If you’ve ever wondered:
“How do I get my photography site to the top of Google?”
“Why is my photography site stuck on page 10?”
Then my new SEO for Photographers: The Ultimate Guide 2017! is exactly what you need!
I’ve been working with small businesses for over ten years now helping them to increase their revenue and drive more people to their website, but if you’re new to internet marketing or even new to photography then this guide is all you need to succeed in 2017!
By the end of this post, you will know all of the steps to build a killer ranking photography website!
Here’s what you’ll learn in each section:
Before we get started, let me know what you think about this guide on Facebook or Twitter! Or if you want to share your experiences or have a question just leave a comment at the bottom of the article!
If you’ve had any experience looking into SEO then you will know that there are so many conflicting opinions and strategies, it’s easy to get lost.
The good news is that there are multiple ways of achieving the same results!
In this guide, we’re going to look at the steps you can take to make your photography site more Google friendly and how to avoid SEO pitfalls so that by the end of this article you should have a well optimised, user-friendly site that Google loves!
By nature, photographers tend to be creative people so sadly SEO falls into the category of gloomy, boring stuff! But if you want to tap into the thousands of individuals searching for photography every month on Google then it’s one of those things that needs to be done!
There are over 200 ranking factors Google looks at when deciding how to rank a site and although we won’t go into every single on in this post, by reading this article you should have all the tools and confidence to make the right decisions on your SEO.
Domains should be short and sweet, and if possible memorable! I would always recommend including your brand name and any relevant industry phrases.
Most photographers we work with either pick their name with the word photography or some variation on a theme here.
Just be aware though since Google brought out its exact match domain update, having a key phrase as your domain is not going to help you rank!
You can buy a good domain from any of the major players; I use GoDaddy because of their support system, but there are loads of great domain registers out there.
Google likes old domains; it shows that the site has been around a while and it’s a trust thing. So just be aware that jumping from one domain to another is not the best idea.
What is a good idea though is registering your domain for as long time, it shows your committed to your brand and because Google is always trying to fight spam you might see a small boost of the back of this.
My wife will tell you that hosting is the bane of my life! There are so many bad hosting companies out there, it’s just crazy. Straight off the bat stay away from free hosting, it’s free for a reason!
The next thing here is a lot of photographers will host their blog on external sites like wordpress.org which again is not a very good idea. We want all that valuable content you’re producing and the links which are going to this content on your site.
So, for hosting we provide lightning fast hosting with both RAID and third party backups for £25+VAT a month and that comes with full support as well!
The thing about hosting is when it works you don’t know it’s there but when it goes wrong it can be the end of the world, and you’re going to need that support. We provide unrivalled support on our hosting we don’t have a call centre, and we only host for our clients.
If you want to use a larger company, then I would recommend someone like WP-Engine for WordPress sites and then for anything else something like Best Web Hosting (also known as Smart Hosting) are good.
You want to invest in good hosting because despite all the fancy plugins and services, the number one reason for a slow site is its hosting speeds!
Depending on your background and experience this is either going to be easy or quite time consuming. I would always recommend a WordPress based website to our clients. The reason for this is that WordPress is Google friendly, it’s easy to maintain and for photographers looking to blog and upload galleries it’s easy to self-manage.
There are other platforms such as Squarespace or Wix, but in my experience, you just don’t get the same functionality there, and it restricts what you can do from an SEO point of view. I’m not saying these platforms won’t rank I’ve just always found it more difficult.
Depending on what you’re looking for, there’s a great website called Theme Forest which has loads of WordPress themes, you can pick one and then install it on your site. I would recommend Visual Composer as well for editing your site as it makes it super easy and it turns everything into a click and drag format.
The price of getting a WordPress site built varies depending on what you’re looking for, but prices can start from £500 and work up to £2000. Personally, I think between the £750 to £1000 mark is more than enough for a nice-looking WordPress site.
Our sister company Creative Horizons has built some great websites so feel free to get in touch, and they can help.
Once you’ve got the right platform you need to have a think about your design. Your site needs to be practical for your users, convey the right message and drive conversions. It’s great having a beautiful website but if no one picks up the phone to call you, it’s useless!
Other than most people hating pop ups they can also have a killer impact on your SEO! Anything that blocks your users from getting to the content they want to be looking at is a bad thing. On top of this, Google is now penalising sites with too many ads!
