As a photographer, you may be familiar with a lot of technical terms (such as ISO or RAW), but SEO is definitely not on that list. Or, not just yet. So what are we talking about here? I’ll try to explain it to you as simply as possible.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing your content and pages. All that is in order for your website to appear in a better position in the search engine’s results. SEO for photographers like yourself, or indeed SEO for any business that relies on an online presence is an important topic. Unfortunately, however, it’s also a rather complicated one.
What’s the Benefit of SEO for Photographers?
At its most basic level, the goal of SEO is to get to the top of page 1 of Google when a client is searching for something related to your service. If you’re a wedding photographer for example, and a newly engaged couple types ‘wedding photographer’ into Google, your website should appear as close to position #1 (on page 1) as possible.
Why is this important? Because most of our online experiences start with a search engine. If your photography website doesn’t show up in those results, you’re at risk of getting lost in the abyss of the web. More concretely, it means that new potential clients will have a hard time reaching you.
Now you understand why SEO for photographers is an absolute must.
Luckily for you, this is where we come in with some great SEO tips for photographers. So pay close attention and keep on reading. That is if you’d like to increase your ranking on Google’s results, get your photos seen and shared online, and collect more commissioned work through your online portfolio.
SEO for Photographers: Finding the Right Keywords
‘Keyword’ is a popular term that we’ve all heard. But, if you’re new to SEO you might be confused as to what keywords actually are. And why they’re so important.
A keyword, or a focus keyword as some call it, is a word that describes the content on your page or post best. It’s the search term that you want to rank for with a certain page. So when people search for that keyword or phrase in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.
Now, what you must do to identify the right keywords for you is make a list. Use keywords someone might type into the search bar to look for your work or services. For example, you may use basic keywords like “photographer,” “photography,” and “images.” Your keywords can also include your industry, niche, or even your location. You may add specific keywords like “landscape photography” or “portrait photography.” You could also use your location or city, as well as key services you offer, such as “photography shoots” or “photo consultations.”
Make a list of SEO keywords for photographers that you want to use on your site. But aim for about 10-15 keywords total! Once you’ve identified them, it’s time to include them throughout the content on your website. That means domain names, headers, footers, and on-page content.
SEO for Photographers: Use Alt text for Image Optimization
It is very simple. As search engines can’t actually ‘see’ pictures, at least for now, they check your site’s code to find out what’s on your photos. Alt tags are like descriptions for your images that allow them to understand your images and the context in which they are placed, and thus index them more accurately. Without them, your images are pretty much non-existent on the worldwide web.
Should you add alt text to all images?
No, (and) this is a common misconception. If the image exists for decorative purposes (like icons, generic, or stock images) and doesn’t carry important information, then there’s no need to add alt text.
But, here’s an important point… If an image doesn’t require alt text, the best practice is to add an empty alt attribute. This is because some screen readers read out filenames in the absence of an alt attribute, whereas most will skip those with empty ones.
Learn more in this guide from WebAIM.
SEO for Photographers: Titles Tags and Meta Descriptions
The titles and meta descriptions are the only details besides the link URL (except for an occasional preview image) that display in the search results. That is why these fields should be an important aspect of any SEO strategy.
What is a title tag?
The <title> tag defines the title of the document. The title element is required in all HTML/XHTML documents and is one of the key on-page SEO elements. It is a “meta” element, meaning that it gives information about the HTML/XHTML file, but does not appear on the page to users. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not seen by users; the title tag appears on the results pages just above the URL and also appears at the top of a browser.
They should be less than 70 characters long so the whole tag fits on results pages when it is displayed and people can read it at a quick glance.
What is a meta description tag?
Meta descriptions are like a short sales pitch or summary for the page. The goal of a meta description is to give visitors more info than the page title offers on what they can expect to read about if they click on your page in the search results. They should be approximately 150-160 characters long and, ideally, every page on your site should have a unique meta description.
A little tip: Using the target keyword phrase for the page in the meta description isn’t necessary (and isn’t a ranking factor). However, Google will highlight keyword phrases that the visitor has searched to help them navigate the search results. So if you can naturally include the target keyword phrase in the description, go for it.
SEO for Photographers: Get Exposure and Build More Backlinks
So, what’s a backlink? Basically, it is a link pointing to your site from another website. Backlinks by definition are just incoming links. So when another website makes a hyperlink to your website, they’re creating a backlink for you. The opposite holds true also, when you create a link on your website to someone else, you’re giving them a backlink.
There is only one golden rule you need to follow when building your backlinks and that is quality over quantity. One single backlink from a popular, trustworthy, and relevant website can add a lot more value than 50 backlinks from spammy, dodgy websites. Naturally, the best backlinks are the ones that come from large and/or popular websites that also fit your niche.
What you should do is invest some time into reaching out. Furthermore, build relationships that can get you mentions and features with quality backlinks.
Go for Local SEO
In general, professional photographers work mostly with clients who live near their studio or within easy driving distance. To give you the best chance of capturing the attention of those clients when they’re actively searching for a photographer, you need to know how to do local SEO for your photography website or portfolio.
Add more local information to your personal website or portfolio
Ironically, many photographers who are dying to be found by people in their area don’t have their location listed anywhere on their website! How do they think they’ll get found by their local community?
I can understand some of the excuses for being resistant to putting your personal information on your website. But, it’s still essential to list – at the very least – the region or town your business is based in and your service area. I find it funny to visit a photographer’s website and have no clue where in the world they’re located.
Use social media geo-tagging
You can use location keywords in bios and descriptions and definitely use Geo-tagging on Instagram. They allow you to check in to a place or city you are near when posting to the feed or stories. This will highly increase your chance of being found on Instagram which in turn will give Google a social proof signal.
SEO for Photographers: Optimize Your Images Before Uploading Them
If you keep your images in original sizes or high resolution and upload them like that to your website, then guess what? You are slowly killing your website, the user experience of your site, and your business overall.
Why? Because the heavier your website gets, the slower it loads for your users. Nobody is going to wait 50+ seconds for your homepage to load. The story gets even sadder when somebody tries to access your website from their mobile. It takes forever, it consumes their mobile data and they will eventually get frustrated and exit your site for good. This takes me to the next important thing.
Why Your Photography Website MUST Be Mobile-Friendly
I know some highly skilled and experienced photographers who’ve run their own businesses for years. A lot of them say, “I know it’s important for my site to be mobile-friendly, but I’ll have to get to it later. It’s just so hard and expensive – not to mention time-consuming!”
This way of thinking just doesn’t cut it anymore. Ten years ago, having a non-mobile-friendly photography website wasn’t a big deal, but times have clearly changed. Basically, if your photography website isn’t mobile-friendly, it ranks much lower on mobile search results.
Is this a big deal for you? Absolutely! How often do you search Google for something on your phone and actually hit the “NEXT” button to see the results on the following page?
Improving your search ranking can take months or years through other kinds of SEO, but converting your site to a mobile-friendly version is one of the only SEO issues you can fix in one day.
What You Can Do About It
First, if you’re not sure whether your photography website is mobile-friendly, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test here. Just enter your site’s URL, and you’ll quickly learn whether your site is considered mobile-friendly.
If it’s not, then do something about it!
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? Hopefully, you’re already buzzing with ideas to improve your search results after reading this article. Keep in mind, that most of these key topics and tactics are evergreen, so keep working and implementing them on your website, and they will pay off in the long run.