So you got a WordPress website. Built a beautiful design with Flothemes. Read and followed all instructions from our SEO Guide for Photographers. Now what? You’re still not first on Google search, algorithms keep changing and when it comes to testing your site’s performance with various SEO tools, your heart starts racing and pounding.
Well, SEO is an evergreen topic, trends keep updating, which means you have to stay alert and adapt to new rules. And luckily, within our creative photography community we have a few great SEO experts, who help us understand, learn and become better at SEO.
We’ve actually interviewed 2 of them, Dylan M Howell and Corey Potter, and asked them to answer a few burring SEO questions that we all have.
Dylan M Howell is a wedding photographer and SEO consultant, based in Portland. Find more information about his SEO mentoring here. Also join The SEO for Photographers Facebook Group to get more advice, best practices and recommendations from Dylan.
Corey Potter is a wedding photographer and the founder of Fuel Your Photos, offering SEO consultancy and services for photographers. Join the Fuel Your Photos Facebook Group for more insights and tips from Corey.
SEO trends in 2018
Dylan: 2018 continues further refinements from the past few years, but they’re happening at a quicker pace. Mobile first indexing means that the mobile version of your site is now going to be considered primary. Google is getting incredibly good at understanding nuance in the meaning of a page’s content. They are paying close attention to searcher’s intent and if the pages they’re serving are completing these tasks. This means you need to create helpful content for the viewer that is well laid out on mobile and loads quickly.
Corey: Google is working hard to intelligently re-write search snippets. This means that they may or may not use your provided title, meta description, or information that you provide with schema markup. Google might create a featured snippet or a regular snippet with data that they collect from anywhere on your site, or even from the knowledge they have of the entities mentioned within a page on your site. It has been interesting seeing how much the SERPs have evolved in the past year, and even in the past few months, especially the mobile results. Understanding how Google creates featured snippets and which information is likely to be used to generate regular organic snippets is critical if you want to represent your site well in search.
Another trend is that Google is trying to make the results more and more personal for each person searching. I’ve seen some personalization factors that are almost creepy lately. Rankings are more volatile than ever, and you could see a different set of results for the same term just by refreshing the page. This also makes it really challenging to track your position, since 10 different people who search for the same term may see your site in 10 different positions.
Something interesting I’ve been hearing lately is that many of the major publications are starting to use nofollow links to credit photographers. People seem to be pretty upset about this, but I personally think Google is getting smart enough to give credit to no-followed links and even unlinked mentions, especially on high traffic sites. Moral of the story is that all mentions of your brand are important, even if they aren’t high authority backlinks.
What changed since 2017?
Dylan: There have been a few algorithm changes so far this year, mostly looking at overall quality of the site. This is something I’ve paid close attention to on many projects, you need to audit your content to make sure your indexed pages are all performing well with user metrics like organic hits from google, dwell time, and bounce. If you have content indexed that isn’t doing those, it’s often the best move to add a noindex tag. For photographers, these are blog posts that you put up for portfolio and not necessarily google traffic.
There were also changes late in 2017 to titles and meta descriptions. It’s smart to test short vs longer, and different wordings in order to optimize your click through rate.
Corey: Things are constantly changing with Google, but one of the more notable changes since 2017 is the new expanded character limit for meta descriptions. The old limit was around 156 characters and now allows for up to 320 characters. This allows you to be a little more flexible and creative when writing your meta description. Don’t necessarily go longer for the sake of length though, as sometimes the shorter descriptions may convert better.
Even in the past week, there has been a major algorithm update announced, and Google has started experimenting with showing page titles under images in image search. These kinds of updates happen constantly, but overall Google’s goal will always be the same: Show the most relevant results so that searchers are satisfied with their experience.
Common struggles & SEO mistakes done by photographers
Dylan: I often see issues with overall site structure, how they use internal links to signify important pages/posts. There is typically a lack of written content. Many photographers that have been around a few years also have issues with moving domains, switching content management systems, or out of date designs.
Corey: One of the things I see photographers constantly struggling with is image compression. Most photographers are not willing to allow any quality loss on their images, but Google and all of the other speed tests have standards for file size that will require at least some quality loss. Finding that balance can be hard, and often popular tools like Jpegmini aren’t enough to get the compression level desired. Every photographer has a different workflow for exporting and uploading images, but a solid image compression strategy is a must when optimizing for performance. I recommend using the online version of Image Optim, or if you are a real nerd, learning how to use Imagemagick.
