A must have SEO guide for every photographer. Most of these key topics and tactics are evergreen, so keep working and implementing them on your website, they will pay off in the long run. So, here’s your SEO to do list:
Table of contents
1. Optimize All Images Before Uploading Them to Your Site
We cannot stress this enough. It’s not just recommended, it’s crucial for photography websites!
If you keep your images in original sizes or high resolution, and upload them in those immense file sizes to your website – you are slowly killing your website, the user experience of your site and your business overall.
Why? Because the heavier your website gets, the slower it loads for your users. Nobody is going to wait 50+ seconds for your homepage to load (perhaps only your mom). The story gets even sadder when somebody tries to access your website from their mobile, it takes forever, it consumes their mobile data and they will eventually get frustrated and exit your site for good (remember, over 50% of web traffic comes from mobile these days).
There is no point in uploading 4K images, for a little iphone or ipad screen. Think about it, how many of your potential clients, not peers, not publishers – regular people who are interested in your services own a 4K screen? Not many.
This is why it’s important to keep your images optimized. Don’t worry, if you follow the guidelines from our image optimization guide, you will significantly reduce your image sizes without any visible changes to the quality and crispness of your photographs.
Just for a test, go right now to tools.pingdom.com, enter your website link and run a quick test. Pay attention to your load time, page size, performance score, etc. As an example, we used the website of our dear clients Days Made of Love (built with Verso theme).
A good loading speed for your pages is anything below 4 seconds. A good page size is anything below 5MB. Looks like Fanis & Jenny are doing a wonderful job with keeping their site light and beautiful.
Scroll down, snooping for more information. If your site loads slow, or has a very large page size, pay attention to the file sizes. Identify the troublemakers (see image below), optimize them, and re-upload to your site.
As mentioned, you will find a more thorough guide on how to optimize images for your WordPress site here.
But if you feel like handing all of this over to a team of professionals, we offer Site Speed Optimization services. We’ll improve your site’s loading time and performance + guide you on how to keep up the good results in the future.
2. Use Alt Tags
What is an alt tag? Why use it and how will it benefit my SEO?
It’s very simple, Google can’t read or understand images. Alt tags are like descriptions for your images, they translate your image for search engines. Without them, your images are pretty much non-existent for the world wide web.
Now imagine, your potential client, a bride is beginning her planning for the special day. She runs a search on google for specific keywords. Since you are using alt tags, a series of your images pop out in the search result. She loves them and pins them to her inspiration board on Pinterest. Three awesome things just happened:
1. You got found, so you have a potential lead.
2. Now your work is also on Pinterest, which means other brides and potential clients may stumble upon your work (read as: more exposure)
3. You just earned new backlinks (read more about backlinks below)
3. Create Valuable Content for Your Visitors
Content is crucial when it comes to SEO, or as SEO professionals say, “Content is King”.
We can’t stress this enough. Don’t blog just for the sake of having content on your site, do it with a purpose. It should be informative, entertaining, new, curious, sad or fun. If you’re blogging about a wedding, write about your experience, tell a story, describe the couple, the venue, the atmosphere and people.
These blog posts aren’t only good for showcasing your work, and pinning keywords for SEO – they also help users learn more about your personality, your values and philosophy. This is how you spark their interest and connect with them.
Do check out these 6 steps to becoming a Pro at Blogging, or follow the list of top recommendations described below:
- Use catchy titles. Write articles for the title, not just for the keyword. It’s preferable to use your focus keyword in the title, but not crucial. Don’t sacrifice your titles’ catchiness and ability to attract more readers, if the keyword simply doesn’t fit in there.
- Avoid keyword stuffing. Google got really good at understanding keywords (synonyms and similar/related word combinations). If you use the same keyword everywhere (keyword stuffing), it will be perceived as spammy.
- Focus on using just 1-2 keywords (and their synonyms) throughout a blog post. If you try to include all your keyword list into one article – you will dilute your content, thus reducing your chances of ranking higher for any of these keywords. Keep it simple. One post can be focused solely on promoting your destination wedding photography work in Italy (or even more narrow – Tuscany). Another article will promote your wedding photography work in France, or Scotland.
