Having an all singing, all-dancing website is important, but if no one can find you online what’s the point? You must have a site that not only scores big on usability, and which looks gorgeous, but one that performs well in Search Engine Results (SER). This relates to the position your website ranks on Google and other search engines and it’s vitally important.
In this blog I focus on Google as it is by far the dominant player with a staggering 65% of searches being carried out on the search engine. Become number one on Google for your chosen search term and you’ll benefit from a whopping 33% of the traffic for that phrase. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the way Google locates your website, evaluates its content, and ranks it among other results that fit specific search terms.
HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK
“A search engine looks around the web using automated programs called web crawlers. The crawlers follow links from page to page. The crawlers send a copy of each page back to the search engine, which then builds an index of the words on each page. Just searching the index for ‘portrait photography’ would bring back too many results though, and it would be hard to find the best stuff. Instead, algorithms are used to look for clues to better understand what you are searching for. This could include alternative spellings or how you searched. And then the relevant items are pulled up out of the index. To find the very best portrait photography, the results are ranked. Over 200 different factors can affect the rank of the results, such as how frequently the page is updated, how well it is written, or whether lots of other webpages link to it.” (Source: BBC Bitesize)
Know that change is constant in the world of search and Google’s algorithm evolves over time as they work to improve the quality of the results they deliver to users.
Understanding SEO can enable you to optimize your page for specific search terms and it is those keywords that are the starting point of your search strategy. Each page should be optomised for a specific search term. Choose a main keyword and optimize your homepage around that term. The other pages on your website should be optimized around secondary phrases. Use blog posts to target your site towards long tail phrases around your area of photography. Ensure the words you select are highly relevant, so those who visit your website are interested in what you have to share and sell.
When choosing a title for a blog post I optimize the post around the wedding venue rather than for the couple. So for example rather than ‘Joanne & John wedding’ my blog titles read, ‘City Hotel Wedding, Joanne & John’.
Regular great quality content enables you to include relevant keywords and will strengthen the performance of your site in SER. Blog as often as you can. Great content will be shared and linked to providing a boost for your site.
OPTIMISING YOUR SITE
You must take a two pronged approach, optimizing each page on your website while developing links from external sites.
By making small changes to your URLs, titles, subtitles, text, and other page content, you optomise each page making it easy for search engines to find your site and determine what each page is about.
If your site is coded in flash consider hosting your blog on wordpress as web crawlers can’t index flash pages.
Take advantage of the URL’s for each page of your site. Often times, URL’s are automatically generated as a sequence of random numbers and letters rather than a description as to what that page is about. The structure of your URL’s can be used to your benefit. Instead of using a randomly generated URL, you can use the URL as a way to give a description about your blog post. For example, the URL for the previously mentioned blog about Joanne and John’s wedding could be,” .com/wedding-photography-at-city-hotel,” rather than, “.com/12345.” Using the URL’s in this way not only helps search engines know what that page is about, but it also gives a slight preview to anyone who clicks on that link.
Speak to your web developer about adding a sitemap, which is list of pages to aid navigation for users and for Google’s webcrawlers to your site. In addition let Google know about yout sitemap by submitting it to your account under ‘Webmaster Tools.’
Anchor text is a link located within the text that users can click on to go to another page or website. If you plan to reference another post on your website or blog you can use a link within the text that, when clicked, will send the reader straight to the other post. When creating anchor text, it’s important to keep two things in mind. Don’t just use the URL of the other page as your anchor text, opt instead to hide the link within descriptive text. So instead of seeing, “.com/JoanneJohn,” the readers and the search engines will see, “Joanne and John’s wedding at the City Hotel.”
SEO for Photographers suggests the following structure to optomise the pages on your site.
1. Keywords: Choose one main keyword phrase per page
2. Title: Use keywords in the page title
3. URL: Use keywords in the URL
4. Subtitles: Use keywords in H1/H2 subtitles
5. Text: Include 300+ words of keyword-rich text
6. Meta Tags: Include meta description and image alt text
7. Links: Link to the page using keywords
When you post a blog think about the tags and categories you use and ensure they are relevant.
Search engines can’t interpret the meaning of the images you share, but can understand the name of the file. Describe the photo so the search engine understands the content. For example: A portrait of the Thompson family having fun in Holland Park London. While this can be time-consuming if blogging a great number of images, it will really boost the SEO of that image and page.
We use a great tool called Yoast which is a SEO plugin for wordpress. It gives you a rating for the SEO of each page using a traffic light system and gives you tips on how to improve elements of the page to make sure it ranks well.
Having lots of high quality links to your website is one of the most important factors in determining your search performance. Your website needs to be killer to attract others to link to it. Here are some ways you can build links to your website:
Here are some ways you can generate links:
• Directory submissions
• Guest posts
• Contacting website owners asking for links
• Developing link-bait
Avoid pages with a low page rank as this will adversely effect your SER. If you have a comment section on your website and blog you may experience some comments from spammers. Sometimes spammers will come through and link to other “spam” sites in your comment section. Search engines don’t know the difference between your links and the links of spammers, so they consider it part of your website. However, if the search engine finds that the link goes to what they would consider to be a spam site, it could significantly hurt your rankings. I use a plug-in called Akismet which protects my blog from spam.
Most photographers target a specific geographic region with their business and so it is important to optomise for this local search which includes your town, city or country name. Local search shows different results as it offers blended organic results with Google+ and Google Places results. It is essential to set up a Google+ profile and set up a Google places profile as they often outrank organic search results appearing just below paid for results.
‘SEO for Photographers’ states the following factors in determining your position on Google Places
1. Have a legitimate business near the city centre
2. Choose the most relevant business categories
3. Use keywords in your business title and description
4. Quantity and Quality of reviews
5. Quantity, quality and consistency of citations
Your social media activity can have a significant impact on your SEO. Google gives special weight to sites linked to Google+ accounts. The numbers of followers, fans, retweets, pluses, and shares you have are now directly included in search engine algorithms. ‘SEO for Photographers’ provides the following strategies for boosting your SEO with social media:
1. Link Your Google+ Account
2. Build social signals
3. Post/Tweet Consistently
4. Post interesting/Engaging content
5. Encourage sharing via buttons, hashtags, asking and more
6. Use social to build citations
7. Use social to build links
8. A very powerful strategy: Link bait and social sharing
THE NEXT FRONTIER – VOICE
In the next number of years with the growing popularity of voice enabled smart devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home voice search is set to change up how we search for information and services. It could be a game changer and something we should all pay attention to.
Following these steps you will enhance your chances of performing well on search engines. They are easy to implement, but take time and can make a massive impact to your business. Think about how to convert the users that visit your site into enquiries and sales by having a clear call to action. By doing so you can clearly measure the value of driving lots of traffic to your website as it will impact your bottom line.
Click here to learn more about SEO in our best-selling Marketing Bootcamp 2.0 course.
Donal Doherty is a wedding photographer who loves education and sharing with photographers through Engage, speaking at conventions and through his writing in Photo Professional Magazine. Find out more here www.donaldoherty.com.