If you are in the photography business, whether you work at client venues, maintain a brick-and-mortar studio, or both, you know that you have competition - and lots of it. And you also know that the best way to secure new clients is to be present online, because when people need photography services that's where they will go.
But just because you have a website set up does not mean that you are visible to searchers. What exactly do we mean by "visible?" In a nutshell, online visibility means that you can be found for those who are looking to purchase your services.
One easy-to-achieve bit of online visibility is to be found for those searching for your name, business name or your website URL. You may be already showing up in the search engine results pages (SERP's). But that will only help you when people already know about you, the name of your business or your website URL.
But what about when people don't know you exist - when they are searching for "photographers near me" or "passport photos in [location]," or "on-site wedding photographer" does your business information surface? And if it does, is it well placed near the top of the SERP's where it will be seen or are you buried somewhere deep below?
To be ranked highly in the SERP's - to be at the top of the heap (somewhere in positions 1-5 at a minimum, and ideally positions 1-3) means that you are visible online.
How do you get your site to the top of that list? This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. And SEO for photographers involves taking basic SEO tactics and adapting them to the unique needs of those operating a photography business.
The following paragraphs outline some of the most critical areas of SEO for photographers. If you can master these items you will be well on your way to getting your photography website highly ranked.
To begin with, there are some things that need to be tended to, which are the "price of admission" to the SEO game…
The first of these is that your website must be structured along best-practices. Search engines want people to be happy with the results of their searching experience, so that when they click on a listing in the SERP's:
Effective SEO for photographers begins with structuring your site experience - what your site looks like, how it functions and the information you provide there - for humans. Because when your site becomes valuable for people it will become valuable to search engines - and those are the sites that get ranked.
Another important foundational aspect that needs to be in place on your website is a nice portfolio of your work. This helps with the trust and "expertise" element - people want to know that you have done a great job for others.
Even if you have to do some work for free it's worth it if you can secure permission to post that work online as a part of your site portfolio. In the photography niche, if you don't have a portfolio you won't secure any new business - it's that important.
Our next set of recommendations involve SEO for photographers who are just establishing their websites. These could include brand-new domains as well as sites that have been completely taken down and revamped (a site re-launch).
Start With PPC. This might seem to be out of place in a discussion of organic (non-paid) SEO tactics, but pay-per-click advertising does have its place - especially when a site is brand-new or is being re-launched.
With a brand-new site, it will take some time before the search engines can crawl and index the content, and evaluate it against competing sites. A fantastic site will start out with little or no authority. Even when organic SEO campaigns have been started, they can take a while to gain traction.
On the other hand, if you are re-launching your site, the search engines will also need time to crawl your site pages and re-evaluate your content. Your organic rankings may fluctuate during this time until they settle down to a baseline ranking.
Whatever the situation - brand-new site or re-launch - PPC can provide a way to gain precious site traffic by promoting you to the "ads" section of the SERP's. Keep in mind that because your listing will be tagged as a "sponsored" or "ad" listing it will be ignored by many. But using PPC can drive some traffic to you while waiting for your organic SEO techniques to start working.
Establish a Physical Location. We strongly recommend that you secure a Google My Business (GMB) profile as the first step to try to rank for one of Google's "Local Pack" listings. Typically placed at the top or right-hand side of the SERP's, they will display your business location and usually a locator map, hours of operation and other information. But you can't get one unless you have established your GMB profile.
Many photographers have not pursued this option because it is a requirement for a business to have a physical address as a part of their profile. Not all photography businesses maintain a brick-and-mortar store because they don't do studio work but do on-site photography work (wedding venues, outdoor shots, in-home portraits, church services, etc.).
Here's a tip: You can get a GMB profile even if you don't have a location in a business district or office. All that is necessary is for you to use your residence address as the location. As long as it reflects a physical location and not a post office box you should be OK.
Google will typically mail out a postcard to that address in order to verify that it is a functional business address. Since you already reside there you will receive it and be able to complete your registration. Make sure that your mail carriers will deliver mail with your business name in order for this to work properly.
Monitor Site Traffic & Visitor Stats. There is a plethora of site analysis tools available today to assist with your SEO efforts. Google search console is one of them and also Google Analytics. If you embed the proper coding on your site pages you will be able to determine what search phrases are being used to send people to your site, and how often those searches are executed.
The GA package will additionally give you real-time data on which pages are getting the most traffic, how long site visitors are staying on those page, key actions (links they click for example) that they perform, and where they are on your site when they decide to leave.