- It’s highly effective to use your keywords within the first paragraphs of your blog post, then a few times throughout your article, and finally one more time in the last paragraph, at the end of the post.
- Pay attention to your blog post’s structure. Make sure it’s easy to read and navigate through. Break up content into short paragraphs and sentences. If possible, add an image(s) every 300-400 words, to break up long texts. You can also use supporting content such as videos, slides, social embeds, quotes, etc.
- Make good use of Headings (H1) and subheadings (H2, H3, H4), as these define the structure of your page/post and provide better semantics. A proper use of headings will help your content rank higher in organic search results.
- As explained in the Backlinks section (read above), mention and link back to all the vendors and brands that were part of this event. Some of them may reach out to use your images for their own portfolio and social media. Guess what, more exposure and backlinks for you, as they will surely include the photo credits.
- We’ve talked about Image Optimization, alt tags and titles in the previous sections. Just make sure your alt attributes also include your keywords.
- Write everything in your own words and style. Don’t copy paste paragraphs from other blogs.
- Make sure your content satisfies the user’s search intent. Always ask yourself: is the content relevant to what the user is searching for?
- And finally, always write for the client. Not for Google. Readers need to understand, like and want to share your articles.
Here is a useful article on how to create an effective blog content strategy for your photography website.
4. Avoid Duplicated Pages
A few years ago it was popular to duplicate your pages, add a few new keywords to it and try to rank higher for multiple keywords at once. Don’t do it. You won;t get good results and can even get penalized for this. There is a smart way. Create similar pages (can be multiple blog posts) but create unique content for each of them.
Feature your own work, weddings, elopements, style shoot, images you took at a workshop, or on your holiday trip. As long as it’s your images, and there is a short story with those key destination words – you’re on the right track.
5. Build More Backlinks
A backlink is a link pointing to your site from another website.
There is only one golden rule you need to follow when building your backlinks – Quality over Quantity. One single backlink from a popular, trustworthy and relevant website can add a lot more value than 50 backlinks from spammy, dodgy websites.
Long gone is also the trend for backlink farms (yes, you could pay for batches of backlinks, also coming from unreliable sources). This type of behaviour will only hurt your ranking, if not get you completely penalized by Google. So invest some time into reaching out and building relationships that can get you mentions and features with quality backlinks.
But to be honest, as a photographer you already have access to so many opportunities for building backlinks. Think about it, you work with tens of vendors for each wedding (videographers, makeup artists, event organizing teams, desert and candy bar companies, florists, venues, musical bands, etc). Be nice, and while blogging about the event, mention and give credits to each and single one of them. Most will return the favor and share your work on their blog or social media (all backlinks), bringing more quality traffic your way. Simple.
Another strategy, requiring a bit more time, patience and effort is submitting your work to popular wedding and bridal magazines and online blogs, such as Junebug, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, etc.
Sure, it’s not easy getting featured on these sites, but keep trying and refining your portfolio. You will get featured sooner than later, and these are powerful links, since they are from the same industry as yours and weigh a lot due to relevancy. Therefore they will have a bigger impact on your SEO and ranking.
One of the easiest ways to get backlinks, is to be active online, on social media, on various relevant platforms from your industry (the blogs you want to be featured on), on websites like Quora and Reddit. Comment, engage in relevant discussions, be genuinely helpful, share your thoughts, opinion and experience, and drop a link to your website here and there. If traffic is good for these discussions, you’ll surely get new users coming to your website soon.
Eager to dive deeper into the world of backlinking strategy? Learn how to identify quality backlinks first.
6. Get Reliable Hosting
Invest into a good hosting provider. It will pay off in the long run. Don’t pick a shared plan that doesn’t use the latest technologies, doesn’t have the latest PHP versions, and doesn’t use SSDs on their servers. Hosting should never be a decision based solely on cost.
There are many hosting companies comparable on cost, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for you could get one with slow loading times, site downtime and bad customer service.
Check where your provider is based and where their servers are located. Make sure you get hosting from trusted and reliable providers. We’ve compiled a list of recommended hosting providers for photographers.
Your hosting will affect your site’s loading speed as well as your site’s security. Make sure you do your homework and know how to choose the right hosting provider for your WordPress site.
