Do the letters, S.E.O. make your stomach turn? If so, you are not alone. Photographers are born artists and dealing with something, seemingly “techy” as SEO, is intimidating. However, it doesn’t have to be. I know that you may still have reservations and want nothing to do with it. I totally get it. That’s why, I am going to demystify the scary SEO world and lay out the basics and best practices so that you can improve your existing site and start getting the visibility and exposure you need.
When you enter a word or phrase into a search engine, it will hunt through the web looking for information based on relevance and the level of importance. Meaning, Yahoo, Bing, or Google will give you results based on the keywords you chose and a rank based on other searches, resulting in the most relevant information. Search engines will tend to give you results that are valid and based on good content and will avoid results that are spammy. So what makes a site come up in a search query versus one that does not show up? Several factors come into play when sifting through the good and the bad. Here we will discuss some best practices that will allow your site to be one of the good ones and will eventually come up with better rankings in search queries.
Having a quality photography site requires several images. After all, you want to showcase your work. However, photographers don’t realize that search engines cannot understand what the image is about in itself. So their sites go unaccounted for and lay within the black hole of the internet.
So let’s take a look at how you can improve and optimize your site so that search engines can find you.
Title Tags: This is the phrase that appears as the link in search engine results pages, and is one of the most important ranking factors. Name your title tags as accurately and concisely as possible, and make sure each page’s title is unique. These should best describe the content that is found on the particular web page and contain keywords that you anticipate users to search for. Using keywords in your title tags will allow search engines to highlight your page, creating greater search results for your page and a higher click-through rate.
Meta descriptions: This is the text that appears below the title/link on the search engine results page. It is not a major ranking factor, but it is critical in helping entice clicks on your links versus your competitors. Plus, when a user’s search query appears in your meta description, it is in bold.
URLs: URLs are the web addresses of a specific page on your site. The structure to these addresses is critical to the search query process as they appear in search results, the browser’s address bar, and as links on other web pages. It’s good to have a short, concise URL, so that it is visible in search results and can be easily copied and pasted. It’s also good to throw in some keywords, but try to avoid using too many keywords, as your site will raise a red flag for spam filters. Use descriptive words in the URL versus numbers, and separate words using hyphens.
Image file names: I’ve seen tons of photographers name their image files something along the lines of 12_22_14_01.jpg. Sadly, these images will never be discovered in the black hole of the internet. Browsers cannot read file names like this. Instead, name your files with actual words so that a search engine can read them and pick them up. For example “Sunset_venice_beach_photo_01.jpg.”
Alt Attributes: Alt attributes are descriptions within the HTML text that describe images that are on the webpage. These will help browsers to pick up these images when performing searches. It’s important to describe them as accurately as possible. Also start getting into the habit of writing text near images on your site and use captions wherever you can. Search engines will pick these up and result in better chances of you making it to top ranking pages for certain search queries.
H1 Headers: H1 Headers are the titles of a post on a page. Much like title tags, you should try to name them using keywords that are within the content of the page. If you want to use an image as your header, make sure to employ the alt attributes tactics so that your page comes up in searches.
Content is key in SEO. Think of it this way, the more content you create and add that has to do with your business, the more chances you have to be ranked higher in search results.
Keyword Selection: Choosing the right keywords throughout your site, will allow better rankings in search results. For example, if you are a photographer on the west coast, specializing in nature, optimize your site using keywords that pertain to these attributes. It also helps to do a little research on what types of results certain keywords bring up.
Targeted Text: The keywords should be repeated on targeted pages within your site. They should be written exactly as your keyword selection and also in different variations of the phrases. However, try to be unique to each page – do not have one page on your site compete for rankings of the same keyword on another page of you site, this is counterproductive.
Adding Content: It’s good to constantly add in new content to your site. New content could be in the form of blog posts, articles, or new images. Setting a goal of adding a new piece of content once per week will be a good starting off point and will increase your chances of ranking well.
Search engines determine the ranking value of a site based on how many other sites are linked to it. They read a site with more links as equating to a higher popularity and caliber site. The quality of the links is also a factor in assessing the ranking of a site. Ideally, you want to have links from trusted websites. For example, you want links from sites that are within the photography industry, sites that are in your state, city, or region, and sites that prominently feature your link on their web pages or within articles written by you or about you.
Having links from sources like these will allow search engines to determine the value of the content featured, and will essentially create a higher ranking for your site. Some tactics you can employ to gain links is to come up with a list of blogs, sites, and contacts that have to do with your particular business or niche in photography. Contact them to see if they would be interested in giving you a link. Sometimes, it’s easier if you offer something in return, so keep that in mind.
I take it you have already noticed the phenomenon that is Social Media. Well, it’s becoming increasingly important to create a presence on social sites for your business. Search engines now actually, use analytics that assess how many times your site has been shared, liked, tweeted, through various channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin. So it’s imperative to get a profile for your business on these social sites.
Tackling SEO on your own, can seem like a daunting task. However, if you take the time and map out your plan you can approach a few key tactics each week, allowing you to gradually create an optimized site. It just takes patience, organization, and a little effort.