love design, I’m an even bigger fan of data. I want results. The data says that having more words on your website is strongly correlated with higher rankings. For photography sites, I would say the average first result in Google is going to have between 500-1000 words. (https://canonicalized.com/rambler/)
While it is true that a picture can paint 1,000 words, sometimes adding a few contextual words before a photo can make sure that the photo paints the 1,000 words that you intended it to paint. Use words to make it extremely obvious what your website is about, and to help people unlock the meaning behind your photos. Sometimes just giving subtle hints about your style will allow people to make new connections when viewing your work. For example, saying the word “consistent” might get someone browsing your site to say “wow, these photos really are consistently great across the entire site.” They may have never had that realization if you didn’t use the word in the first place.
Remember those keywords we talked about earlier? Make sure to USE them on your website. Don’t just stuff them in to try to trick search engines, make sure to create a site that allows you to use these words naturally. You want your visitors to say “Wow, are they reading my mind?!”
Photo by CAMILA CORDEIRO
Does this or that really affect my ranking?
I wanted to give you the most basic tips first:
- find the words your potential clients are using, and…
- use those words on your website!
It would take many blog posts to write about every factor that can affect your ranking. (I have a 10,000 word SEO guide for photographers that gives a pretty good overview!) I get questions all the time about the little tiny details. Things like, “Should I change the color of my links to blue?” and, “Which day of the week should I write my blog posts?” You may have read somewhere that you need to switch your website platform or make your site faster.
Sometimes these things are important, but there is an overarching principle that I want you to understand when working on your SEO:
Always work to make your site more helpful and useful to your visitors. Be the most relevant result.
Make sure it is easy to know what your site is about within a few seconds. Make sure your site is accessible on all devices. Make it easy to find the information that people really want to find (galleries, pricing, contact info, reviews). Be sure to craft a message that resonates with your audience, and make that message exceedingly clear on your website. Use words to back up your photos, and photos to back up your words.
In the end, if you use this idea to guide your decision making, the search engines will reward you!
Header photo by Igor Ovsyannykov
Contributor COREY POTTER is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves the internet and website development. He has been a wedding photographer for the past 9 years, and in 2015 he founded Fuel Your Photos, where he helps photographers get the most out of their websites and online marketing.
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