Why is this analytical information important? Because all effective SEO planning and action is based on data, not guesswork or rumor - or the latest bit of gossip. There is no substitute for data-driven decision-making in the SEO world, and your website itself is the best source of this information.
Monitor SERP Changes. Keep a list of your most important keyword searches and note which pages on your site are showing up for each particular search. Make sure that you monitor your ranking on a regular basis. Once or twice a month is sufficient for most sites - search positions can fluctuate back-and-forth somewhat over a daily or even weekly period, so don't be overly-concerned with short-term fluctuations.
Analyze Significant Ranking Decreases. On the other hand, if your site seems to be losing rankings (decline in position in the SERP's), you should not ignore that as usually it will not improve on its own. As a part of your analysis, compare your site with the pages that are currently outranking you. As you do, try to determine exactly what it is about those pages that your site pages do not. Keep in mind that if a competitor is outranking you in the SERP's, there is a reason that is happening.
It is not always obvious to the non-professional what may be causing your competitors to be outranking you. If you are being outranked and can't figure out why we recommend that you reach out and submit our brief inquiry form. Give us the details and we'll reach out to you and make arrangements to talk further with you with options and solutions.
Once you've got the basics covered, it's time to work on other areas of SEO. Not all photography business owners are doing these but they can be quite effective in getting more visibility:
Get Active - and Stay Active - on Social Media. You might be surprised to know that content posted on social media can end up in the search results pages. Google and Bing treat many of these sites as authorities and often content posted there shows up in the SERPS.
In addition, social media posting will allow you do develop your own set of "followers" - fans who might enthusiastically recommend your services to others - this is in fact the net effect if they repost your content on their own account. It will be seen by a whole new audience, one you might never have reached.
But don't make the mistake that so many do - they start out posting but then give up. The usual reason is that they "ran out of ideas" to talk about. We can help you with that and can even write content for your social media accounts, blog site or even beef up your main site page content. Give us a call if you want some further information on how we can help with this.
Video SEO Option. Just as with social media platforms, search engines will also include links to videos on various subjects for all types of internet searches. This is your opportunity to get creative! Some videos of you hard at work as a photographer at various locations could help prospects to see your professionalism and expertise in action. Anything out-of-the ordinary, interesting locales, challenging assignments can make for an interesting video production.
Maintain Constant Reputation Management. SEO is not just about "getting ranked." A well-ranked website is not going to draw traffic, let alone inquiries, if that business has a terrible reputation among the public. You have to become aware of sites where customers could be leaving reviews or comments about their experience working with you - there could already be comments posted there. You need to secure as many positive testimonials as you can, and minimize the number of negative ones. If negative comments start popping up, don't waste time but respond as quickly as you can to mitigate any possible damage.
The words/phrases that searchers use - what they type in the box when they are looking for information on the web - are called "keywords." Proper targeting of keywords can bring you lots of valuable traffic but there are pitfalls --
In general, you want to try to increase the number of different keyword searches that you rank highly for. This means that you have to focus on the subject-matter of the page(s) you want to rank for that search. The content must be relevant and useful. Don't play old-fashioned games like stuffing the page with keywords and engaging in other foolishness. Search engines long ago learned to ignore that stuff.
If you notice that the volume (number of monthly searches) is significant (and this will vary by industry), then getting pages to rank well for those searches can bump up your site traffic. And since these keywords can be expensive to target through PPC (as they are highly competitive terms) which makes them a good target for organic SEO tactics. Monitoring your site search data can give you clues to keyword phrases you could rank well for that you have not already thought of.
By the same token, try to avoid keywords with low search volumes if you are not ranking well for them. There is no harm if you are currently ranking well for them, but they will not bring you much additional site traffic as they are not searched for much. These keywords are probably not worth the cost to get ranked for them. (The only exception for this is in industries where there is a high customer lifetime value (LTV) - as snagging even one extra customer could bring in a customer with deep pockets (yacht sales, for example.)
We would like to leave you with this final thought: SEO for photographers can be a complex undertaking. Sites vary in terms of will be needed to get them to rank well, so there is no "one size fits all" approach that will guarantee results.
But you don't have to learn another business before you can reap the benefits of SEO. This is the reason that we exist. We currently have thousands of websites under our direct management. We can help you to find solutions that will work. Where to begin? We invite you to book a brief consultation session with our staff to discuss your needs and goals. At the end of that call you will know if we will be a good fit for you. Please contact us today - we're here to help!