SEO for photographers. 8 ways to be found on the internet in 2019.
Isn’t it frustrating when your photography is amazing, your website looks brilliant, your customer service is top-class and workflow is smooth like silk; but nobody knows about it! Then you check your competition, who really aren’t as good as you, and they’re winning work! Trust me, I know how annoying it is.
The problem is, while the internet is literally your worldwide shop window; there’s also millions of other photographers, all with their own shop windows vying for people’s attention. Search engines help people find what they’re looking for, and there are people out there right now searching for exactly what you have to offer, but they still can’t find you; because if you don’t appear on the first page then you may as well not appear at all. The difference between you and your competition isn’t that they’re better; it’s that people can find them.
So what can you do about it? How can you get yourself to the top of search engines and in front of your customers? Well, you have to optimise for them with a process called Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. So let’s go through some real, actionable SEO strategies you can employ to optimise your photography website and get yourself found by the right people.
Let’s start on Google to show you what I’m talking about. When my old psychology professor was about to say something important she wanted us to remember she would say, “highlighters out!”; meaning we had to write down and highlight what she was about to say. So, “highlighters out”, you have to be very clear about the type of photography you actually do and the area you want to be found in.
Highlight moment 1: Be very clear about the type of photography you do and the area you want to be found in.
It’s going to be nigh-impossible to be found if what you do and where you operate is unclear. For example, I provide portraits, commercial and baptism photography in the town of Busteni in Central Romania. So let’s see what happens when someone searches for these things in Google. I cleared my search history and cache to avoid bias, and then typed a variety of things pertaining to what I do and where I’m located.
Search result: ‘portrait photography busteni’
Search result: ‘commercial photography busteni’
Search result: ‘photography studio busteni’
Due to SEO optimisation, Prime Photographic appears prominently when searching for everything we want to be found for in Busteni.
Take a look at this short paragraph here.
You can see the words in bold are the ones that have led Google to me. We’ll get into that in a moment. First I want to show you these listings.
It’s very important to get yourself registered with Google so that you appear on the search engine as a listing and on Google Maps like this. To do this, search ‘google my business’, and complete the sign-up process. Once you’re done, you’ll get one of these nifty listings with this verified tick, which means a lot to potential customers as it shows you’re legit; but it’s also imperative to get this listing optimised and working well for you.
This post is more about your website but I will give you a few actionable points for this so, ‘highlighters out’…
Highlight moment 2: Upload pictures that best represent you and don’t use old ones. Encourage people to leave reviews. Post regularly and in a consistent style so people can see you’re active and get a feel for you before they even reach your site.
So let’s look at this short paragraph, specifically these words in bold and go into where you should type them. This all depends on which website platform you use. I use Squarespace, but there should be equivalent places to enter this information on other platforms. You are going to hear me mention Squarespace a lot simply because it’s the platform I use and know well.
So let’s start with site-wide SEO. In Squarespace I go to Marketing > SEO.
What you enter into these fields is for your whole site in general, and if you look at that short paragraph on Google you can see it appear there. So, ‘highlighters out’, have a good, long think about what you want to put here, and then don’t keep changing it. Every time you change it, you only make it harder for yourself to be found.
Highlight moment 3: Think very carefully about what you put as your site-wide meta description. Don’t just put a list of keywords because this text needs to include what you do, but also convince people to click on you.
And don’t just put a list of keywords because, it’s one thing to show up like this, but this text also then needs to convince people to click on you. This is your first impression to the world, so you have to be smart an include all the keywords that relate to your business in a way that makes sense and reads well. Just including loads of keywords is called keyword-stuffing and actually hurts your chances of being found, because search engines will include you in search results if they determine that you match the intent of the user, so include all keywords in a natural, unforced way. You can see you get about 2 lines before it cuts off so make them count!
I compose mine like this…
“We are a photography studio in Busteni, Romania specialising in commercial, portrait and event photography. Our services include professional studio and outdoor portraits, ecommerce, baptisms, weddings and concerts. Looking for a reliable photographer in Busteni, Prahova who also serves Brasov, and Sinaia? Look no further!”
I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s working for me at the moment. I’ve included the name of the county and the 2 surrounding towns as well but they aren’t priorities. The main priority is Busteni, so ensure you also fill out your address in any ‘Business Information’ section, as this is also important as you’ll see.
SEO for individual pages.
Now let’s move on to SEO for individual pages. On Squarespace you click Home > select the gear icon next to the page you want > and SEO. The SEO tab was added in 2018 and it’s really useful. Again, what you type here will appear in Google search results so pack it full of keywords in sentences that make sense, and don’t forget to include the town you’re in as well.
Page titles, URLs and headings.
Another area of your site that’s important for SEO is your page titles, URLs and headings. So, ‘highlighters out’, optimise your page titles, URLs and headings.
Highlight moment 4: Optimise your page titles, URLs and headings.
On my portraits page for example, the title is ‘portrait photography’, the URL is ‘portrait-photography’ and I’ve got ‘portrait photography’ and ‘studio and outdoor portraits’ as headings, and you can see this is enough to bring me to the top of Google in my town.
