10 SEO Tips for Photographers: #3
If you missed the last tip in this series, you can find it here
TIP #3: Make your site valuable
Google has one real objective: to make money. They do this by selling ads. For those ads to be effective they must have traffic on their search page. Google users need those search results to effectively match what they are searching for.
Why is this important for SEO? Google is constantly updating its algorithms to give the user the best results. To show up as a top-ranking site, you need to actually BE the best result.
How to be the best:
Look at your website and pretend that all of the photos have disappeared. How much valuable information are you presenting to your potential clients? Your non-photo content provides two things: 1) Clues to Google that what you offer is relevant to what the users are searching for and 2) Information that will keep the user on your page, clicking around and spending time there.
Why is this second part important? Let's say you make it on the search results page for a particular search. If a user clicks on your link, and then quickly goes back to the results page, that is a signal to Google that your page was not relevant to the search. That will negatively impact the chance of your site showing up again for that search. Alternatively, if a user goes to your page and spends a great deal of time on it, and even better, does not go back to click other links, that is a positive signal to Google. Also, if your page takes too long to load, the user is more likely to abandon your site, so try to keep your page load speeds below 3 seconds.
Here are a few things you should consider including on your site.
Location and service areas
Pricing (at least some reference to pricing; does not need to be complete pricing)
The ordering process
Company and contact information
Blogging is no exception to requiring quality content. In addition, each blog post should have a unique offering to the content on your site. Blogging just for the sake of blogging is potentially a waste of time if you are not targeting a specific purpose for the post. While it does signal to Google that your site is not stagnant, You should be spending enough time on a post with one or more specific searches in mind. For example, instead of posting four different sessions with minimal content, you could create one blog post describing Fall session options at the City Park. This post is actually something that a user might search for that you can rank for.
Note: I don't blog! This is one of those "don't do what I do, do what I say" things like your parents used to do. You CAN rank without blogging, but it's definitely better to blog so that you can have an opportunity to rank for more keywords.
When you are creating your content, you should pull up the keyword list that you created in Tip #1
How to use your keywords
You may remember a time when it was important to place your keywords all over your pages, but this is not the case anymore. Google has evolved to find other ways to identify if your content is what the user is searching for. Keywords ARE important though. You just need to make sure you include them in key areas, and don't just randomly place them. It's important to use NATURAL LANGUAGE in your website text. A random string of keywords will not benefit you. You should integrate them throughout the body text on the page where it makes sense. For each page you will want to include a heading that incorporates your main keywords. You should identify this with what's called an "H1" or "Heading 1" tag. How you do this will vary by platform.
Your images can also contain keyword information with an attribute called "alt text." This is the text that is read aloud by screen readers to users who are visually impaired, and can also signal to Google that your page contains relevant information. As with the body text, you will want to use natural language for this, like "Senior boy soccer player kicking a ball in a Louisville park." It should be descriptive, not spammy and stuffed with keywords. Using 10-15 words should be sufficient, and if you have many pictures on a page, don't feel like you have to be creative on every photo. Including keywords in your filename can also help with SEO (use dashes for spaces).
The structure of your site is also important to consider for usability and SEO. If you concentrate on one specific genre of photography, your site can be very simple. You can optimize your home page for many keywords, and have other pages and blog articles for additional keywords. If you have multiple genres, I recommend to make a page for each genre, and optimize that page to show up in the search results. For example, instead of a "Sessions" page with all different sessions listed, and a gallery page with all types of photography, you will be better off with pages for "Families," "Seniors," etc. (Note: I split my genres into different sites before I knew better and made it work. This was many years ago before I knew better: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.) These are the pages that may show up in the search results instead of your home page, so it should contain all of the information that a potential client would expect when first landing on your site. By making usability the focus, and keeping your keywords in mind, the content of your site should be adequate for good SEO. You should continually be striving to improve your content and target it toward your ideal client. If you seem stuck on how to approach the content on your site, I highly recommend the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
If you have Google Analytics tracking your website, you can look at how users are actually using it. You can see which pages they land on, how long they are on the page, demographics, and other valuable information. See Tip #2 for more info on setting this up. One of my favorite reports is Behavior Flow. From this page you can tell how the users move from page to page, and how many drops off your site at each page.
I try to make at least some kind of update to my site several times each year. During the slower months in the winter, I do a more thorough update but I always consider it a work in progress. Even once you start to rank well, you have to constantly work on improving to keep that rank. There is no magic bullet, and your overall ability to rank is based on a combination of hundreds of factors, but having a usable site is a significant factor.
Stay tuned for Tip #4.