7. SSL Certificates
Moving to HTTPS is a significant SEO ranking factor, which only keeps growing. You’ve surely noticed browser providers adding a warning sign to sites without HTTPS to alert users that the site they’re about to access is not secure.
Online security, website verification and SSL certificates got a lot more important over the last few years. But before shopping for an SSL certificate (yes, there are various types), you need to understand why and when it’s important to use HTTPS on your website.
Basically, if you have an online shop, or are collecting sensitive, personal information from your users – you must guarantee that all these details will be encrypted and securely stored on your site. You can do it by getting and implementing an SSL certificate.
There are paid and free options available (sometimes offered by your hosting provider). Since it’s a more complex and tedious process, we recommend seeking help from an expert to avoid any website errors or issues. Think of it as of a new website. Your url changes from http to https. All your old links need to redirect to your new website, otherwise you’ll be loosing a lot of traffic.
Check our SSL implementation service here.
Note: After implementing the SSL certificate, you’ll need to reach out to your hosting provider and check if everything was done correctly. You’ll also need to update your Google Analytics and Google Search Console to add the new https url.
8. Improve Your Titles and Descriptions
Titles and descriptions are very important for SEO. They tell search engines what your web pages are about and help them better understand the content on those pages.
Titles and descriptions are used to display organic search snippets which appear in search result pages. Here is a nice tool that allows you to preview your search snippet.
Meta titles are considered to be one of the most important ranking factors and are used by Google to rank your web pages. Hence, it’s important to write descriptive and relevant titles.
Meta descriptions do not influence your ranking, but can be used to increase your click through rates and encourage users to click on your search snippets.
Here are some useful tips on writing SEO friendly titles and descriptions:
- Make sure you always add a title and description to your page
- Make sure your title is not too long (should be up to 60-70 characters)
- Make sure your description is not too long (should be up to 160 characters)
- Avoid too short titles and descriptions
- The title should be descriptive and relevant to the content on that page
- Include relevant keywords in your titles and description, but don’t stuff and over optimize. Write titles and descriptions for your users and not search engines.
- Avoid duplicate titles and boilerplate templates (significant amount of duplicate text that is repeating across multiple titles on your site)
- Write compelling descriptions and include call to actions to encourage users to click on your search snippets
You can use Yoast SEO plugin to adjust the titles and descriptions on your WordPress site. Check the “Yoast SEO Toolbox” section in this guide to learn how to do it.
9. Use SEO Plugins
Simply installing and activating a SEO plugin won’t be enough. Take some time to read and learn about its features and capabilities, set it up correctly, and only then start enjoying its effects. Out of all available SEO plugins, we recommend one of the following two:
- Yoast SEO – It allows you to add keywords and meta descriptions to each of your pages. Also this is your solution to choosing proper description and featured images for your site and pages, when sharing them on Facebook. You can check out their own documentation or follow the steps described in our Guide to Your Yoast SEO plugin. Note: Flothemes classic themes are based on custom fields, so if you have some pages created with blocks, you might need to use one more plugin by Yoast. It will be able to read the content within your blocks and provide SEO suggestions. Yoast can also read the content of Flexblocks and provide real time SEO suggestions.
- All in One SEO – Another great SEO plug-in, allowing keywords, meta descriptions and social sharing options. WP Beginner provides a good article on setting up All in One SEO.
- Rank Math – the new kid on the block. The team who developed this plugin, calls it the “Swiss Army Knife of WordPress SEO” and truthfully, it’s a title well deserved. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the number of options and features that this plugin has to offer, for Free. We shared more of our thoughts about Rank math here.
10. Improve Your URL Structure
Permalinks allow you to bring more structure and cleanliness to your website page links. A clear URL structure also helps search engines link easier to your website.
Luckily, WordPress makes it very easy to define and adjust your permalink structure. Access Settings >> Permalinks in your Dashboard, to find the following setting window.
For SEO purposes we recommend choosing the Post name option. This makes your URL readable for users and search engines, and allows you to through in your keyword into your post URL.
Voila, your url turned from something sloppy and ugly, such as “https://yourwebsite.com/?p=123Bghd&sd36” into “https://yourwebsite.com/your-awesome-page-including-keyword/”.
