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SEO Guide for Photographers

Search Engine Optimisation is often seen as a complicated and expensive service that is best left to technical wizards. This is why there are so many so called 'specialists' that charge bundles of cash for their services. Our website system comes ready made for high end optimisation, but there are many aspects of SEO that you first need to understand.

The first thing to remember is that getting listed on Google is not an instant event. There is no one-click solution that will put you on page one, and remember that there are thousands of competitors all trying to get on that same page. It can take many weeks before your new website is visited and indexed by Google, so don't expect overnight results. Most SEO specialists will estimate up to 3 months before a new website will get registered.

All search engines need to find some text on your web pages before they can index it, so if you have nothing but a few photo captions then you are unlikely to get listed. Your page text must include appropriate keywords and phrases that visitors will use to find a website like yours, and since most people will include their location or area in the search, you need to have these in your text as well.

Edit your Page Meta Tags

The Meta title is the text that appears at the very top of your browser, and this is very important. You should edit the meta title on every page to match the specific content on that page, using keywords and phrases that people will use to find you. Google places a high emphasis on the keywords in the title because this also appears as the title in the search results. Make sure that the keywords are the first words in your title, and not somewhere near the end.

The Meta description is a short summary of the content on each page which is hidden from the browser, but search engine spiders can see it. This is most often displayed on Google search results, so it should be informative and contain those all important keywords and phrases. If you don't have a Meta description on each page then Google will have to take snippets of text from your page, which may not be as informative as you would like.

There is also a Meta keywords element inside every page, but this is ignored by Google. However, some other search engines read them, so it is still worth editing them as well. This is just a comma separated list of keywords and phrases.

Search Engines Need Links

Search engines use special web crawlers (or spider bots) that find and follow external links on websites in order to find new websites to visit. This is how they discover new websites even if you have never registered your website on Google. So, if your website is not listed on any other website then Google will have a hard time finding you. You have to lay a trail of back links so that Google can find you.

The Importance of Quality Back Links

The more websites that contain a link to your website then the more important your website appears to Google. This is called your PageRank (named after Larry Page, the person who developed the special patented algorithm that it uses). It also looks at the content of the page that holds your link to decide if it is related to the content on your website.

This means that you should only ever ask for back links on quality websites that are related to your own services, so don't bother with link exchanges or generic web directories; they are a waste of time and can reduce your PageRank. It is also much better if you can get links on websites with a higher PageRank than your own website.

If you have a blog or Facebook account (or any other social network) then make sure you include a link to your website. This is an often overlooked but very important source of backlinks that will increase traffic to your site.

Photographers should make contact with their local business websites eg: printers, picture framers, wedding services, photo clubs etc. In fact anyone with a website that is related to your services. They can become a valuable business contact as well as a new host for your back links. This will also help to improve your local search rankings because most people search using their town or county in their search for photographers (or any services).

Use Key Phrases not Words

Never assume that you will achieve page one on Google with the key word 'photographer' or any other single generic key word. The simple fact is you won't. Few people use single words when they search, so there is no point in trying to optimise your site for them.

You have more chance of success by optimising your web pages for key phrases (two or three words at least). We all know how difficult it is to find exactly what we are looking for with just a single word, so we always use multiple words to narrow our search; and if we are looking for a local service then we will include the location or area name. This is standard search practice, so you should take advantage of this.

If you are a portrait photographer, for example, based in Leeds and covering West Yorkshire, then you should be using the key phrase 'portrait photographer leeds' and 'portrait photographer west yorkshire', because that is what your potential customers will be using when they search on Google.

Key Phrase Distribution

Once you have decided on your key phrase for the home page, make sure you include it in your Meta title and description, and then on the very top of your home page in the header title (use H1 or H2 size). You should also include words from your key phrase in the first paragraph and in the last paragraph. Try to keep the amount of text on your pages to no more than four or five paragraphs, and focus on just one topic rather than covering lots of unrelated information.

Don't use the same key phrase more than three times on the page as this can be seen as keyword spamming, and forget any ideas of adding long lists of keywords at the bottom of your page, or trying to use the same colour font as the background to make them invisible. These old tricks never work, and they can even get you black listed on Google.

If you offer different photographic services then create a separate page for each service, and add text and images that include the appropriate key phrases for that service. Don't just have one page that lists all your services. Always optimise each page for one key phrase only.

Images and their Filenames

Google also indexes images on your web pages, so name your photos with appropriate keywords rather than the generic coded filenames (for example, use portrait-photograph-leeds.jpg instead of DSC0654.jpg etc). Remember to also add your keywords to the alt and title tags of your images (this is done via your page editor) which are also referenced by Google.

When you name images, always try to get into the habit of using only alpha numeric characters plus the hyphen or underscore characters in place of spaces. This is the safest form of naming convention for filenames on websites. Never use punctuation characters or quotation marks etc in filenames.

Internal Page Links

The spider bots look on your web pages for links to other pages on your site so that they can 'crawl' through every page they find and index them. If you have a complex javascript navigation or fancy flash navigation then you are making it very difficult for the spider bot to find any valid links. It is much better to use a simple text list navigation method (as used on our Pro-Gallery websites) that are easier for the bots to follow.

These page text links should also use keywords wherever possible, so use Portrait Gallery as a link rather than just Gallery.

Add text links in your footer area (which you can edit just like any other page) that link to other pages on your site, and use appropriate key phrases such as 'Wedding Photography Leeds' for a link to your wedding services page for example.

Google Sitemap

To help Google find all the pages on your website you can have a special sitemap generated which is then submitted to Google. It uses this sitemap to quickly find and index your pages. This is available free of charge on request with our website system.

In Summary

If you follow these simple steps you can save yourself a small fortune and increase your rankings on Google. Once you understand these basic concepts you will find it very easy to manage your own website optimisation using our simple page editors.

Don't be mislead by the persitant sales tactics of SEO specialists who will try to convince you that you will only ever succeed on Google if you pay for their services. SEO is not a black art, it is less intimidating or complex than the so-called specialists will have you believe.

Our website system allows you to edit all of the elements mentioned here. We also provide free personal help and advise on the most appropriate keywords to use, and where to use them.

If you become addicted to the search engine bug you might want to delve deeper into Google Analytics where you can examine in detail your visitors and the keywords they used and the pages they visited etc etc. We can also help you set this up for you with our Unlimited Pro-Gallery.