SEO for Photographers and Photography Websites
Every once in awhile I’ll add an article to answer questions for specific industries that require a custom take on the concept of search engine optimization. Recently I addressed the SEO needs of artists and art galleries, and local travel companies. Note the theme here? Like the aforementioned, photographers function outside of the cut and dry rules of online marketing, within a colorful industry where SEO is a grey area. Most SEO firms don’t know how to tackle the unique requirements that will set photographers apart from their local competition. Because of this, photographers have received generic advice and had their websites inadequately optimized to no client-acquisition avail. Are you a photographer looking to enhance your online presence yet remain confused about the path to take? Read further to find out what your website needs to succeed in your specialized field.
5 Tips for Photographers Looking to Improve Their Website Rank on Search Engines
1. Keywords Are for More Than Text
You know that your website titles (hidden SEO title tags), h1/h2/h3 headings (visible headings that define pages and paragraphs on your site), and editorial content needs a healthy injection of semantically relevant keywords for respective pages to rank well on Google. Any SEO you may have consulted with has probably mentioned this. That’s great, but that’s only the half of it when it comes to keywords and your website’s content. As a photographer, your most important site content is your photos. The ones you display on your web pages and within the online portfolio section. These images, everyone of them, must be optimized for a variation of the keyword terms you hope to rank well for. This includes not only using keywords to describe the subjects within the image, but to describe your business and the location where which you serve your clientele.
For example, a wedding photographer should not just optimize a photo using a keyword phrase such as “bride and groom cutting cake”, they should optimize it using a keyword string that includes “wedding photography in (city)” with the “city” portion signifying the area they serve.
So where do these keywords for images go? Within the following:
- Image File Name – This occurs when you transfer and save the digital file of your photo to your computer. Don’t leave it as “IMG182737.jpg” (example), save it using the keywords (separated by a “-“) that are both relevant to the scene depicted in the photo, as well as the ones you want to rank for, such as “waikiki-beach-wedding-photography-honolulu.jpg”.
- Image Alt Attribute – Once your image file is ready to be uploaded to your website, the backend content management system (CMS – likely WordPress for most photographers) will display an edit function with text boxes asking for the “Alt Text” (alternative description, essentially) attribute. Fill in text that describes the image, such as ” Waikiki Beach Wedding Photograph”.
- Image Title Attribute – Your CMS will also display a text box asking for the “Title”, which is where you enter the more explicit keywords that you hope to rank for, such as “wedding-photography-honolulu-oahu-hawaii” (I recommend using the “-” between words in image titles).
2. Kill the Bounce Rate with a Killer Landing Page
A high bounce-rate of visitors arriving on your web pages will send your site packing to the back of search engine results. People searching for photographers online know exactly what they want to see when arriving on your web page. They are expecting a home or landing page that is rich with attractive high-resolution imagery (e.g. attractive header featuring your work), clear headings that tell them that they’ve found what they are looking for (e.g. “Wedding Photographer Serving Honolulu”), an easy to identify menu that encourages easy navigate from page to page on your site, and a highly-visible call-to-action (e.g. two-step contact form) that allows them to immediately contact you if they like what they see. Deliver ALL of this, and your visitors will stay on the page (and your site) longer. Google recognizes how long visitors stay on your site after clicking-through from a keyword search. If Google logs that most users quickly leave after clicking-through they deem your site to be of low value and will promptly drop your site from the top of their search rank. Do all that you can to keep organic visitors on your site from the first moment they arrive.
3. Your Visitors Expect Your Site to be 100% Mobile, so Does Google
On April 21/2015 Google rolled out its revolutionary mobile search rank algorithm update. From that point on, websites that are 100% responsive (appear and function perfectly) to all commonly used smartphones and tablets will enjoy a better chance at ranking for keyword terms over their competitors with websites that are not fully responsive to the same. With over 50% of all web traffic expected to come from mobile search this year and the next, an improvement (or drop) in mobile search rank will have a major impact in your photography business’ ability to acquire clients online.
4. Use Your Greatest Resource to Build Inbound Links
Search engines look (and log details accordingly) at how many high-value websites are linking back to your website. The more that do the better for your site’s rank because search engines deem your website to be an industry authority with so many online resources referencing your content. Building this natural backlink profile is hard. Only those sites with interesting, informative, and engaging content can earn these links without outright soliciting them. This is where being a photographer really works in your favor. The nature of what you do provides you with a ton of backlink building ammunition because every online writer, columnist, and blogger out there is searching for images that they can use to complement their own articles on a daily basis. You have what they need. While it is second nature for photographers to be extremely protective of their work, it is strategic genius to set aside a healthy database of your original photos to use as link bait. Create a secondary portfolio page (photos that didn’t make your “final cut” perhaps?) with images containing copyright details allowing other sites (based upon criteria dictated by you) to use this work as long as linked attribution (to your website) is provided.
5. Social Signals Are Very Important to Photographers
An industry leading analysis of local search engine ranking factors shows that social media signals indeed have an impact on your website’s ability to rank well. I guarantee you that for online photographers, social media as a ranking factor is even more important. You must maintain not only a strong Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn presence, but also grow your exposure on visually-driven networks including Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Maintain a “brand” profile on all seven of those networks, post great content daily, engage others (like, share, and comment on their content) to earn reciprocal likes/shares/comments/follows and pretty soon these social cues will send the right signals to search engines.
Lastly, at the risk of sounding like I’m dropping a sales pitch on you, it is important to note that you should not attempt to launch your new SEO campaign alone. As an expert in your field, focus (pun intended) on what you do, and allow an expert in SEO to focus on what they do, for you. Contact me, anytime.