A major mistake that I see photographers making is targeting the same keywords with multiple pages of their site. When you are targeting a competitive keyword, it is important to choose a single authoritative page on your site to optimize for the keyword or topic. If you use the same keyword in a dozen blog post titles you are telling Google “I have a bunch of mediocre content that is related to this topic, but no single authoritative result you can confidently show in the results… so good luck choosing.” Often you’ll find that Google doesn’t choose the page you want to rank for your favorite keywords. Take a look at your keyword targeting strategy and consider de-optimizing some of your less important content and pointing it toward your cornerstone content!
One more mistake that photographers tend to make is neglecting to test their site extensively on a mobile device. Most photographers use a desktop computer to create their site, and they may do a quick check on their phone, but they don’t test every button, link, slider, and contact form. A quick tip here is to have some friends use your site on their phone while you watch, or install heatmap tracking on your site using a service like Hotjar.
1-2 things everyone needs to do right now to be more SEO friendly
Dylan: Go add a few more sentences to your homepage, right now.
Corey: One really quick win is to make sure you are listed on Google My Business and that your profile there is complete, up to date, and that you are constantly getting new reviews from clients (prioritize these reviews over other sites until you’ve dominated your market with more reviews than any of your competitors).
Second, get really good at writing page titles and meta descriptions. In my experience, this skill has more impact than any other specific SEO task, and once you really understand how to write good titles and meta descriptions, it can also help guide your keyword targeting strategy. Here are some of my best tips and resources for writing titles.
What’s your opinion on using Ads as a means to increase website traffic?
Dylan: It can be incredibly useful, especially if you’re still building your organic search traffic. Test, test, test. Make sure you’re sending the traffic to a page that converts to inquiries well.
Corey: I think that a solid paid advertisement strategy is a great way to create a predictable source of traffic. I do think that it takes a level of expertise to run ads effectively and efficiently. SEO is mostly about being clear about the services you offer, where you offer them, answering common questions and using common sense. Effective paid ads take far more strategy and planning and testing if you don’t want to throw money out the window.
If you are an expert, paid advertising can be an incredible tool, and the possibilities are endless. I get excited when I start thinking about placing video ads in front of specific YouTube videos or smart retargeting after someone visits an article I’ve optimized.
Facebook and Instagram ads can work very well if you are naturally social and already have a strong social presence, or if you have an irresistible offer. Remember that with social ads, people aren’t actively searching for your services when they see your advertisement. With Google ads, you still have the chance to show up at the top of the page when someone uses a specific query. You’ll have to be really smart about getting attention in a way that overcomes banner blindness, but it is totally possible with the right placement and copy.
If you pair a paid placement with a first page organic placement, it can help you to completely dominate a search result and get your name in front of people multiple times on the first page of Google.
Your favorite SEO tools
Dylan: Many, but I couldn’t do my job well without Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, and rank trackers like Serp Lab. For most individuals, they have very little use for these. In general, you just need to formulate a plan for your site’s structure and start putting out quality content. The rankings will soon follow.
Corey: Well, if you count Google Search Console, that might actually be first on the list. As an SEO agency owner, I think my favorite tool is probably Semrush. It is well rounded and provides insight that really covers the entire SEO spectrum. Man, there are SO many great tools these days if you are willing to pay for premium access. The team over at Mangools (makers of KW Finder) have really been impressing me lately and have some really affordable options for those who don’t run an agency. Sitebulb is a really intuitive crawler I’ve been using as a competitor to Screaming Frog. I know it sounds crazy, but a simple Google search can be one of the most powerful tools you can use when it comes to an SEO tool, especially if you learn how to use operators like site: and cache:. If you do a Google search for a term you want to rank for, they’ll give you a ton of insight right within the results, you just have to learn how to find it!
Feeling more enlightened and motivated to roll up your sleeves and get back to work on that SEO strategy? We sure hope so. But if you’re too busy, struggling with this too much, or would just rather have someone else do the work for you, reach out to one of these two talented SEO gurus for help. We at Flothemes also offer some SEO and Site Speed Optimization services. You can find more details about it here.