Google has also brought out a new update penalising mobile sites that have overly large and obtrusive pop-ups. So the advice here is just to stay clear!
I know this might seem an obvious one, but you would be surprised how many sites still are not mobile friendly. Firstly, not all WordPress themes are responsive out of the box and then there is also usability which can be a bit hit and miss.
Making sure your users are getting a great experience on both the desktop and mobile version. You can do this by having a look, and there are also some tools that we will take a look and assess your mobile site, in fact, Google themselves have just revamped their mobile tools.
You should care about SSL certificates for two reasons; the first one is why wouldn’t you want to protect your visitor’s information from people trying to snoop? Secondly, there is some correlation between sites with SSL certificates and rankings.
It tells Google that you care and it also shows your users that your site is safe! They’re not free and you will either need to get one through your hosting company or your domain provider, but for £20 or so a year you can secure your site.
Once you get an SSL, you will need to put permanent redirects in to ensure people are going to the right pages. Also, you will need to make sure all your content has been saved correctly otherwise it can create SSL issues, these sometimes look like exclamation marks.
For more reading, Moz has put a great article together on SSL Certificates.
At this stage, you should have a fully functioning website, hosted on good reliable hosting. It should also look nice, be easy to use and mobile friendly. You might have also purchased a domain and purchased an SSL certificate if your domain doesn’t come with one.
It’s now time to get to grips with the tools you’re going to be using to help your site get up to help the first page.
Don’t forget to share this article if you’re enjoying it and if you have any comments, I would love to hear from you so don’t forget to leave one at the bottom of the post.
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I’m not going to lie, this is such a huge topic to cover it really deserves a post in its own right. Before you start editing your site I would highly recommend taking the time plan our your key phrases and do the necessary research. It’s going to save you a lot of time later down the line and also stop you chasing after the wrong key phrase.
The best place to start is by using your common sense. You’re going to be creating a long list of key phrases and to help you get started it’s best to start with the obvious. Things like:
Wedding Photographers Manchester
These are the key phrases that most of your clients are going to be typing in while searching for your services. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner (although it’s less accurate now unless you’re paying for AdWords) to get an idea of what’s being searched for. Alternatively, Ahrefs has a new keyword explorer which can give you in-depth analysis.
I love this one as it saves me so much time! Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush can show you where most of your competitors traffic is coming from. So take the time to peruse the first page of Google and check out your competition, if it’s working for them, it will work for you.
You can also have a sneak peek at their backlink profiles to get an idea of how much work you’re going to need to put in in order to rank!
Other than the obvious key phrases you might want to take the time to use tools like answerthepublic.com to come up with some creative ideas for key phrases. If you’re a wedding photographer, then wedding venues are also a great idea to generate relevant traffic. Other tools like keywordtool.io can also provide some unique ideas for key phrases as can Google’s autofill service, just start typing and see what comes up.
My advice is to be as creative as possible and check the search volumes to make sure they’re getting searches.
There are hundreds of SEO tools, gadgets and services out there – some I can’t live without, others are completely useless! So to make sure you don’t waste time and money, here are my essential SEO and website management tools.
This is an important bit of kit; you can’t live without it! Google Search Console allows you to manage the appearance of your site within the search engine. It will highlight crawling errors, let you know if you have any manual penalties and once your site is verified it provides an invaluable source of information. It will also show you how many people are visiting your site and the links that Google has found which are linking to your site.
Again here is an excellent article by Moz on Google Search Console.
At first, Google Analytics can look a bit daunting, a never-ending list of graphs and charts that display information you may or may not need to know, but this would be the most best SEO for photographers guide if I didn’t include it. Set up is easy enough but once you get beyond the basics, there is a wealth of information on your site there to help you.
Audience tells you about the people who are accessing your site and information such as what device they are browsing on and where they are in the world they are located. Acquisition tells you how someone came to your site, whether it be the search engine, directly to your URL or another way. Behaviour shows what users did once they got to your site and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can set up, conversions to see if people buy or contact you.
As most of the photographers I speak to are looking to rank locally, one of the most important local ranking factors are citations. WhiteSpark makes life so much easier and provides a one stop citation building tool for any local photographer. From finding locations where you can submit your NAP to finding your competitors citations WhiteSpark does it all stress-free.
