I do talk about optimizing your website for Google a lot, but that’s really just habit… we actual plan to list in Yahoo and Bing as well, plus a lot of the smaller, more specialised search engines. Google is simply the biggest of the lot and the toughest judge, so we work to their standards for the biggest potential return.
The good news is, if we do that right, we should also rank well in all the other search engines as well. In fact, a lot of photographers are going to find they rank in Bing and Yahoo much faster and those listings will often be higher than anything they’ll ever get in Google. And that’s not such a bad thing…
Facebook now uses Bing as their integrated search engine, and Firefox recently dumped Google and made Yahoo their default search engine… so both of them are currently enjoying a major increase in search volume.
There’s also been a number of smaller ‘independent’ search engines making waves recently, and there’s always been a lot of regional search engines that have maintained a loyal following… so the search industry is probably as healthy as it’s been in years, and competition is definitely on the increase.
So it makes sense to use simple best practices here, to give yourself the best possible chance to rank well, right across the board, in any search engine your potential customers might decide to use.
Your Website & Hosting Platform
Regardless of your web hosting platform or structure, I am going to refer to it from here on as ‘your website‘.
Don’t let that put you off if you are using a photography portal or business directory… it all works the same. In fact, that kind of presence can often be easier to get ranking well than a stand-alone website… because of the the portal already has age, authority and PageRank on it’s side.
In most cases, your portal should have taken care of the structural SEO considerations on your behalf, but it you’ll still want to check the visible elements on your pages, so don’t be tempted to skip this section.
If you’re using the WordPress platform, you’ll find a list of recommended Plugins that will cover a lot of the tasks mentioned in this section. Basically if you install the Plugins and work through each one’s settings page, you’ll be done.
If your website is HTML, then you should have the knowledge to handle the structural SEO below… if not, you might do best to schedule some time to run through it with your developer.
Shortcuts, Loopholes and Scams
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a growth industry and you will find a lot of gurus and charlatans ready to sell you some amazing shortcuts and miracle solutions, usually based on some recently discovered loophole.
There’s two problems here…
First of all, any loopholes these guys ‘discover’ usually get shut pretty fast. Google doesn’t mess around and they are very adept as spotting anyone working the system.
Secondly… Google might penalize you for even trying.
This can vary from a slap on the wrist… ie. dropping you down the search results a few notches… to a full blown penalty… removing you entirely from the results and refusing to list your website ever again.
So the bottom line is.. it’s just not worth it. If an SEO service sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Instead we’ll be focusing on the fundamentals that Google actually tells us they value. These are factors that aren’t likely to change any time soon so you can invest time and effort with confidence.
Mostly it comes back to a great visitor experience, high-value content and plenty of social proof. And the good news is, you don’t have to be an expert on any of this… as long as you’re prepared to take my word for it and simply do the work!
So with that in mind, lets get on with it…[/slide] [slide name=”2. Content Considerations”]
At Least 500 Words of Relevant Content
Ideally your target page should have even more that this, so first thing is, DO NOT try to list a portfolio page that’s all images.
Pretty pictures are fine once you have people on your site, but to get them there in the first place, you need relevant written content… so you will get much better results if you focus your efforts on a Business Profile type of page.
If it’s light-on for written content, add the Long Business Description you wrote earlier.
By all means include photos and other visual elements to make it look good, but make sure you have the text there as well.
Whatever you do, DO NOT use Flash introductions or slideshows!
Search engines have no idea what they’re about and just see a blank page. Even if you add written content as well, the Flash Intros tend to be painfully slow to load and Google won’t wait… it just sees a blank, slow-loading, non-responsive page and moves on.
Smart photographers stopped using these10 years ago, so if you’ve still got one, get rid of it ASAP!
Needless to say, your written content should include your Primary, Secondary and Long-Tail keywords!
500 Words of Relevant Content on Your Other Pages
Not always possible I know, but you should try to add plenty of written content to as many of your other web pages as possible.
