The following guide is offered as a free resource to photographers, and it’s largely based on recommendations we’ve offered to our own photography clients back when we used to be in the business of doing SEO for anyone and everyone. While we’re 100% focused on the auto industry these days, the basic tactics outlined below are still very effective.
First, DIY or Hire A Pro?
While there are a lot of benefits to hiring a professional to do your SEO work for you, it’s not as if you can’t possibly do anything yourself. Truth be told, every photographer is their own best advocate. Unless you’re too busy or too uncomfortable, writing blog posts, promoting your services on social media, and networking with people in your industry is something you can do yourself.
However, if you hire a pro, our suggestions are:
- Work with an SEO company that specializes in photography. There are a lot of reasons to work with a specialist, not the least of which is that SEO success is largely based on relationships with bloggers and journalists. If you work with an SEO firm that only tackles photography SEO, odds are good they’ll have the right contacts.
- Sign the shortest contract you can. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scammers in the world of SEO. The best protection you have is to a) understand the basics of SEO b) keep track of what your SEO firm is doing on your behalf and c) sign a short contract. Anything longer than 6 months is a very bad idea, and anything longer than 3 months must be considered carefully.
- Focus on SEO companies that know content. While there technical aspects to successful SEO, the technical stuff like “tags” is a small part of the puzzle. Look instead for an SEO company that has a great blog; a company that creates cool infographics, useful ebooks, etc. Also, be sure to ask for 10 examples of guest posts the SEO company has placed and read them all. It’s tedious, but it’s the best way to make sure the SEO provider knows how to create content.
Photography SEO Step-by-Step
1) The very best thing anyone can do before beginning an SEO project (hired or DIY) is to read Moz.com’s Beginner’s Guide To SEO. It’s the best free SEO resource online. If you read it beginning to end, you’ll know more than enough to either select a good SEO provider or get your site ranked yourself. Read this guide first.
2) Next, you need to make sure your site’s structure is optimized for the search engines. If you’re using WordPress to power your site, the plugin “WordPress SEO by Yoast” is all you need. Just install the plugin, read this tutorial, and you’re all set. If you’re not using WordPress…hopefully your site developer knows what to do.
3) You need a content plan. At a minimum, you need to add high quality content that’s relevant to your potential client base to your site on a regular basis. Kern-Photo and Rachel Olsen Photography both do a good job of adding great content to their site regularly and are worth checking out.
NOTE: Regular can mean weekly, daily, or monthly. Our advice is to blog weekly, but that’s not always easy. Monthly posting should be considered the bare minimum.
4) Make sure your website is listed in all the directories checked here – getlisted.org. Furthermore, consider spending $500 on a power listing from Yext.com.
5) Get your clients to review you on Yelp.com, Google, CitySearch, etc.
6) Network with bloggers in your industry, local businesses and service providers relevant to your business, etc., and cross promote.
Example: Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. You can:
- Guest post on other photography blogs in other markets and include a link to your site, your Facebook page, etc. in your guest post.
- Ask the local caterers, florists, tux rental shops, etc. to link to your site and offer to link back to them for mutual benefit
- Guest post on a local catering blog, florist blog, etc. as well
- Offer free or discounted services to local charities and non-profits in exchange for a link to your website, mention on Facebook, etc.
7) Facebook, Flickr, 500px, Twitter, and Pinterest can all be powerful marketing tools, and can all influence local SEO results if you do them well. However, these networks only generate results if you’re willing to invest yourself into them. It’s pointless to “do Facebook” (or Twitter or Pinterest or whatever) unless you like using the platform in the first place.
Therefore, social media marketing is powerful, but only if you’re willing to put the time in. If not, it’s probably better to leave it alone.
8) Once you’ve got all of the above down, you’ll have a good understanding of social media, a good network of people you can work with to promote your business, etc. At this point (and ONLY at this point), does it makes sense to create an infographic or eBook that will further raise your profile.
However, the keys to success really are items 1-6.
Common Photography SEO Mistakes
Here are some SEO problems that photographers run into:
Trying to rank in a city that your business isn’t located in. If, for example, your business address shows that you’re located in Sacramento, it’s nigh-on-impossible to rank for any search terms in San Francisco. You either need to open an office with a San Francisco mailing address, or you need to adjust your goals.
Failing to put your phone number and physical address on your website. Google and Bing use your address on your website (and your phone number) to figure out where in he world you’re really located. If this info matches info listed in various directories (like Yelp.com), you can rank locally. If the info doesn’t match (or if it’s missing from your website), you can’t.
Failing to add content to your site on a regular basis. If you can’t blog once a week, hire someone to do it for you.
Hiring a bad SEO person who does more harm than good. If you hire someone on Fiverr.com who promises to help you rank for all your keywords, you’re asking for trouble. Likewise, if you get a cold call (or email) from someone who says they can fix your site’s rankings, beware. These low quality providers often use tactics that are no longer recommended and potentially damaging…you’re better off hiring no one than hiring someone bad.
Failing to understand the importance of networking. SEO is all about relationships – it always has been. If you do something interesting, and if you have the contacts in the industry, your work will be noticed. Since photographers generally find it easy to be creative and interesting, the hard part is networking…but you can do it if you put your mind to it.
If you put the time in to learn, to create content, and to do some very basic things (like following the instructions offered on GetListed.org), you will be successful. If you hire someone who does all of the above, same result.