If you know me personally then you will know of my love of Ahrefs, it’s the best link analysis tool on the market by a country mile! It indexes over a trillion links, and it’s updated once a day, and on top of that it’s mega easy to use. It’s great to look at your profile but also to look at other people’s links and to hunt out some new opportunities.
Majestic is a similar tool to Ahrefs, in my opinion, I don’t think it provides as much data but it’s excellent at identifying spammy links, so I use it a lot for cleaning up my backlink profile.
So here comes the most labor intensive part of this “SEO for Photographers: The Ultimate Guide 2017!”. Once your site’s set up and you’re all set with your tools and research, it’s time to get cracking making your site is as Google friendly as possible. Most onsite SEO can be done by the average photographer, if however, you get stuck there are lots of places where you can outsource the work, or if you’ve not got the time then you can outsource this whole step.
One of the fundamentals of onsite SEO is your meta information. Meta information is used to attract visitors from the search engines to your website; it’s there to generate clicks and help search engines understand the content on your page in more detail. A good meta description should be 135-160 characters in length; it should have a call to action, match your content, start with your focus keyword and be unique.
A few hoops to jump through, but a good meta title and description can make all the difference in your conversions.
Here is an excellent article on Meta information by Yoast SEO – well worth a read!
There is nothing more unsightly than complicated permalinks! Just take a look at this:
Ugly permalinks lead to lower click-through rates and, more to the point, they make it more difficult for search engines to rank your content. Always include the keyword you want to rank for in your URL and make sure you keep them tidy.
Here’s another great article by Yoast to help you with your WordPress Permalinks!
If you’re reading this and not using WordPress to host your site, then you can skip this bit!
I would recommend using Yoast as your SEO plugin of choice. It’s easy to use, easy to customise; there are tonnes of articles about it, and it will help you make the most of your WordPress site. What it and no plugin will do is do the SEO for you!
It’s not the only SEO plugin out there, Ultimate SEO, for example, is another one but I am firmly endorsing Yoast, and the free version provides more than enough information.
Google is always trying to improve its sites reliability as it wants its users to get the most relevant information based on their search patterns. So, to make sure you’re trustworthy there are a few steps you should take.
We can also make sure we’re building up trust by adding addresses and contact details across the site so Google can verify our information.
This is a major one, and for photographers, it’s a difficult compromise to make. I understand that as photographers your images are your product and you want to display those as much as possible. The problem is that images aren’t great in the eyes of Google for SEO. Google loves content, content that adds value and although images can be optimised, they’re just not a substitute for content.
If you must have an image heavy homepage, there are a couple of things you can do to help your SEO. Firstly, you can put your text underneath your large slider image thus placing your content below the fold. Alternatively, you can push content onto other pages and over compensate with copy elsewhere.
Neither of these two steps is perfect, but there must be a compromise between SEO and design sometimes.
Although social sharing is still not considered traditional SEO it’s hard to argue with the evidence that Google uses social information as part of its ranking factors. What we want from this step is user interaction!
If someone likes your content and finds it engaging, there’s a strong possibility they ought to share it with their friends and followers. This, in turn, is going to raise your profile!
To get this working, I encourage everyone to put social share buttons at the start and end of their content as well as floating share buttons like the ones on the left, just over there. This is going to give people lots of opportunities to share your content.
So if you’ve liked what you’ve read so far, please share this content now, it will mean the world to me!
The alt and title attribute (tags) describe what’s in an image, so for example, if you had a picture of a person in a field your alt tag might say “Young woman standing in a green field surrounded by trees”. The reason for the detail is that alt tags are used by screen readers to help those who are blind or visually impaired use the internet.
On top of this, Google also uses these tags to determine what an image is about so there quite important for SEO purposes. As with lots of my onsite SEO blogs, Yoast have kindly gone into a lot of detail on alt tags for us.
This one is going to be short and sweet! NO ONE USES META KEYWORDS ANYMORE!
Search engines haven’t looked at these in years and if anything, these days meta keywords stuffed with rubbish is going to harm your SEO. If you’ve got these on your site, take them off now!
If you don’t believe me, here is a post from Goole themselves on the fact that Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking!
As you’re about to read below, keyword stuffing is a no-no, but adding niche relevant or LSI keywords throughout your content is a big yes! Photography is a competitive industry and trying to rank for photography key phrases can also be difficult so overstuffing your content can get you in hot water with Google.