There are lots of ways to do this, but the easy option is to write are description/introduction to each page, even if it’s down the bottom below your photo content. You can also add longer titles and descriptions for any photos you publish, and if need be, add more photos to each page.
Personally I think 700 words could be the better target, but I’ve seen pages do OK with 300… so this is an approximation and the real key is relevance. If visitors to the page are likely to read it, then your on track… and it’s going to help you on multiple levels.
So don’t force it and ensure your pages always make sense for human visitors, but within that framework, always look to get as much written information as possible onto the page for the search engines!
Check your Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
Boring I know, but it is important. If you’re not strong in this area, just open each of your main webpages, then copy-and-paste the content into a word doc and let the automatic spell and grammar check do it’s thing.
This is particularly important on your main target web page. Don’t worry about regional variations… Google is smart enough to spot and ignore those… but if it sees a lot of errors it will simply ignore your website as low value.
I personally have a bad habit of going back to make last-minute edits after I’ve done my spell-checking, while I’m doing a final proof read… end result being I can make a whole new batch of typos that don’t get picked up.
There are two solutions to that… ALWAYS do a final spell check, last thing, or get someone else who isn’t going to make any changes to do your final proof read!
Are You Using Synonyms For Your Keywords
Your Long-Tail Keyword list should cover a lot of this, but make sure you are using a heap of variations of all your main keywords…. pictures, photos, images, albums, prints etc.
This also extends to ‘related’ words… If you’re targeting photographer, make sure you still use words like photography and photos and pictures. If you’re targeting wedding, make sure you have words like marriage, bride, bridegroom.
Definitely DO NOT keyword stack… that is: don’t use the exact same phrase over and over… mix it up and keep it natural.
Is the page engaging and interesting?
You want to capture your visitors attention quickly and keep them on your page, so they need to know that what you’re offering is what they were looking for, and the one single thing that will do that better than any other, is if you use your Primary Keyword as your Page title.
Your Page Title DOES NOT have to be your Business Name!
Most photographers want to argue that one, but the fact of the matter is, you can call your website anything you like… your visitor doesn’t care, but the search engines do!
Your visitor just wants to know if you can provide the product or service they’re looking for?
So what they WANT to see when they arrive, more than anything, is the phrase they just searched for in big bold letters across the top of the page!
They will be quite happy to look for your official business name later on…
After you’ve convinced them that you’re the photographer they need.
So your Primary Keyword should be your page title. You might be tempted to make little changes or add words to the beginning or end, but be aware, every letter you add will dilute the results you get.
The good news?
Most photographers won’t follow this advice!
Even now, many of the people reading this report… people who have just spent considerable time and effort coming up with the perfect phrase to target… will be making excuses to themselves about why they are the exception, why they know better, and why they should do it differently…
They’ll convince themselves that it’s more important to put their business name at the top of the page, but that’s just ego and/or very out-dated marketing…
Your website is a sales conversion tool.
So it’s all about giving the customer what they need to make a buying decision.
And to be blunt, they don’t need to know who you are until you’ve convinced them that you are who they need.
So the people who do it properly and use their Primary Keyword… they will be the ones topping the local search results every time.
And all the people who do it their way… well, they’ll struggle to rank in the first place, so no one will turn up to see what they wrote at the top anyway.
In SEO terms, you can look at it like this…
If you use your Business Name as the website title and the main heading, you’re basically trying to get listed for that phrase… for example, Joe Bloggs Wedding Photography.
So the good news is, you’ll probably find it very easy to rank well for that phrase because no one else will be targeting it.
The problem is, the only people who’d ever search for it already know you! And they would have found you without too much trouble anyway.
On the other hand, the people you want to reach… all those other potential customers who don’t know you yet… they don’t know to type that in, so they’ll never see your listing.
Again, modern marketing is more about meeting your customers specific needs and expectations ‘real-time’, rather than extended branding campaigns ‘just in case’. Always focus on serving someone who needs your specific expertise NOW!
Are Your Secondary Keywords In Your Headings?
Whenever possible, you should try to break your content up in to sections, each with a relevant heading based on one of your Secondary Keywords.
