Your livelihood depends on digital files, so you’d best be…
By Ronny Hamida
Five years ago, a typical photographer could care less about search engine optimization (SEO). Those that did care about it, however, have seen not only the great results, but the time and costs involved with it as well. True, SEO is not usually a one-time process — It’s an on-going technique that requires regular research and maintenance to ensure that the techniques always fall within the ever-changing guidelines and ways of search engines as well as for the area that you are marketing for. And making it happen properly can either put a dent in your marketing budget, or could cause you to have to spend more time researching what to do rather than be behind the camera.
Not everyone has the luxury of that time nor the funds to make it happen. So what can you do? Start simple! Keep in mind that there are only a few ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ in SEO, but like anything else, sometimes trying something out can be better than not doing anything at all.
Tip #1 – Avoid an Entry Page (unless it’s absolutely necessary)
The problem with entry pages is that most of them have very little searchable text. Additionally, when search engines can’t find a menu navigation on the first page, they find it difficult to properly index the site. That’s when they usually go to an available Site Map instead. Most sites with entry pages, however, do not seem to have an available site map either, or if they do have a site map, it’s typically not complete or generated properly. Obviously, this could cause problems.
If you have a non-Flash website, not having the entry page could save you a lot of work getting noticed by the search engines since your menu navigation would be indexed properly thus the search engines can then find each page to index.
If you must have an entry page (perhaps to show links to multiple-branded websites, or if you have a Flash-enabled site that the search engines cannot read/index properly) you may want to attempt to have some relevant text (even with some links) on the entry page. Having a proper Site Map can also help the search engines index your site properly.
Tip #2 – Text and links on your Home Page
It’s as simple as adding just 250 words or less somewhere on your home page. If you can’t add text in the main content area, you can usually add text in the footer area. Make the text relevant to who you are, where you are, and what you do. Feel free to include other locations that you typically service as well.
Go even further by making some of the words link to various places in your website. For instance, if you mention the word “newborns” and you have a Baby/Newborns gallery, you may want to link the word to your gallery.
Tip #3 – Update your Meta Title tags
This is something that most people don’t even notice — It’s the little area at the top of your web browser when you are visiting a site. You’ll typically see some text in the title bar of the browser or in a tab that your website comes up in. It usually tells people which site they are visiting. Most people usually have the same title per page telling people the name of the company and the location. Go beyond this and make slight modifications to each page’s title. For instance, if you have a page in your website regarding your services, you may want to add something in the title tag such as “Photographic Services for Engagements and Weddings”. Jump another level by occasionally adding other keywords to the title tag that is relevant to your business. You might add a few other locations that you service, or even words relating to the type of business that you do.
Tip #4 – Have an accurate site description as well as page descriptions
You may think that no one ever sees your site’s description, but they see it all of the time when they search for you using a search engine. It’s the text that appears next to your name when you are searched for in a search engine.
The site description is typically one to three sentences briefly and accurately describing who you are, where you are, and what you do. Keep in mind that although most of the text you have for this will be read and indexed by search engines, only about 80-120 characters will be displayed when someone searches for you. This means that the most important part of this description is at the beginning of it. Avoid writing this in first person – Save the personal touch for your ‘About’ page. Think of what you might see in a phonebook: If you have an ad in the local phonebook, you probably wanted to keep it short and sweet to get the point across to tell people who you are without paying big bucks. Make your site’s description work in the same way for you by using it to tell people who you are.
You can even modify the description per page on your website to relate to the content on that specific page. You might have a Family Gallery in your website which has no text at all on the page. You can modify your site’s description to relate to the Family images directly.
Tip #5 – Don’t let your blog just sit there – give it the power!
I hear it all the time, people just don’t have time to blog. It’s understandable. But if you DO have a blog and aren’t using it, you may want to. Even if you posted something regularly every two weeks, you’ll be helping search engines find you. It’s easy, too!
Grab a calendar and pick regular days to circle for the blog. Go back to those circled dates and write next to each one something like ‘promo’ for blog posts that should relate to a promotion, ‘from studio’ for blog posts that originated from the studio, or even ‘family’ for a blog post relating to families. Make this your calendar to follow.
When you go out to your blog to create your posts, keep it simple. Just write a short paragraph (1-5 sentences) with words and phrases relating to the post and to you. You don’t have to write a Stephen King novel. Just something short and sweet and with words that a search engine will love to index. “Here’s a picture of a senior we did today,” is not a good way to get search engines to see you. Instead, try something like “Ronny’s Photography Studio went out to Nascar today to take our photography up a notch with these senior photos of John, the new senior ambassador for 2013.” One sentence with all of those words and phrases are surely to get noticed.
Also consider placing your images and other media after at least the first block of text.
Want to get noticed even more? Make one of those words link to another website. You could make “Ronny’s Photography Studio” link to the website itself, or even make “Nascar” link to the Nascar website. No need to go overboard with the links. Just a simple, single link can make things happen.
Tip #6 – Name your images properly and only when you can
Most photographers have heard this a million times already: Name your images! This is not a bad idea in most cases, but you do have to be careful. Keep in mind that if you name your images inappropriately or with words that could be used as inappropriate, they may also be indexed by adult sites. You’d be surprised to find that there are a lot of adult sites scouring the Internet for senior images where they have scripts to automatically generate a banner advertisement using those same images. It happens everyday, and unfortunately there isn’t anyone to contact to get problems like this resolved.
If you are naming your images for your website(s), your blog(s), and other online avenues, keep the following in mind:
- Avoid spaces and symbols/special characters whenever possible. (Hyphens and underscore characters are an exception.)
- If spaces are needed, consider using hyphens in place of any spaces.
- Make your filenames relatable to the image or even your company name whenever possible.
- Try to keep the filename length to under 50 characters total, including the extension.
For instance, you might have an image called “Summer-Wedding-Charlotte-NC.jpg”, or even “Ronnys-Photography-Studio-Wedding-Photo-001.jpg” — These both have relevant words as part of the filename itself, they don’t have any special characters/symbols to keep things compatible with most web browsers, and they are under 50 characters total keeping it web-friendly.
If you can’t name your images, you may be able to use something called ALT tags to associate with any image on your website. You may want to talk with your web developer about the use of this if necessary.
Tip #7 – Become popular! Get more places to link back to you
Ever get those calls from your phone company tell you that your website needs help right away to be found on the Internet? In most of those cases (when the call is from one of the phone companies) they may not want to do anything with your website at all. Instead, all they want to do is to get you added to their online resources as well as in other websites. These ‘linkbacks’ can usually be tracked, and having your website address out in multiple places may make it easier for people to find you thus increasing your popularity on the web. Google is one of the first search engines to base a part of their ratings on a site’s popularity and not just the hidden meta data. Now other search engine companies are trying to follow suit. This is a good time to do what you can to become popular.
You may even choose to have your website added to other sites out there. Sometimes you may be charged a monetary fee to get this done, or in other cases you may just be asked to add a link back to them from your site.
I can’t tell you if by using these tips you’ll end up as #1 on a specific search engine, nor can I tell you if these are enough to get your website ranked. I can tell you, however, that these tips will surely be a good way to start if you haven’t done anything at all.