One of the first things we recommend photographers do when they first get set up to sell their photography online is a bit of Keyword Research. It’s quite a new concept for most photographers, so we get a lot of questions on it, so I”ll see if I can explain the reasoning behind it and what we’re trying to achieve, and maybe you can apply it to your own business.
First and foremost, we’re trying to get our photographers to start thinking like photo-buyers whenever they’re writing content for their web presence. We’re trying to get you to stop and think about how a photo buyer might go about finding someone just like you… your skills, your location, your experience, your specialised knowledge, your background…
Here’s a quick run through of how we do it.
Step 1. A short phrase that describes you as a photographer?
You need to ask yourself, if a buyer needed someone for a specific job that you were the absolute best person for… what would they type into Google?
So it’s really two part process. First up, in marketing terms you’re identifying your USP — Unique Selling Proposition — and then you’re putting that into a single keyword phrase.
And that’s usually a very big ask of a photographer the first time the look at it. So the main thing is to remember, your single keyword phrase doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s what the keyword research process is all about.
Step 2. Built up a list of relevant keywords based on that phrase.
So next you take that phrase and feed it into your Keyword Research Software to generate a long list of related keyword phrases.
If you then see one that’s even better, you repeat the process with that. You can repeat the process as often as you like, and as you do, you’ll build up a long list of possible phrases.
Step 3. Delete anything that’s not relevant.
So then you go through and delete anything that isn’t relevant to what you do. Again, it’s all about getting int oa buyer’s head… if they typed that phrase into Google and found you, would you be what they were looking for?
As in every other aspect of photography, specialists rule, so this is all about recognising and marketing your strengths. There is no value in trying to be all things to all buyers.
Step 4. Delete anything with too much competition.
Then you let the software do it’s magic, and send it off to analyse the keywords. It will gather a mix of data that will help you decide if a phrase is one you want to go after.
The first criteria we look at is competition, in particular, you want to see how many other webpages are trying to rank for it. The exact numbers will vary depending on your software, but generally it’ a relative thing and you’ll immediately see that some broader phrases are extremely competitive and the more specific you get, the less competition you’re going to face.
You can usually delete anything that is clearly over-the-top and focus your attention on the next step…
Step 5. Delete anything that doesn’t get any search traffic.
You might see some phrases that have low competition, but if no one is searching for them, it doesn’t do you any good. So you can usually filter out anything that doesn’t register any searches at all, but don’t be too extreme.
The good news is, it doesn’t take a whole lot of traffic to make it a phrase worth going after. RM sales and photography assignments are usually going to fetch reasonable price, so a couple of good leads each month off a single keyword phrase is a pretty good return!
The other thing to keep in mind is, the closer someone gets to a buying decision, the more specific they are with their search phrase. So a specific phrase with minimal competition getting a dozen or so searches a month could be a big score for a photographer.
Step 6. Select your best keyword phrases from the list.
So once you’ve trimmed your list, you can pick out all the best phrases and use them everywhere! Include them your profiles, in your bios, on your social media accounts, anywhere you link back to your main website.
More importantly, use them in your blog posts, and if appropriate in your photo descriptions and captions. That depth of associate content will help the search engines recognise common themes in all your page, and help them all rank better for your relevant phrases.
For GlobalEye photographers, you can of course choose the best of the lot and use that as your Main SEO Tag that we’ll use across the network of websites, but long term, you’ll get the best results if you publish lots of written content using all the words and phrases from your final list.
Why bother with Keyword Research
The problem we see around here is that a lot of our photographers want to describe themselves as landscape photographers or sports photographers etc, which pits them against hundreds of thousands of other photographers… or more.
So by honing in on specific details, you can reduce the competition to a level where you actually stand a chance of being found by someone who needs you. By going through the keyword research process, you end up with a list of phrases that photo-buyers are using to look for photographers just like you, and images of subjects you shoot might actually use.
And once you’re aware of these phrase, you’ll find yourself using them without even thinking about it.
It’s also useful because it forces photographers to stop and think honestly about their strengths and weaknesses, and what it is in particular that they have to offer buyers?
That’s a valuable exercise for any photographer, any time.
It’s easy to get caught up on our work and what we’re trying to achieve with it, and forget about the end-user and what they need us to supply. So anything that puts you in a photo-buyer mindset from time to time will help make sure you’re producing content for a real market.
Subject Keyword Research
You can also do this same process for your key photo subjects… what would a buyer type into Google if they need a photo of one of your specific subjects?
What you’ll end up with is a list of words you can use when captioning and keywording your images, in your page descriptions, in your blog and social media posts.
That list will also give you insights to the type of content each of your potential buyer types might need, which will give you even more ideas next time you’re shooting the subject!
When you’re submitting images to your stock library, it’s even worth a quick keyword research session just before you start, to see if there’s themes or ideas relevant to the material you haven’t considered. Again it’s about switching off the photographer brain and getting into a photo-buyer mindset.
Keyword Research Tools
The most popular of the lot is probably Google’s built-in keyword tool … it’s free and if you register an account with Google Adwords, you get a lot more data to work with. That’s probably enough for most people for ongoing us.
If you’re just starting out though, and you plan on spending a little bit of time on this, I’d really recommend you grab a copy of Market Samurai. It offers up a more data than Google’s tool, more detail than Google and has a lot of filter and sort options that can help you home in on the best phrases.
It’s a commercial program but there’s a free trial period, and you should be able to run through your ‘photographer phrase’ plus most of your key subjects in that time.
However you choose to do it, keyword research is essentially market research, and that really should be the cornerstone of any serious business… knowing your customer, and positioning yourself so they can find you.