Basics of Photography SEO, Part 1: Google doesn’t hate you

One of the many things I hear almost every day is, “Google hates me!” More and more professional photographers everywhere are feeling this way, and they especially want the answer to the question, “why is it that clients can’t find my photography website when they search in Google?

Even though Google doesn’t hate anyone, these issues are still real, and photographers are not alone in trying to deal with them.

A simple part of doing business these days is that it matters very little what type of photography we want people to buy from us. Google is still in control of at least part of our destiny, and we’re all subject to the basic tenets of marketing online, beginning with: No one will be able to hire you if they can’t find you …

This article is the first in a four-part set to help photographers enjoy more success in the search engines, outrank their local competition, and help them make more money as professional photographers. And the good news is that it’s not as hard as you might imagine.

SEO: It’s Not Brain Surgery!

SEO (search engine optimization) is perceived by many photographers as being too hard to master or just too technical for them to manage on their own, but in actual fact anybody can learn all they need to about SEO for them to be able to make a big impact on the overall performance of their photography business.

Perhaps the most common mistake so many people make with SEO is to start off trying to answer the wrong question: “what products and services do I have to sell?

This is a little backwards, and we should focus on our audience instead by reversing this viewpoint, to ask a simpler question, “what is it that my target market are actually looking for that I can help with?

This leads us to a better, and more natural-looking approach to SEO that identifies the people who are in a buying frame of mind. It also attracts more of the right type of prospects to the website.

To simplify things a bit, I’ve split the rest of this article into four distinct pieces:

  • Defining Your SEO Goals
  • Narrowing The Field
  • Thinking Like Your Prospect
  • Doing Online Keyword Research

Defining Your SEO Goals

Just like getting in the car for a road trip, it’s always a good idea to start out with a clear idea of where you actually want to go, what you’re expecting to achieve, and the specific results you’re looking for. The same is true with SEO. Before going into the nitty-gritty of your SEO tactics, it’s worth having an understanding of what your SEO plan should do for you.

For example, do you want to do more family portraits, book more weddings, sell fine-art photogaphy, generate new commercial photo business, etc.

With a clearer idea of your goal, it’s time to think about attracting the right people through search engines. By the way, it’s OK to have more than one goal at this point, but I would focus on each in turn. Don’t run the risk of confusing things by combining them into one giant goal – that’s the surest way to dilute your SEO and you might even cause damage to your future success.

Narrowing The Field

With your goals firmly in mind, you can start to focus on the details. The tighter you can make your goals, the more success you’ll see in the long term. You might not be able to reach quite as large an audience, but the folks you do reach through the search engines will be more receptive and responsive.

For example, let’s say your specialty is wedding photography in Boston, and you’re looking to attract more wedding clients. There’s really very little point in trying to optimize just for “wedding photography” – such keyword phrases are simply too broad.

Instead, your ideal target market probably includes people looking for something more specific, such as “wedding photographers in Boston.” You can even take this a stage further by creating more diverse website content that is aimed at specific local areas within the Boston metro area that you know from experience are of more interest to you.

Locally-based SEO is definitely more essential for those photographers who specialize in portraits, commercial, pets, families, and weddings, for example, because the vast majority of their clients live within a short radius of the photographer’s studio.

So, at the end of this stage in the SEO process, you should have a list of quality and highly-targeted keyword phrases.

Thinking Like Your Client

You now have to take that list of keywords and refine it. However, to be most effective, it’s important to think more like your clients. This is really worth the extra effort, and becomes a lot easier with practice.

For example, you could create a list of the things you think your prospective clients might type into the Google search box when looking for your type of photography. You can also  include variations of those keywords, and it’s a good idea to be aware of any phrases or terms that are specific to your locality. But don’t stop there. Ask your friends, family, and existing clients what they would search for when looking for the type of photography you offer.

Don’t forget, too, that your Google analytics reports can be a treasure-trove of information. Go through the keywords already being used to find your site to find ideas you might have missed.

Eventually, though, you’ll need to hone your list by selecting the most specifically targeted ones, or those that suggest someone using those keywords are in a buying mode.

Doing Online Keyword Research

At last, you can now conduct actual research on your keywords to learn which of your chosen phrases will be the most productive ones for your website content.

There are lots of methods for doing this, but I recommend starting with the free Google Keyword Research Tool, which comes as part of Google’s AdWords system. This is a powerful online tool that provides the ability to get ideas on how often your keyword phrases are searched for, as well as alternatives you may have missed.

By this stage of the game you should have a set of quality keyword phrases specific to your photography business, your type of photography, and your ideal clients.

In our next installment, we’ll look at the best ways to use your keywords in your website content, or on your blog, and some of the most useful on-page search optimization methods.

If you have questions, or want to share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences, do leave a comment below — it’s great to hear from readers, and we’ll do our very best to answer any questions you have.

7 Responses to “Basics of Photography SEO, Part 1: Google doesn’t hate you”

  1. Excellent article! When I add to or change my web site or present any marketing campaigns, I try to approach what I'm offering through the eyes of a client/ collector. In other words, I attempt to think like the individual who will appreciate my photography might when putting myself out there. As an architectural/ art photographer, I imagine what people will search for in my area of photography when I try different SEO language on the web. In hard copy postcards, advertisements or tri-folds (all of which I've used), I think of how I, not as a photographer but as a prospective collector/ client would react to the visuals and text. Thanks, Nigel. Looking forward to the next installment!

  2. Hi Ellen - thanks for the comment, and glad you enjoyed the article, I appreciate your feedback 🙂 Thinking like the audience or ideal target market is something very often overlooked, but can be one of the real keys to being found.

    All the best with your architectural and art photography - hope it's going well for you!


  3. Thanks, Nigel. My photography is doing well because of articles like yours on marketing strategies. Of course it is essential to continually improve my craft, but tips from people like you are invaluable to getting my photography "out there." Thanks, again!

  4. Since launching my own wedding photography website i have struggled with SEO. Most of the time i seem to be chasing my tail and not really understanding the process. I have read many articles about the subject but not all are reader friendly and that easy to understand. This article however is very easy to understand and i look forward to the next installment.

  5. Thank you so much for that lovely comment, it's much appreciated, and I'm glad you found the article easy to understand.

  6. Good Stuff

  7. Thanks, Kevin - let me know if you have any questions about SEO that aren't answered in these articles, and I'll do my best to help you.

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