Photographers seem to put such a big emphasis on their social media but then almost neglect their websites. We should actually be doing the opposite. Social media sites are constantly changing their algorithms & how they show things to people. And social media sites sometimes only show the content that is posted by you to others who have an account with that company. Websites are public & can basically be seen by anyone who has access to the internet.
Anyone using Facebook or Instagram for some time has seen the changes they’ve made. We used to be able to reach hundred or thousands of people quite easily. Now with their algorithms they only show your content to a handful of people & the less people who interact with your content after it is first posted, they show it to even less of the rest of your followers.
Google is more constant & their job is to deliver quality content to people who search for it. So it you optimize your website, Google will reward you by showing your site higher in search results. I focus more on my website & email marketing because those are both things that I am in total control of. I own them & it is my fault if they are not working correctly, social media sites constantly change & one day that free social site you relied on to promote your business could be suddenly changed drastically & you have to pay for any of your content to be seen by enough people. I mean, just think of how Facebook pages used to be so effective, now for a lot of people they are useless unless you have a huge following.
How Google + other search engines work
But I know that a lot of photographers grow frustrated with their sites after not seeing the results or the traffic that they want. Well, building your website is playing the long game. It takes time for Google to crawl your site. Google & other search engines crawl your site, crawling is basically a term for how search engines read the content on your site. After a search engine crawls your site, it indexes it.
When it indexes your site it basically ‘puts it in the system’. And then your site is ready to found via search engines. How often Google crawls your site just depends, the more often you add new content, the more Google will crawl your site. The more content there is to read on your site, the more Google & other search engines like your site & are likely to rank it higher in search results.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Basically you need to optimize the content on your site for the keywords that you want to rank for. You should choose different keywords that you want each page to rank for. For example, maybe you want your home page to rank for the keyword ‘Nebraska wedding photographer’. You are going to want to use that exact set of words in a few various places on that page. If you use WordPress, you should definitely get the Yoast SEO plugin. It is very helpful in helping you optimize your SEO.
As photographers we use a lot of photos on our sites. Google sees these photos but it cannot see what is in them. You need to tell the search engines what is contained in your photos. You do that by the photo file name. The file name should be a description of the photo, you can bulk name them, or it is even better to name them individually. An example would be “engagement-session-in-omaha-nebraska-1”. Notice the dashes between each word. The description area of the image isn’t as necessary & I only occasionally use it on pages that I really want to rank. The description should be written in a similar way to the alt text explained below.
Here you can see in WordPress the different areas I am talking about in optimizing your images
The most important part of the text though is the alt text. This is what Google uses the most to display your photos in images & read what the images are about. The alt text for each image should be totally unique for each & every image. Having unique alt text for every image is very important. An example of good alt text for images would be “engagement session with a couple at Zorinsky Lake in Omaha” & “couple get in a lake for engagement photos” etc. Notice how you want the alt text for each image to be different & you don’t want to write it in a robot like voice, write a simple descriptive sentence about each image. But be careful that you don’t stuff these text areas with keywords, or Google will notice & stop showing your site as much because it sees it as spammy & not quality content.
Backlinks build the strongest SEO. What are they? Backlinks are links on other websites that link back to your website. And guess what? Any links on your social media don’t really count towards your SEO. Yes, they link to your site & you can get people to visit your site. But they are usually ‘no follow’ links and don’t build up the power of your website in the eyes of Google. What you want are links on other websites that link back to your website. Getting featured on various blogs is a great way to do this. Or do a blog article exchange with another photographer. The bigger the site that you are featured on, the better SEO value it will give you. And guess what? Leaving comments on blog posts can help you get backlinks! 😉 So leave a comment below, they are mutually beneficial.
Regularly blogging is great because you are constantly putting up new content. When you regularly update your site, Google sees it as active. You want search engines to see your site as active because then that also helps your rankings in searches. If a website hasn’t been updated in months or a year or more, search engines will stop listing your site at the top. And it can take a long time for your site to move back up in the rankings. Also, the more words you have on your site, the more authoritative it becomes in the eyes of Google, so you can again, rank higher. What should you blog about? Think about FAQs that you get from brides, or maybe blog about a favorite venue. Location specific blog posts really help because then you get brides that are Googling those locations & they can come across you site.
One thing I see a lot of photographers try to do is add a bunch of keywords as tags in their posts & pages. This is not effective at all. In fact, Google pretty much totally ignores these tags. These tags are just useful for internal linking, not for getting your site to rank on Google. In the below example, see how I just used a few select tags to help people find other related content. I did not try & stuff a bunch of keywords in there.
Tags on a blog post
I spend more time on my website than my social media because I control my website. Yes, Google & other search engines have their algorithms but they change much less frequently than the algorithms of social network sites like Instagram or Facebook. So it is easier to get a handle on how to work the algorithms because we have more time before they change. And Google is in the business of giving helpful information, social network sites are more in the business of advertising, ‘pay to play’ you could say. With search engines, you can do your SEO for free & get great results. My best clients almost always come from Google. And all of this is pretty basic stuff but it will give you a great head start to building up your SEO. If you have any questions, be sure to get in touch & check out the rest of my blog for photographers!