Image file names.
The photographs you upload to your photography site are obviously very important, but so are the file names as well, because search engine bots can only read text, they can’t look at images. So, ‘highlighters out’, before you upload images, name them key search phrases like, ‘couples portrait photography photo shoot’, or whatever the image pertains to.
Highlight moment 5: Name your image files strategically.
You can see in the image below if I search ‘baptism photography busteni’, the first 5 images are mine, and there’s another one below them from twitter.com Even my company name ‘prime’ comes up as a suggested search phrase. In the other image you can see my Baptism Gallery has appeared as a search result because all of the image file names contain the word Baptism. Google has also pulled my location in too.
Blog SEO. Titles, URLs and intent.
This whole point about blogging is a highlight moment, really. Regularly update your blog and make sure it contains search phrases your customers will likely use. Start with the title. Make sure you include a key search phrase in the title and in the first 60 characters of your blog. Again, include keywords at regular intervals throughout your blog but don’t stuff them in; make it sound natural. Also, ensure your blog URL is optimised with a couple of keywords as well.
The content is really important as well. Write relevant content that will actually help your target customers. Think about what some of the pain-points of your target customers are and focus on those. So if you’re a wedding photographer, think of something a future bride might search on Google, for example: ‘most beautiful venues to get married in *your town*. Writing a blog like this is also a great way to network with venues and have your name come up when people search for the venues as well.
Highlight moment 6: Regularly update your blog with content relevant and helpful to your customers. Use natural, unforced keywords in the title, URL, excerpt and content itself.
Finally, don’t neglect it. Keep it regularly updated. It makes your site look active to search engines and also, if it’s 2019 and you’ve not updated your blog since 2016, even if it’s because you’ve been too busy, people will think your business is dead.
The 7th tip is to make your site is mobile friendly. By that I mean does your site look good, is it user friendly, and how fast does it load over mobile data? I can’t tell you how to optimise your site because web-building platforms implement this differently. Squarespace optimises its site automatically, but it’s not perfect, and you do have to do a little work but it usually works well.
Highlight moment 7: Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. i.e. does it look good, is it user friendly, and how fast does it load pages over data?
More than half of all web traffic these days comes from mobile, and Google favours mobile friendly sites in search results so it’s an aspect of your site you definitely should not neglect. For example, 50% of my traffic comes from mobile phones, mainly iOS, so I spend time making sure it looks tip top on all platforms. But how do you know if your site is mobile optimised/friendly? Well, there’s a fantastic service called Google Console which analyses your site and lets you know how usable your website is on mobile, if there are any issues, and even what they are such as, ‘clickable elements too close together’.
The way I found out that 50% of my traffic comes from mobile phones was by checking my analytics. Analytics are a great way of checking your SEO is actually working. Most web building platforms have analytics built-in and you can setup services like Google Analytics and the aforementioned Google Search Console as well.
SEO and social media.
Highlight moment 8: Connect to social media and optimise it with the same keywords.
Going back to my Google search results, you can see that my Facebook page appears when I search ‘portrait photography busteni’, and remember when I searched ‘baptism photography’ that image from Twitter appeared. This is because my Facebook page contain all of the same keywords as my website does.
I’m not a fan of the influence Facebook has had on certain aspects of social interaction but it’s undoubtedly useful for SEO. So, if you haven’t already, go ahead and create a Facebook page for your business, and once you’ve created it go to Settings > Page Info and fill out the Description with keywords. You only get 155 characters so make them count. You can also go down to Biography and fill that in as well. The thing with social media is, like your blog, make sure you stay active and don’t neglect it because if it hasn’t been updated in years people will assume you’re no longer in business.
Also, if your branding is inconsistent across platforms then people won’t trust you and your SEO will be for nothing but consistent branding is a whole other post!
Going back to my analytics, I can also see most of my traffic comes from Facebook so I regularly post there and include links to my site. You don’t have to be on all social media platforms though, as it can be hard to maintain them all, so focus on the ones your target audience will be on. Again, if you’re a wedding photographer then Instagram and Pinterest are probably the best, and if you’re a commercial photographer targeting companies then LinkedIn could be fruitful.
Conclusion. It’s just one aspect of success and it’s not instantaneous.
And that is 8 ways you can optimise your website and get found in 2019. One final important thing to know about SEO is that you won’t see results immediately. It takes time for search engines to crawl your site and for your content to gain traction, so take your time, think about your page titles, URLs, headings and keywords and once you’ve put them in place, leave them and let search engine bots do their thing.
While SEO very important, it is just one aspect of growing your business so I’m thinking about writing another detailed blog and making a video about how to grow your business as a photographer in 2019 and discuss things like branding, marketing and networking so if that’s something you’d like to see and if you liked this post, let me know in the comments. If you want to thank me for this free content you can do so by subscribing to my YouTube channel, it’s just a couple of clicks but it helps me out massively, so thanks for reading and stay curious.