Instead, write the content of your site with your user in mind and use those long tail key phrases from your keyword research in your alt tags and descriptions. You can also add LSI key phrases throughout your content (phrases that are closely associated with what you want to rank for) to increase your page’s relevancy.
Some ideas you ought to look at are:
Adding more accurate lower searched for longer tail key phrases into your pages SEO is going to help here!
The use of headings in your content isn’t just for your users, although they should always be your primary motive, it’s also for Google. Breaking your content into manageable pieces make it easier for your readers to understand the flow of your content which increases reading times, and this shows Google your content is engaging.
Headings also add real SEO value to your website which is invaluable for most photographers. The size of your headings in WordPress can be controlled by your theme and added on the page editor in the back end.
The rules here are simple enough:
Following these steps will help your pages rankings and also your customers understanding of your content. WooRank explains in great detail the benefits of heading sin this great blog How to Use Heading Tags for SEO.
Although this seems fairly obvious, you would be amazed at how many people don’t do it! Linking to relevant blogs, pages or services from your post or pages can help increase your SEO for several reasons.
Firstly, we’re providing yet more useful information to our readers, and this contributes to increased engagement. Secondly, by linking to other content we’re increasing the traffic to these pages as well. Finally, linking to other content helps Google crawl these pages and understand the relationship between pages within your site, and this can also increase rankings.
So make the time to go over content and make sure it’s linking to other support blogs.
When you’re undertaking SEO for photographers its hard not to be tempted by the dark side! There are so many underhanded SEO practices out there it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking a few short cuts. The most obvious steps to avoid are things such as forcing keywords into content, using invisible text and buying links to your site – these are all things I would recommend staying away from.
We call these practices ‘Black Hat SEO’, and for most small businesses there’s just no need to go down this route to rank. You can read more about Black Hat SEO on SEO Hacker… if you dare!
The other point I want to make here is: don’t blog for blogging sake! Don’t write content specifically to try and rank for it! Make sure all of your content is written for your readers and that it includes great content, ideas and has honest opinions (a bit like this one)!
There is nothing worse than trying to read a blog post and finding it’s like wading through mud! Making your content engaging and easy to understand is going to have a huge impact on the engagement from your readers.
Use the following practices to help improve your content:
Improving your site’s readability and engagement can have a positive impact not just on your rankings but also on the levels of interaction from your readers. Neil Patel from Quicksprout wrote a really interesting article on this which is well worth a read SEO Copywriting: How To Write Content For People and Optimize For Google.
This is a super easy trick to increase your SEO and its one that I use all the time. Outbound links to pages that are relevant to your content help Google understand your page’s topic. It shows that your content is valuable, it’s almost like respect through association.
A good ratio is to try and use 2-3 links for every 1000 words you write, but just make sure you’re connecting to the right place, as the sites reflect on you.
Anyone who uses the internet will understand the frustrations of slow loading speeds! And if you’re a photographer, whether it be weddings, portraits or commercial, a slow site is going to kill your user experience.
Site loading speed is a huge ranking factor for two reasons: one, a slow site is an indicator of an unloved website, and secondly, slow speeds equal higher bounce rates, and this tells Google your content is not very good.
As already mentioned, a good host could make all the difference when it comes to site loading speeds, but there are other steps you can take to speed up your site too. Site caching is the first way, this creates dynamic HTML pages and delivers them to your browser, saving having to download the content every time they visit.
You can also use a CDN (content delivery network) for greater speeds!
There are lots of tools you can use to speed up your site such as:
If people are leaving your site quickly, it tells Google that your content is of low quality! Bounce rate and dwell time have become more important ranking factors over the last few years, and you should take advantage of them!
You can use tricks like improving your copywriting skills, increasing user interaction and encouraging people to comment on your blog, you can do this at the bottom of this page if you like, as well as making sure you put lots of calls to action across your site.
We know Google uses lots of different methods to determine site quality:
It’s clear to see that Google likes there to be strong interaction with your content so make sure everything you produce is the best it can be, and keep refining it over time!
Oh, link building, how you are misunderstood! Despite what you may have been told, backlinks are still the primary ranking factor used by search engines to determine authority. In theory, a site with more links must be more of authority but, as we know, things are never that simple. The quality of the links along with the type of links are also crucial and making sure you’re building links back to your site properly is one of the biggest parts of SEO.