Wondering whether you should include categories or dates into your permalink structure? Read this article by Yoast about the Perfect WordPress SEO permalink structure.
11. Use Internal Links
This is a good way of keeping users longer on your website, by offering them some recommended additional galleries/articles to check out. It’s also a great trick for improving your bounce rate and a good way to increase the authority of a page by adding more internal links pointing to that page.
Interlink similar and related posts, offer more inspiration and showcase more of your work. It can be hyperlinks inside your text (best is to have a keyword in there too), or a “You’ll also like..” type of block section at the end of your post.
For better results, don’t just keep this advice in mind for your future blog posts. Do it now. Pause reading this article. Open your last blog post, and try to link it to some of your older related galleries or articles.
12. Local SEO
If you’re aiming to get visibility and good ranking for your local area (city, state or country), you need to be reading, learning and working on your Local SEO.
Local SEO of course includes the keyword strategy that you’ve already put into place, but also is highly influenced by reviews you collect from clients. Ideally you’re collecting Google reviews via your Google My Business Account (assuming that you have a Google My Business Account).
Specialized platforms for reviews, such as Yelp can have a good impact on your Local ranking. As well as Facebook reviews. The last ones are much easier to gather, since that’s where most of your clients “live”. For the first two, you’ll most likely need to send your customers a link, and ask them to Rate You and leave some feedback. Many photographers don’t feel comfortable or like asking for reviews, while Facebook feels more natural, and users usually do it without being asked.
Read more about optimizing your website for local searches in this article.
13. Mobile Friendly Site
It feels weird still stressing this, but if your site is not responsive, getting a new responsive photography website should be the first thing on your To Do SEO list.
Since Internet usage on mobile devices has increased dramatically in the last couple of years, there’s a good chance that at least one third of your site visitors access your website from their mobile device.
You can actually check these stats from your Google Analytics account, under Audience >> Mobile >> Overview.
Always do a check on various devices, when launching a new site or updating your existing one, to make sure everything looks good and works properly. If your website building platform allows (like our Flexthemes do), customize your mobile site. But make sure you don’t hide important content or elements, as Google switched to mobile-first indexing and will rank your site based on the mobile version.
With our powerful FlexBlock builder, you have the ability to customize your mobile version the way you want, and provide an excellent experience to your mobile visitors.
Note: As always, be sure to optimize your images for the web before uploading them to your website.
14. Send Your Sitemap to Google
If a page is not indexed, it won’t be found by Google or your potential clients.
Google has its own crawlers (also known as bots or spiders) that visit your website and index changes and fresh content, to serve it on Search Result Pages. However, there is no need to just sit patiently and wait for it to happen. You can manually submit your sitemap to Google, so the indexing process happens faster.
All you need to do is generate a sitemap via your Yoast SEO plugin, and submit it via Google Search Console. Use this permalink to get your sitemap – https://yourwebsite.com/sitemap_index.xml
Login to Search Console and follow these steps:
– Go to Index >> Sitemaps
– Enter sitemap_index.xml in the value field
– Click on Submit
That should do the trick.
Since Google is the preferred search engine when it comes to SEO efforts, we’re guiding you only through these steps. However, you can always submit your sitemap also to other search engines. Yoast describes on their blog how to submit your sitemap to Bing, Yandex and other search engines.
15. Removing & Redirecting Old Content
First of all, check your website for old, unused plugins or extensions and get rid of them, as they may be slowing down your website. Outdated plugins may also put at risk your website’s security. So do take this seriously.
Back in 2011 Google introduced Google Panda, a change to its ranking algorithms, meant to identify “content farm” types of websites, and lower their ranking – in order to promote high quality content on high quality websites. What does this have to do with me, you ask? Well, if you’re keeping a bunch of old content on your website, which brings you low to no traffic – these old posts may hurt your overall website ranking. So better remove them, and create:
– 301 redirects if you have a newer, relevant article on that same topic.
– 410 if you have nothing to replace it with, but want Google to stop indexing it.
– 404, especially if you’re following point #13, and crafting a fun and highly converting 404 page.