As mentioned earlier, ideally your Page Title & Headline will use your Primary Keyword, you’d then have a series of headings using your Secondary Keywords, with as much relevant written content as possible below each of those, incorporating even more of your Long-Tail Keywords.
Of course I will stress that is a guide and you should only follow it as far as you can while still making a webpage that is logical and readable for real-human visitors!
Is Your Business Location Information Included?
For local listings this is a key element and needs to be more than a few lines in the footer.
Your city and state should appear in your page Title Tag, the Headline (as your Primary Keyword) and throughout your page content. If you can work it into a couple of headings that’s great, if not you should at least ‘bold’ it in the page content.
Another option is to link it to an authority site. Find the highest PageRank site you can on your city, and link an instance of the City-State text to that website!
That’s two birds with one stone… you’re effectively telling Google that the City-State phrase is relevant to your site, and borrowing some authority at the same time.
Taking that a step further, if you use WordPress or have the HTML skills, consider embedding a Google Map of your location in the page. I can’t think of a better way to send a message to Google about the location of your business!
Other Interest Factor Elements
Nothing destroys your rankings faster than a high bounce rate… people hitting your webpage and then hitting the back button. At the same time, you can counter that to a large extent if other people arrive and stay for a while.
So one thing a photographer can do is have some engaging content above the fold to make your visitors hang around a while, or to get them to delve deeper into your site.
A gallery of thumbnail images can work quite well to prompt them to venture deeper into your site, while a slideshow of the same photos will keep them on the page longer.
Another option is a slideshow video. Don’t have it autoplay and keep it small, but make sure the screenshot is a compelling image that will make the viewer curious enough to hit play and stick around until it comes up.
I actually prefer the gallery approach though, as the photo captions help increase the written content on the page, but a mix of the two across your website is probably the best of both worlds.
What you should definitely avoid is the long list of big images that take forever to load.
I’m sure everyone has encountered this at some stage… You arrive on a page and nothing happens for ages… because there’s 30 huge photos waiting to load.
Unfortunately the photos at the bottom of the page always seem to load first, and the ‘above the fold’ content takes forever.
The trap here is, the website owner probably won’t even know there’s a problem.
Because they view a ‘cached’ version of the page using images already downloaded to their browser… the website owner thinks the page loads fast.
While first time visitors give up after 15-30 seconds and just moves on…
This is easy to check though… always do the speed tests which we’ll cover shortly!
Internal & External Links On Every Page
Good Internal Linking is something Google looks at as a real value-add for visitors… the ability to move from one page to another related page, quickly and easily. If you use a standard navigation menu across your site, this is covered, but if not, you ought to make a few manual links between each of your pages.
A few Contextual Links can also help… links from within the text on the body of your page to another page on your site… these are seen as even higher value by Google as they help the visitor locate other relevant material.
And finally, don’t forget the Borrowed Authority links we mentioned earlier. If you once shot an assignment for a major company, mention that and link their name to their website. If you have a book for sale on Amazon link to it. What ever your specialty, find a relevant page on Wikipedia and link to that.
Don’t over do it, but a handful of authority links across your website can add real value to your profile in the eyes of Google!
Check For Duplicate Content
If you’re just getting started with this kind of promotion, then this shouldn’t be an issue, but if you’re done a bit of web-promotion/SEO work before, or you’ve paid someone to do it in the past, it could pay to check this.
Basically you want the content on your main web pages to be unique. If the same content is already available somewhere else, there’s a very good chance Google will consider that the Primary source, and ignore your website.
A lot of the gurus will talk about Google actually penalising you for duplicate content, but I don’t think that’s an issue.
There are so many legitimate reasons for republishing content on th web, that I just don’t believe even Google would try to evaluate that and act on it.
The key is to make sure the content on your main pages is always viewed as the original source, and that any time you republish it, you make a few changes.
To check this, just do a copy and paste of your website URL into Copyscape.
It will scan the web and let you know if similar content has been published elsewhere.
