What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is your photography website's ranking within Google, Bing, and other search engines. This is a complicated system that is basically a grade of how relevant your website is to different search keywords. There are many factors that go into determining your Google rank, but the two most important factors to determining SEO is content, and backlinks. This post will focus on content, and we'll talk about building backlinks in the next post.
Why does SEO matter?
When potential clients search for photographers in your area, Google will list the sites in order of their ranking, meaning the better your SEO, the more clients will find your site when they're looking to hire a photographer. If you're a wedding photographer in Miami, you would want to rank higher for search terms like, "Miami wedding photographer". In short, better SEO means more clients. Here are 5 steps to improving your SEO for your photography website or blog.
1 - Keyword Targeting
Keywords are the search terms that you want to rank well in, and the most important thing to consider when working on your site and blogging. Targeting means choosing specific keywords to your business, such as wedding, portrait, boudoir photography, etc, plus your geographic location. The more specific you get, the better. It's very hard to compete in big picture search terms, such as "Florida wedding photographer", but much easier to rank high in local, relevant searches like "Lake County farm wedding photographer". These are called long-tail search keywords. Targeting longer, more specific keywords means more qualified leads that are more likely to hire you. Thousands of people might search "Florida photographer" every day, but of those maybe on a few would be interested in wedding photography in Lake County, but it's very difficult to find them amongst all the other sites related to "Florida photographer" on Google. A targeted keyword ranking will lead those clients right to your site and make it much easier to book them.
Researching long-tail keywords
So how do you know what keywords to target? Luckily, Google provides a fantastic free tool just for that. Google Keyword Planner is your new best friend. Create your free account and select "Find new keywords and get search volume data". In the first search box, type the type of photography your business offers, such as "wedding photography". Next, select "Targeting" and change "U.S." to your local town/targeted market. Then select "Keyword Filters" and select "Competition: Low" and "Keyword Options" and check "Only show closely related ideas" and hit get ideas. Under the graph, switch to "keyword ideas." Here's what this all looks like:
These are my search parameters. Notice I'm targeting my genre of photography, my location, and low competition, relevant searches. This will give me the following results:
2 - Interpreting the results
As you can see, the search returned a lot of similar keywords, ranked by "relevance". The column we care the most about here is the "Avg. monthly searches," as a higher number means more potential clients if we target and rank well with that keyword. You can see I highlighted the best result here, which is "Fine art wedding photography". This would be a fantastic keyword to target with a score of 260 and low competition in my area. Using this data, my Targeted Keyword would be "Fine Art Wedding Photography - Clermont, FL". We know a lot of people in the area are searching for this each month, but the competition is low, meaning it will be easy to rank high with.
3 - Repeat
Now we have 1 great keyword search, but we need more. Using the above process, try to come up with 10 keywords to use for your marketing. Try combining different locations, any other types of photography you offer, and look for other adjectives that fit your work, like "vintage" or "modern". Why do we need multiple keywords? Because Google will notice if you are spamming specific keyword phrases across your website and overusing them for SEO benefit and will actively punish your rankings for doing so. You have to use them in a natural manner, and you also want to compete in any available keyword phrases to maximize your SEO and the number of clients you attract.
4 - Implementing your keywords
Now that you've got our keyword, it's time to start using and ranking higher in them. There are a number of ways to utilize targeted keywords, and it's best to use them all to increase your rankings as a whole with Google. Here's a list of ways to implement your keywords:
Your website title is the best place to use your main keyword, with your business name on the end. So using the search results above, a great site title would be "Fine Art Wedding Photography - Clermont FL - David Childers". Since the site title is one of the most visible and important aspects of your website in Google's eyes, this is a great place to put your main targeted keyword. Every page published on your site will show this in the headline for the search indexing, meaning it will get reinforced every time you post a new blog post, etc. Note that site title is different from your URL, if you aren't sure how to change your site title, here are guides for Squarespace and Wordpress.
The next great way to use keywords is in your blog post titles. I like to combine keyword results with specific venue names. "Sansuci Farms Vintage Wedding Photography - Couple Name - Clermont FL" is a great blog title because it targets the venue, the adjective based style (which always ranks well in Google), and your location.
Image alt tags are not fun to type, but they are a powerful way to embed keywords into your blog posts. Don't just copy and paste the same phrase for every image though, but name them descriptive names with elements of keywords you want to target in them. For a wedding blog, images might be named things like "Sansuci Farms Vintage Wedding Shoes", "Sansuci Wedding Photography First Dance," etc.
Image file names
I resize and rename my blog images during export using Adobe Lightroom. I set them to a broad keyword search like "clermont_wedding_june_1.jpg" since I get more specific with the alt-tags. This creates synergy without looking like keyword spam to Google.
5 - Blog Regularly
Your blog is your most powerful tool for connecting with clients and ranking well with Google. As mentioned above, every blog post is a potential to target specific audiences nearby that are looking for your services, so keep a regular schedule for blogging and make the most out of it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when publishing new blog posts for your photography business:
Most photographers don't include enough text with their blog posts. I see far too many blog posts that are just 50-100 images with a simple one or two sentence description at the top of the page. This is BAD. Google values relevant text higher than a bunch of images. I recommend at least 500 words for each post to make the most out of keywords and to look better for Google's rankings. It may be hard, but it's worth it. If you're struggling to write enough, talk about the planning of the shoot, other vendors that helped, your subjects, or technical things that may be of interest to other photographers that are visiting your site. The more you type, the more expertise you exhibit and the better you can connect with your ideal clients.
A blog post with 10-15 great images, the appropriate amount of text, and smart keyword usage is going to be a lot better for your audience and your Google rankings than a post with 75+ images. Being able to cull down to your best work is important for every aspect of running a photography business, and that's no different with blogging. Similarly, put the time in to make each blog post great instead of trying to put out a lot of posts. 1 great post will benefit you more than 10 mediocre ones.
Have a schedule
Even if it's only one post a week, try to make a habit of blogging and doing all of the boring technical stuff until it becomes a habit. Google doesn't give much weight to frequency of posting, but regular posting will create great habits for your business such as staying in touch with local search trends and client desires, as well as showing your clients that you are active. Regular posting will also keep your site rising in search rankings if you follow everything you've learned here.
Did these tips help?
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