Whenever you link from somewhere, a bit of code is placed on the page to generate the link. Part of that code tells the user and Google where the link is going (this is the www part). Then the second part is the anchor text (that’s the bit we click on).
To skip to the message here, I would recommend that you use your brand name (such as www.yoursite.com or Your Name) to prevent any issues with over optimised anchor text. In the past, some people have tried to trick Google by over optimising their anchor text, and this has caused problems.
For more reading, Moz Have an article on anchor text that’s worth a read!
There are thousands upon thousands of ways of building links back to your site, for social media profiles through to trade groups, the list is endless. What you want to focus on is quality!
Links are effectively votes of confidence so making sure you have them from the right people is important. Although I’m not going to list every single link type, as we would be here all day, what you want is strong contextual links to your site and content. My book “The Complete SEO Guide 2017” provides a complete breakdown on not just the types of links but also on how to build a strong link profile.
Here is an idea to get you started:
Sadly, there is no shortcut for building links back to your site, it’s something you need to plug away at over time. There are lots of things you can do to speed the process up such as guest posting and being proactive with your users, but link building is something that can’t be rushed.
One thing I would say is under no circumstances purchase links from people! This practice goes completely against Google’s guidelines and other than running the risk of a manual action it’s also highly unethical.
For more information on link building and actionable guides, I would recommend my new book on Amazon (obviously) but also these two great posts from Point Blank SEO which is one of the most comprehensive link building lists I’ve ever seen, and Moz’s Beginners Guide to link building. Both are great resources!
One of the major things about SEO for photographers is how often it doesnt quite go to plan! If you’ve outsourced your SEO to the wrong company, paid for links or followed the wrong marketing practices there’s a good chance that you’re going to have bad links pointing to your site. Google hates spam with a passion, so make sure you clean up any bad links.
Firstly, you can use your Google Webmaster tools alongside sites like Majestic and Ahrefs to look in more depth at your link profile and identify any spammy links. You should look for low-quality sites with lots of external links on them, or links with over optimised anchor text such as lots of exact matches key phrases like “Wedding Photographer Manchester”. Once you’ve spotted these links it’s time to get rid of them! You should try reaching out to the webmaster and asking them to revoke the link, though in my experience, nine out of ten times, your message will fall on deaf ears.
Your next step is to use Google’s disavow tool which basically tells Google you want nothing to do with these links.
Once you’ve done these steps it’s important to stay on top of your backlink profile and clean through it every now and again.
Here are some great resources to help you with this
Clean up your bad backlinks by Yoast
SEO for photographers is more than just performing a one-off optimisation of your website! Once you’ve completed the above steps, you should now have a well built, well-optimised site which is gradually generating back links and moving up the rankings! Well done you, you should be proud!
But, the job isn’t finished I’m afraid, you need to look after your baby and make sure it’s performing as expected.
If you’re using WordPress, it’s important to make sure your site is being updated regularly. Themes and plugins are regularly updated and other than making sure you’re using the latest versions it also protects your site, as out of date plugins are one of the main ways that your site can be hacked.
On top of that though, you will want to go through your content and make sure that your pages are up to date with the latest trends and topics. If you’ve produced some content a year ago and a new product or service has come out then it’s important to go back to that content and update it! This helps to keep your content fresh, to show Google the site is being updated and it also helps you to stay relevant with your readers.
If you’re serious about looking after your site and developing it further, then at least once a month I would recommend going through your site and doing housekeeping.
This for me includes:
This general maintenance is going to make sure your site stays healthy and doesn’t fall foul to any bad link building and so on. It also means you can check over time how your pages are performing and tweak things to make sure you get the best from them!
I hope you enjoyed my “SEO for Photographers: The Ultimate Guide 2017!” As you can see, there are lots of things that you as a photographer can do to make sure your site is optimised and generating you serious inquiries. If you’re not already using SEO to help your business grow, now this best time to start! If it all seems a bit daunting and you feel like you want more support, you can subscribe to our newsletter where I will be announcing my latest seminar dates very soon, or give us a call to discuss our exclusive SEO services.
The last point I will leave you with is that search engines are more and more looking for quality and value from the sites they are indexing. SEO is now no longer about keywords, it’s about experiences and bringing something new to the table!
Build something amazing and people will come to see it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, if you have then I would love it if you shared it on social media and left a comment below. Let me know what you liked and if I’ve missed anything out. I look forward to sharing some more amazing SEO tips and news with you soon!