This is a guest post by our friend and client Dylan M Howell, who is a well known wedding photographer and SEO expert. Recently, he and Corey Potter founded Rad Rank, an SEO Agency focused on helping creative entrepreneurs reach a larger audience through organic search.
Below, Dylan shares some proven tactics and valuable insights on ways you can improve your Blogging and Content Strategy to attract more and better traffic to your photography website.
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How To Blog For SEO
There are SEO tips everywhere you look these days. It seems like there is a consistent mantra being repeatedly handed down from one person to another, “Blog your work consistently.” Every time I hear it, I cringe a bit harder than the last.
The problem isn’t that you inherently need to blog more often. Google doesn’t apply magic fairy dust to your website if they see you jamming the publish button once per week. If anything, it’s likely that you’re blogging far too much content.
To be more precise, you’re putting your efforts into breadth and not depth. You don’t want to have 300 blog posts that are all ranking middle of page six. Google doesn’t typically reward sites for casting a wide net. They want to send searchers to sites that are the authority on a subject.
We’re going to show you how to change your blogging strategy away from broken status quo.
Blogging 10 Years Ago
If you’ve been using the internet for more than a decade, you probably remember a time before people spent the majority of their day connected to social media.
Before Facebook changed the game, there was a time when people would subscribe to blogs to get updates from people and businesses. Anyone remember RSS readers?
A blog was a way to build an audience and engage with them. People actively browsed blogs and their content the same way that people subscribe to YouTube channels or follow on Instagram today.
Not only that, but in the past, people would share blog posts like crazy. If you featured clients on your blog, it was a big deal, and they would send the blog post in an email to all of their friends and family.
Today, this isn’t the typical behavior, especially for photography blogs.
People follow photographers on Instagram or other social media, and they don’t care about sharing a blog post because they can easily share the photos on their own platforms.
You might think this is a good reason to abandon blogging all together, but blogging can still be a powerful tool for marketing. To harness this power, you need to change your mindset and understand the strategies for using your blog in a world dominated by social media.
Why Blogging is Still Important
There are several reasons that blogging is still a great part of any smart marketing plan.
- Blog posts are more permanent.
- You OWN your blog content.
- Blogging allows you to control the experience.
It is an ask to get a user to click onto your website from Facebook, even moreso from Instagram. Those social posts are easy to publish, but they only exist in the consciousness of your audience for ~48 hours.
Articles on your blog can attract traffic for years after their original publishing date. Plus, the traffic is passive. You’re trading knowledge, interest, or inspiration for attention. Instead of asking people to visit your website, they’re choosing to browse your content.
The paradigm shift you must make is quite simple. Instead of simply posting your client work, you must bring value to your future clients. The days of being able to just post a wedding story, target the venue, and get meaningful traffic are on their way out. There is just too much competition after years of photographers all using the same strategy.
Our goal must be to put ourselves in the shoes of the client planning their photography experience. Think of the possible questions they’ll be asking and leverage our expert knowledge on the subject.
Plan Around the User’s Journey
Start from the beginning. What are the questions your clients were probably asking as they first entertained the idea of a photo shoot. If it’s a wedding you could start super early:
- How to choose a wedding ring?
- Proposal Ideas
- Should I hire a photographer for my proposal?
- Engagement photo locations in [your city]
- What to wear to an engagement session
- Engagement session posing ideas
- Wedding venues in [your city]
- Wedding officiants, wedding makeup artists, wedding planners, wedding florists, wedding dj’s, wedding caterers etc.
- Wedding planning guide
- Wedding timeline tips
Not only are these topics that your clients are all trying to research, but having this content on your site will make you the expert on weddings in your area. You’ll be driving traffic with each individual post, but they’ll also be supporting your main page’s authority on the topic.
For portrait photographers, the process is the same. Think about any question or topic your potential clients would be interested in while planning their session.
Don’t forget the post-photoshoot questions: where to print photos in [city], wedding album options, where to get photographs framed, etc.
These will help with traffic, authority, and retention.
