SEO for the Photographer

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization “. Whether you’re a wedding photographer, a nature photographer, or maybe you’re just a hobbyist with a personal website, everybody wants to be found in the search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing, right? Who wouldn’t!

You just typed a few keywords to your favorite search engine and low and behold – you’re not even on the first page. After five minutes of clicking “Next”, you finally see your site, but it’s buried on page 152. Depressing isn’t it?

There must be a way to move up, ideally to the first page, but how?

SEO for the Photographer
A typical Google search

This is what is displayed on top of your Web browser and also used by many search engines as the title of a search result listing. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things to have, and, it’s also the easiest to change.

Don’t just put Home or Welcome to My Cool Website; it’s boring and tells you, and, more importantly, the search engines, nothing about what your site is about. You need to list your location, a few of your specialties i.e. keywords, and at least the name ‘photographer’ and/or ‘photography’ – you are a photographer, right? I always write the most important keyword first, and the least important, last. Don’t get carried away though; try limiting that to 70 characters or less.

As an example, if your business/website is called Joe Smith Photography and you’re a wedding and portrait photographer who lives in Merced California, you might use: <title>“Merced CA – Wedding & Portrait Photographer – Joe Smith Photography”</title>. It uses 67 characters, which is perfect, and we used the term photography and photographer, even better. Since you have a limited number of characters, I would not use adjectives like ‘best’, ‘special’ etc. You may be the best photographer in your area, by I doubt if anyone is going to search for terms like that.

Don’t be afraid to drop your name all together, especially if you specialize in several areas and/or your name is too long. Remember, focus on those searchable keywords first.

Keyword-Rich and Relative Content

Write relative and keyword-rich content and search engines love to munch on text! I’m not going to go into why a 100% Flash website is bad for SEO, but without content (text), search engines will have a tough time digesting a Flash-driven website. If you’re ‘stuck’ with a Flash site, I suggest adding a splash page so you can add a few keyword-rich paragraphs about what you do and where you’re located.

If you can edit/modify your template, I suggest adding a header <h1> tag and a few sub-header <h2> tags on each page. It’s just like reading a newspaper. It will help in readability and also search engines put more weight on those <h1>, <h2> etc tags than ordinary text (<p> tags).

So in our example, you have ‘Merced CA – Wedding & Portrait Photographer – Joe Smith Photography’ as the <title> tag. Adding a <h1> tag could say: Merced CA Wedding and Portrait Photographer and below that you describe what you do, using those relative keywords and phrases.

You can then add a sub header <h2> called Weddings and talk about why you are the best wedding photographer in town. Same thing with your other specialties.

The Description Metadata Tag

A typical HTML source code
A typical HTML source code

If you can’t add text on your site or you’re using Flash, then you really need to use the description tag wisely. This tag should be a brief and concise summary of your page’s content, in about 150 to 200 characters. Hopefully adding those rich-keyword phrases.

The Keyword Metadata Tag

Years ago it was helpful, but now it doesn’t help. Google stopped using them several years ago.

The Big Picture

You should rename your image files (jpg’s) and use the ‘alt/title’ tags. Don’t stuff keywords into the ‘alt’ tag unless it pertains to that image. If you took a picture of a sunset at Yosemite, then rename the picture something like ’yosemite-sunset.jpg’ and for your alt tag; ‘A picture of Yosemite at sunset.’.

Play the Game

It’s Google’s game, so play along. I suggest signing up for Google Analytics, Website Tools and probably everything that Google has to offer! They offer a lot of great tools and I suggest learning a few.

Adding a Sitemap can help find “hidden” pages that search engines may not normally discover.

In Closing

Just remember, this isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take some time, usually a month or two to start seeing results. So, while you’re waiting for the results – grab your camera and take some more pictures!

Mike Matenkosky

Mike is a Central Valley California landscape and nature photographer whose subjects include scenes from Merced County, Yosemite, SeKi, and the eastern Sierra. He is currently living in Atwater, CA.

The text and photographs are © Copyright Mike Matenkosky (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from Mike Matenkosky.

3 Comments


  1. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for the info.

    I am wondering how to get a site map for my SmugMug site.

    Thank you

    Reply

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