Note: before removing links using 404 or 410 status codes, make sure those urls don’t have a high amount of traffic or backlinks. If they still generate traffic or have backlinks, use 301 redirects.
Here’s a tutorial by Yoast, explaining how to create a 301 redirect, which is also called a permanent redirect, and lets Google and other search engines know that the the old url needs to be assigned to the new url you redirect your users to. But keep in mind that 301 redirects are great when you can replace an old post, with a newer one on the same topic. Otherwise, if you’ll be redirecting users to a random page (even if it’s your homepage) – you risk bumping up your bounce rate, since users will be accessing for one piece of content, not finding it, and exiting immediately. In this case, a 410 or 404 are a way better alternative.
16. Fixing Broken Links
Some of your old content may have been removed, or the websites/articles you have linked to – might have been deleted.
Broken links happen, and it’s not always in your area of control. Ignoring them on the other hand will harm your users’ experience and Google Ranking. While you can go ahead and do a manual check, scan each page, click on each button and hyperlink – there are easier and faster ways to achieve that.
Use a free or paid online tool, that does the check for you (ex: Dead Link Checker or Broken Link Checker). Identify the problematic urls and create a redirect for them. If they are external links, make sure to update, or remove them.
17. Multi-Language Sites & SEO
Multi-language websites are a bit more complex and complicated to implement, if you want to focus it around building your SEO strategy. You need to be careful with the structure of your website links. A common mistake is doing 2 languages on the same page. Better invest a bit more time on building 2 separate pages for each language.
Luckily, with WordPress you can easily create subdomains, subfolders or configure 2 separate domains for each language version of your website to use the same shared database. This offers easier management and control over your websites. Meaning, if you tweak the design or an element on one of them, the changes will be applied to both.
For SEO reasons, it is also recommended to link pages to their equivalent in the other language (a feature that not many CMS platforms allow, but WordPress does).
If you want to dive deeper into the multi-language SEO world, build a solid strategy, find proper keywords for each language and test them out, read this comprehensive Multilingual SEO article by Ahrefs.
18. Being Active on Social Media
Nope, it’s not just a Marketing and PR move, it’s SEO as well. As mentioned earlier in this article, being active on social media, participating in discussions, and occasionally (when relevant) linking back to your website or a specific post on your site – will bring quality traffic and new leads to your website. Besides, being consistent and posting regularly on social media keeps you connected to your audience, and keeps reminding them about your brand and awesomeness.
Facebook and Instagram algorithms try to calculate what type of content you’d be interested in, based on your past engagement with different people and pages, posts that you’ve liked and commented on. For this reason, you only see certain updates in your news feed, while the rest of the information stays hidden (you need to manually visit brand pages and friend’s profiles to see their recent posts).
If you’re active on social media for a month or two, then suddenly disappear for a few weeks – when you’re back online, posting, you may notice a significant drop in your post reach and engagement. This is why we encourage you to analyze your insights for each platform (which is super easy to do, with Business accounts), identify the time slots when most of your fans are active online, and post then.
Do it regularly. Treat each social media platform as a separate “individual” and adapt your posts for it – image size, text, with or w/o hashtags, etc. Be sure to respond to your followers’ comments, and engage with the posts that others share. It will pay off, both SEO wise, and number of followers/engagement rate wise.
19. Using Keywords
We get this question quite often, so we’d like to debunk it. It’s a Myth. Google doesn’t really care if you include the word “photography” into your domain name (website URL) – so it’s up to you.
We’d recommend promoting your brand name through your domain name, to strengthen brand recognition and awareness.
Focus on creating valuable and useful content for your visitors and try to include relevant keywords within your pages. Here is a brief strategy that will help you out:
- Research organic keywords using one of these handy tools: https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/, https://keywordtool.io/
- Choose a set of similar keywords with enough search volume and low/medium competition and map them to the most relevant page.
- Include these keywords on those pages. You should mention them in the following areas:
- Titles and descriptions
- Headings H1 to H6 (at least in one of them)
- Body of the page (anywhere on the page or post)
- Alt attribute of the image or file name (optional)
- Internal links (optional)
- Page URL (optional)
- Follow the progress in Search Console and look for new keyword opportunities.
