Photography SEO: Don’t Set It and Forget It


From time to time, the good people in the bowels of the Googleplex decide to tweak their algorithm to improve search results. It happened not long ago, and rest assured, it will happen again. If you care about marketing your business online, you had better be paying attention.

When Google fiddles with its formula, I always hear from a number of photographers whose Web sites have fallen off the radar. It’s akin to a rolling blackout, where a power company shuts off the electricity for some customers in a coordinated manner to reduce the load on the power grid.

Make no mistake; losing “Google juice” — say, by dropping from page 1 to page 5 in search results — can turn your business’ lights off, too.

In my case, my Web site generates anywhere from two to six assignments per month, and that is a substantial amount of money. It’s good reason to take SEO very seriously.

Keep It Fresh

So, how do you stay on the first page of results for your top keywords, if you’re fortunate enough to be there? Or how can you move up consistently from “beyond page 3″ purgatory?

First, we can never predict what Google will do — so there’s no use obsessing on the ins and outs of SEO arcana. Instead, focus on the fundamentals, which never change.

Create fresh content. Switch out your images with new ones. Blog. Use social networking. Do whatever you need to do to build quality inbound links from relevant sources.

And understand that what you are creating is transitory, not carved in stone.

Inbound links come and go. The same link can be relevant one day, less so the next. For example, let’s say a photography site that Google likes links to your photography site; that’s good. Then let’s say this site drops in standing in Google’s eyes. That means the inbound link you earned — the currency of SEO — has dropped in value.

You wouldn’t expect one advertisement or one e-mail campaign to bring you new clients indefinitely. Why expect it from SEO?

No Shortcuts

Finally, don’t use the too-good-to-be-true tricks espoused by some SEO “experts.” Google knows what you’re up to, or they’ll figure it out eventually.

Trading links doesn’t work. Link farms don’t work. Using tiny or hidden text to load up your Web site with keywords doesn’t work, either.

So many photographers rest on their laurels when they reach the search position they want. If you do this, you have no one to blame but yourself. Sooner or later, the rolling blackout will hit.


6 Responses to “Photography SEO: Don’t Set It and Forget It”

  1. Great article! We are changing how we do things because of it. Good job!

  2. John – this is an important lesson for all photographers. Thanks for sharing it. The SEO task isn’t an easy one to understand. But you’ve made a clear explanation. I’ve posted your advice on PhotoStockNOTES and urged subscribers to memorize it.
    Here at PSI we began to understand the importance of SEO two years ago. Our task was to get on the first page of Google (few people look at page2) for the search term, “sell my photos” and “buy my photos”. We knew we were bucking up against the big portals and stock agencies, but we made it, and have stayed on every day. But like you say, you may be there one week but not the next. Once we were the first listing on the top of the page on page #1 and once at the bottom. Usually we are somewhere in between. But it’s always page 1. And, like you say, the tools are there, you just have to master them. Photographers will begin getting more work and more stock work if they master the principles you outline. The end result is more customers and clients. –Rohn photosource.com

  3. John, nice article and all strong points. I've found, it takes a lot of approaches in a combined effort, being done consistently to remain on top of the search engines. I've been doing it for 7 years now and can tell you its not easy. This is a dilemma for most photographers (and any business person), as they want to focus on what they do well (taking photos, working with clients, post production, etc.) but really need to focus on growing business through lead generation, and in your example web traffic to hopefully result in leads. This is the big “ah-ha” of any business. You can be great at what you do, but if you’re not great at generating, capturing and converting leads to perform with, you’re out of business!

  4. Great article! So many businesses post information on a site and forget about it. The social aspect is to "be social" and interact with others online. I find that the blogs are the marketing behind a website due to the continued modification of content. Google loves changing and growing website and will reward you with great rankings.

  5. As you may know Google has updated their search algorithms and content is not all today. Google loves easy friendly websites as well as people interaction, it is not enough to have tons of information but lot of sharing of it and interaction from visitors. Thanks for the post!

  6. It's up to other services like Bing and Yahoo to come up with similar, or improved systems, such that our Google author profiles can be supplemented with those on other services.

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