Don’t panic if you find duplicates… just make a few changes to your main website’s content. The updating procedure is actually a good thing as Google likes ‘fresh content’!
This is something Google considers essential for a quality user experience, so make sure you have something in place.
Have you got a blog?
A lot of photographers still shy away from this because they don’t want to write or they think their photography should speak for itself.
If you’ve read this far though, you should now have a pretty good idea of the benefits, so I won’t dwell on it… Except to say, if you don’t have one, get one!
You can set up a fully-managed, pre-configured Photography Blog on the ProImag.es platform in a matter of minutes. That could be a good option if you are new to this.
If you are serious about ranking well in the search engines you need a dynamic website where new WRITTEN content is added regularly. You’ll also find a blog provides a ‘newsfeed’ which we can use later to automate your social media publishing, which in turn ramps up the results you’ll get from this entire exercise![/slide] [slide name=”3. Structural Considerations”]
The next section covers the structural elements on your page. These become a little more problematic to fix/edit as it depends a lot on your platform, how much access you have to the HTML code behind your pages, and how far you want to dig into this.
If you are using a portal site or business directory, this should be taken care of for you, as long as you’ve provided all the written info your host has asked you to.
At GlobalEye for example, we spend a huge amount of time optimizing the HTML markup, meta tags and local schemas etc, so the photographers can get on with shooting and publishing their work
Though it’s worth noting… it only ever works to it’s full potential when the photographer does their part, providing profile information and publishing new content regularly!
If you are using WordPress, then most of this ‘structure’ will be handled by the plugins we mention in the tools section… as long as you provide the requested information once they’re installed.
Whatever platform you’re on, you can check a lot of this by ‘viewing source’ of your webpage to open the HTML source code in your browser.
If you’re new to that, you can get help for any of the following with a simple search in your preferred search engine… “How to check XXX on YYYY” … Where XXX is the element below, and YYY is your web publishing platform.
Here are the major elements you want to check…
Is your main website Page Title 65 characters or less, and does it include your Primary Keyword phrase?
Does your main website Meta Description use the Short Description you worked on earlier. Is it 150 characters or less, and does it include your Primary Keyword phrase? Is it interesting and informative, and will it make people want to visit your site?
Do all other Page Title tags have 65 characters or less? Are they all unique and descriptive of the actual page content? Do they include your keywords?
Are your other page Meta Descriptions between 90 – 155 characters? Are they all unique and do they accurately describe the page content? Do they include your keywords?
Do all of your image have Alt Tags entered? These can use a mix of keywords and where relevant should also include your City-State details.
Do your image file names contain keywords and location words? This can make a big difference and is definitely worth doing… re-name some of your image files to include keywords and your city-state information.
Does every page have a H1 headline?
Does every page have a hierarchy of H2, H3 and H4 tags below that?
Does your site offer an XML sitemap?
Does your site offer a robots.txt file?
Does your robots.txt file have a link to your sitemap?
Is all the text on your site searchable? ie, no Flash intros and also no images used to display important text?
Are you using Local Schema Markup?
If not, you can go to the site below, enter your business information as prompted and generate the mark up. You can then paste that snipped into the footer of your site so it appears on every page.
If you’ve checked everything so far, you should have your website fairly well optimized and ready to go. It pays to double check though, so we ‘know’ everything is set up properly and we don’t have to come back later… so we’re going to do a few final tests….
Google Webmaster Tools
When you register your site with Google Webmaster tools and submit a link to your sitemap, the Googlebot will ‘Crawl’ your website and let you know if it finds and error or issues that might prevent it ranking properly.
Bing Webmaster Tools
The same thing applies to Bing. Just register, add the provided meta tag to your site and then submit a sitemap… if any problems are ever detected, Bing will let you know by email.
Check for Canonical URLs
Does your site work with both versions of your URL … ie with the www. and without?
Ideally you should also include a tag in the header of your pages to specify which version is your preferred option, as this can dilute your SEO efforts if some sites link to the www. version and others don’t.
Does Google consider your site mobile friendly?