Here is a comprehensive guide on keywords for photographers which will teach you how to search, find and select the best ones for your website.
20. Improve Your Site Speed
A few great platforms to run a quick, yet thorough site speed check are:
Watch out for page loading speed higher than 4 seconds, page size larger than 5 MB, and other low performing or troublemaking indicators like: total blocking time, largest contentful paint, time to first byte (TTFB), etc.
Check out these tips and tricks on how to improve your photography site speed.
21. Optimize Pages for Rich Snippets
Rich snippets are those well structured and good looking results that you get in Google when searching for a specific term or company. Some type of content/pages can be displayed with a rich snippet (i.e. recipes, events, products, reviews, photographer websites, etc.).
Getting rich snippets will not immediately affect your Google score, since they’re not a direct organic search ranking factor. However, they will help Google better understand your content (semantic/meaning) + users are more likely to click on a search result that has a detailed preview of the content. That of course if your content matches their search intent.
The more structured data you denote on your site, the bigger the chances to get rich results and improve your search listing in organic results.
Learn how to add rich snippets to your WordPress site.
Learn how to add rich snippets to videos on your website.
What’s the point of investing so much time, effort and money into SEO, if you don’t measure and analyze your results? Perhaps you don’t need it in the first place? We recommend using various tools, such as Google Analytics and Search Console, to get a precise picture of what’s happening on your website, and make decisions based on gathered data, rather than gut feeling.
Ideally, you’re checking the stats before you implement these tips and strategies, and then after.
Here are some of the tools we use at Flothemes and love:
1. Google Analytics (GA) – analyze everything that is happening on your website, traffic amount, where does it come from, where do your users live, which device do they use, how many bounce back, which pages are most viewed, etc.
2. Google Search Console – a toolset that allows you to easily communicate with Google, adjust and fix (in case of any issues) the way Google sees and indexes your website, adjust your internal or external links, check what type of keywords users searched for when landing on your website, what’s the clickthrough rate for each of those keywords, as well as other type of useful data. You can also integrate your GA with Google Search Console.
3. Hotjar or CrazyEgg – heat mapping tools allow you to see and analyze how people behave on your website, what do they look at on your pages, which buttons and links do they click on, what do they try to do, what do they skip.
This can be an eye opener and help you discover bumps or opportunities for improvement on your website (placing call to actions or your most popular/relevant content to places where users look and click the most) for better user experience and conversions. Both Hotjar and CrazyEgg have a 30 day trial period, where you can test them out, and decide which one you like better.
A Few Additional Things
If you’re reading this, you’re a superstar!
You’ve just got more SEO savvy. Now it’s time to apply this knowledge, strategies and tools on your own website. Join our Facebook group SEO for Photographers, to share questions, experience and get daily improvement advice.
One final note. Nobody, and we do mean NOBODY CAN PROMISE YOU A HIGHER (OR TOP 3) GOOGLE RANKING, for any cost. You can’t simply buy your search engine ranking. It’s a long term, ongoing process that requires your constant time, attention and devotion.
If somebody is offering you top ranking for a price, it’s probably a scam. What they can do, is improve your current site performance, which in turn will positively affect your ranking – but it’s not a guarantee of a first page, top ranking.
We don’t mean to discourage you, SEO is important, but it’s a process, not a tangible product. You can’t buy it like coffee. Now, our talented creative hustlers, time to roll up your sleeves!
Here is a list of some common SEO terms and their explanation. These will help you better understand the SEO terminology and get started with improving your site.
Alt tags define an alternate text for an image. They’re used for the visually impaired and for website readers. It’s one of the most important attributes of your image and has a high impact on your image SEO.
A backlink is a link pointing to your website from another website. If lots of quality external links are linking back to your site, this means that your website has a high authority.
A permalink is a permanent URL to your individual blog post. You can define the permalink structure in WordPress admin.
A 404 (not found) error indicates that the requested web page is no longer available.
A 301 (moved permanently) redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. It’s the recommended type of redirect if you want to transfer the authority from one link to another.
A sitemap is a file with a list of your web pages, images, videos, etc. Search engine use this file to discover and crawl your pages and files.
Google My Business is a business listing that allows your company info to be shown on Google search results and Google Maps.