Creating Effective Websites for Professional Photographers Part 2: Intro to SEO
Now that you’ve learned how to effectively design your photography website in the first part of our blog series, let’s move on to how to make sure people can actually find it. Through a process known as “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO), you can optimize your website to hopefully achieve high rankings within relevant results on search engines like Google or Bing.
Search Engine Optimization is a multifaceted process that includes optimizing the written content and code of your website, the links coming into the site and immersing yourself in social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
For our introduction on the topic of SEO for photographers, we will focus on a website’s content, the foundation of any successful website. Your content tells the search engines what your company does and can also attract links from other sites (great for rankings!) if it’s truly original and interesting.
How Do I Know Which Keywords to Target?
Google has a great Keyword Tool to help you determine which keywords to target in your site’s content. Simply begin by entering some broad keywords that you feel are important to your industry and see how often people search for them (you can also look at your competitors’ sites to see what they target). Once you see the volume broad keywords get each month, try entering more specific keywords into the tool. Keywords like “Wedding Photographer” may be searched less than “Photographer” but they will generally have a much higher conversion rate for your business, as those people are more likely to be looking for your specific services.
Don’t forget geography! If you’re in Chicago, you want to make sure you can show up for people searching for things like “Chicago Wedding Photographer.” Here are a few stats on search volumes for the photography industry. Is your website targeting the right terms?
So Where Do All These Keywords Go?
- Title Tags – this is the most important place for relevant keywords on your site. The title tag is in the HTML of your web page and shows up in the top-left corner of your browser (or in the browser tabs), as well as the first line of your search listings. This tag should simply be a list of your top keyword target and your company name but there is one small catch, Google limits the character count of this tag to 70 (including spaces). This means you have to prioritize your keywords wisely for each page, making sure each title is also unique. A common format for the title is as follows: “Keyword 1, Keyword 2, Keyword 3 | Company Name”
- Body Content – including keywords in your website’s written text plays a role in search rankings as well. Writing for two audiences (humans and search engines) can be tricky to get the hang of at first, as you have to very clearly state everything your company is with keywords (repetition helps too) but not to the point where it turns off human readers. Certain terms you may use in your marketing may have zero search volume, so you’ll have to adjust and write more search keyword-heavy content. For example, in the auto industry, body shops want to refer to themselves as “Collision Repair Facilities” in their marketing materials because of the negative connotations of terms such as “body shop” and “auto body” – but “collision repair” is searched for 10x less on average than those terms, hurting the site’s performance in the search engines greatly. Every industry needs to apply this same thinking to website content to match what people actually search and to maximize useful traffic to your website.
- On-site Blog – having a blog on your site is not only a great way to boost keyword use but can also be an incredibly effective tool in attracting links to your site (as we will discuss in more detail next week).
- Meta Descriptions – though these play no role in search rankings, this HTML tag is the little blurb of text that shows up in search engine listings and plays a huge roll in whether or not people will click on your search listing. This tag can only be 150 characters and should sum up your company and what truly sets it apart. Mentioning deals and giveaways are also great to do here.
- Alt Text – this is an HTML tag that goes inside the code of an image and is meant to help blind computer users get a better understanding of what is on a web page. You can add descriptive keywords to this tag to supplement all the keywords already in the rest of your content. These also help your site better rank in Google Image searches, as you can see by H&H’s results for the term “Professional Photo Lab.”
After the first wave of optimizing is complete, run the site through a word cloud generator to see just how well-optimized your content is. Ideally, your top services and keyword targets will be the biggest and boldest in the cloud. Here’s the word cloud for H&H’s homepage:
Using H&H Color Lab as an example, we’ve been aggressively optimizing our website over the past year and are seeing some pretty startling results. Seeing as we are a “photo lab,” our main initiative has been increasing our use of the word “photo lab” and its variants throughout the site. In the past year the number of people getting to the site using “photo” in their searches has increased by over 600%.
Great content has more value than just adding keywords to your site. It’s vital in attracting links into your site from other sources around the web. As we’ll discuss next week, nothing is more important to long-term search engine ranking success than the quality/quantity of links coming into your site.
Be sure to subscribe to the photo lab’s blog so you don’t miss the rest of the series. You can get updates by RSS or receive each post by email. Stay tuned to learn more about driving traffic to your photography website. Next week we’ll talk about building links to your photography site!
This guest post was submitted by Kyle Claypool, a web presence management expert. He will be representing the United States as the US Technical Expert at the upcoming Website Design WorldSkills competition in London. Kyle is part of our marketing team that manages our professional photo lab’s website.