This is becoming very important for ‘local’ listings as over 50% of all search activity is now done on mobile devices. . Be sure to check your site and address any issues that turn up.
Have you included social sharing buttons on your website?
Again, increasingly important, and not just for SEO. At the very least you should allow your customers to promote your services to their friends, though even better would be if you actively encouraged them!
Also, if you operate a ‘local’ business you need to offer the means for people to connect with you on their preferred platform.
You don’t have to start tweeting about what you had for lunch, but you should be listing your business, describing your services and posting a few photos and updates about your recent activity. We’ll come back to that shortly though…
For now I’d suggest you should have sharing links to Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare. If you offer B2B services ,you should also have Google+ and LinkedIn.
Have you checked for broken links?
If you’re on WordPress there’s a number of plugins that will scan your site regularly for broken links… search the plugins directory for Broken Link Checker!
If you have a stand-alone website, you can install the following free software to check your site…
Alternatively, there are some sites that will run a free check for you…
Just enter your URL and let it run… though most will only go for a certain number of pages or a certain depth before you’re prompted to update to the paid version!
Have you run a speed test through Google?
This is a major factor for ranking well with Google, so make sure you run the test and follow any suggestions for increasing your page load times.
For some more comprehensive analysis and suggestions, you can also run a test through Pingdom?
The recurring speed problem I see with photography sites are homepages that have too many photos that are simply far too big!
If you have a big slideshow on your homepage, you might be in for a shock when you run these tests!
If that’s the case, there really is no option but to reduce the number of images, reduce the screen dimensions of the images and reduce the filesize of the images (using JPG compression).
There is absolutely no value in having an amazing slideshow on your homepage if no one elver waits for it to load so they can watch it!
Even worse… if it loads that slow, chances are Google will never list your site well anyway… so you won’t get visitors in the first place![/slide] [slide name=”5. Checklist”]
There are three distinct sections here, all equally important, so be sure to spend enough time on each to ensure you have this covered.
Step 2-A Checklist: On-Page SEO Content
- At Least 500 Words of Relevant Content
- Written content includes your Primary, Secondary and Long-Tail keywords!
- 500 Words of Relevant Content on Your Other Pages
- Check your Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
- Are you using Synonyms For Your Keywords
- Is the page engaging and interesting
- Your Page Title Is Your Primary Keyword
- Your Secondary Keywords Are Your Headings
- Your Business Location Information Included?
- You have highly engaging content above the fold
- Internal & External Links On Every Page
- Check For Duplicate Content:
- Have you got a way to add fresh new written content regularly?
- ie. A blog? http://proimag.es
Step 2-B Checklist: Website MarkUp
- Unique Page Titles, 65 characters, Include Primary Keyword phrase
- Main page Meta Description uses the Short Business Description
- Will it make people want to visit your site?
- Other page Meta Descriptions between 90 – 155 characters?
- Are they all unique and do they accurately describe the page content?
- Do they include your Secondary & Long Tail keywords?
- Do all of your image have Alt Tags entered?
- Do some image tags include your City-State details.
- Do your image file names contain keywords and location words?
- Does every page have a H1 headline?
- Does every page have a hierarchy of H2, H3 and H4 tags below that?
- Does your site offer an XML sitemap?
- Does your site offer a robots.txt file?
- Does your robots.txt file have a link to your sitemap?
- Have you removed all Flash Introductions & Slideshows?
- Is all the text on your site searchable? (No images to display text)
- Are you using Local Schema Markup?
Step 2-C Checklist: Technical Considerations
- Registered with Google Webmaster Tools
- Registered with Bing Webmaster Tools
- Checked for Canonical URLs
- Does Google consider your site mobile friendly?
- Do you have social sharing buttons?
- All business types: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare.
- B2B businesses: Google+ and LinkedIn as well
- Have you checked for broken links?
- Have you run a speed test through Google AND Pingdom?
The good news is, once done, you shouldn’t need to worry about Sections #2 & #3 again… so long as you keep #1 in mind any time you update or add new pages to your website.[/slide] [/accordion]