One major mistake that photographers make when it comes to blogging is thinking that every single blog post needs to be written for their target clients or people in their local area. There are opportunities for nationwide or even worldwide topics that you can become the expert on.
Blogs are a great place to put resources for your clients and an awesome way to build local relevance, but the opportunities don’t end there.
As a photographer, you are an expert on many things that you take for granted.
- Finding cool locations for photos
- Photography gear
- Capturing moments/memories
- Human interaction
- Style (clothing, hair, makeup)
- Wedding traditions and culture
There are topics in each of these categories where you are uniquely positioned to add your expertise and opinions.
In many cases, these topics get national or international search volume, and have very little competition. In other words, you can often write world-class content about topics that thousands of people search for across the world each month.
You might be thinking, “that is nice and all, but if people live in a different part of the world, they can’t become my client and I’m wasting my time.”
Fair point, but remember that a huge part of blogging is to build authority! When you start to get national recognition, you attract links from major publications, you get opportunities to be interviewed, to write guest posts, and to speak at conferences.
If you look at the sites at the top of the results for competitive photography related terms, they almost always share this common trait. They’ve broken out of their local markets and received national attention.
The links alone are enough to help your entire site become more competitive for all queries, including local keywords.
So how do you find these opportunities?
We, here at Rad Rank, use paid tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Buzzsumo to quickly see what topics are doing well on social media (number of interactions). You can then use them as prompts for your own content.
You can also get inspiration from industry sources like magazine covers. A simple image search of “wedding magazine cover” will give you the headlines they thought would best get the reader’s attention.
To be honest, many of these topics are already inside you. You have so much knowledge as a photographer that you likely take for granted.
Using free tools like Keywords Everywhere (browser extension), Google Adwords Keyword Planner, or Google Trends you can get a decent idea of how many people are interested in your target topics.
Make it Better
One of the most common questions I get when somebody is writing about a topic that has already been covered is “should I really write another post about the same topic?”
In many cases, even when something has been covered pretty well, you can still write content that is significantly better than what currently exists. In the content marketing world, this goes by a few different names. Content that takes all of the articles from the first page of results, blends the best parts, and improves upon it is called “10x” or “skyscraper” content.
You’re goal isn’t necessarily to just be longer or more comprehensive, but to accomplish the searchers task in a better way. If they’re looking for wedding venues and your competition has a simple list of venues, you can make it better by including short descriptions of each. Or go even further by including address and contact information.
When Google sees that people are getting the information they need from your post and not bouncing straight back to search results, they will reward you with higher rankings.
After it’s Published
Your job isn’t done when you hit publish on a blog post. Google Reader was great for instant traffic before you even shared on social media, but those days are long gone. Of course, we should share our content on social media. Do your best to entice interaction and clicks to your site, without going full Buzzfeed.
I don’t consider my job done until I’ve gone back through my previously published content and found places to link to my new articles internally. This technique is great for sharing link authority from your posts that are already successful to your newly published posts. It also helps tie your content together, improving your readers experience.
The final step is building links. It typically only takes a few backlinks to internal pages to greatly improve their rankings. Even for competitive terms, a small handful of links can push your great content to the top.
The easiest backlink opportunity would come from any vendors or businesses mentioned in your article. You can also see if any industry blogs are willing to feature your post.
What’s out: Simply sharing your photo sessions on your blog.
What’s in: Building local relevance. Being seen as an expert by your clients. Being seen as an expert in the industry.
Think about the user’s journey while brainstorming content ideas. Look at the current content that’s ranking for those topics and find a way to do it better. Don’t limit yourself to local topics. You’re an expert on all sorts of subjects, don’t be afraid to share that knowledge with the world.
You can bring in long-term content that’s going to convert into clients. It just takes a bit of research, sitting down to write out your thoughts, and some care to your user experience.
Dylan M Howell started his SEO journey back in college, when he was trying to bring more traffic to his first business – building bicycle wheels. Later he built a thriving wedding photography brand, began teaching SEO and started consulting companies on their digital marketing efforts.
On his free time, you can see him riding bicycles around the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon.