You probably don’t add images to your portfolio everyday. You probably don’t shoot a wedding every day. And you probably don’t add stock images to your archive every day. In that respect, the “main” part of a photographer website can be fairly static.
Blogs, on the other hand, are a great way to talk about the photos you take, the projects you’re working on, the photo workshops you’re attending (or running), etc. I fret when people conceive of blogs as an online journal because I’ve always believed that the real benefit of a blog is as an SEO machine.
We get to choose the topics, the copy and the links in our blog, and all of those things can add up to some pretty good SEO juice.
I was on the phone with Robert Seale today, who is a fantastic portrait photographer in Houston, and we were talking shop about his website and his blog. Turns out that he registered robertsealeblog.com for his blog because someone had told him that having a different domain pointing to his website proper, robertseale.com, was good for link buildling.
While I would generically agree that building links is important, I disagree in this particular case for a few reasons.
All the information about domain registration is public. Setting up two domains that are registered by the same person and then pointing traffic to one another is a technique that Google is aware of. In extreme cases, this behavior can get you penalized. In less extreme cases, you’re probably not getting a whole lot of benefit from a single website that has a majority of outbound links going to one website.
Robert told me that someone else had registered the blog domain for him. So maybe Google doesn’t know, or maybe they have really smart engineers who figured out that robertseale.com and robertsealeblog.com were the same person. I honestly don’t know.
One of the main areas that we focus on in SEO is building up the authority and legitimacy of a domain. MagnumPhotos.com, for example, as a Google PageRank of 7 out of 10. They have a lot of authority in the photo space. As such, content that they publish on their site has an advantage from an SEO perspective. (Why does Wikipedia come up so frequently? Tons of inbound links, diverse content, and a very logical structure).
If you’re working at establishing your domain, then why build a completely different domain for your blog? You’re going to work double the effort to build up the domain factors.
A blog is a marketing mechanism for photographers. Here are two examples:
- Robert was hired as a result of one of his blog entries because he described how he planned for a shoot, and the client was impressed at the forethought and insight.
- John Lander inserts a slide show of his PhotoShelter stock image galleries into his blog, which drives traffic to his website, and gets him indexed by Google blog search.
In both of these cases, the user is potentially being bounced back and forth between the blog and the website proper. There is a continuum of usage on the website.
If you have two separate domains, you create a potential issue for Google Analytics. If a user reads a blog entry on one domain, then clicks to the other domain, that shows up as a “bounce.” I could be artificially increasing my bounce rate, when, in fact, the opposite is true. I could end up making bad decisions about how I use my blog because the bouncerate is high.
This problem is alleviated if the blog is part of the same domain, and hence uses the same Google Analytics tracking code.
Why does this matter? The goal of analytics, in my opinion, is to:
- Establish an empirical baseline of activity (e.g. 1,000 visits)
- Analyze specific data over time and use that info for decision support
- Alter content on your website to increase the baseline
If the “behind-the-scenes” blog entries are driving lots of traffic to his website proper and people are hiring Robert as a result, but analytics is showing that those entries have high bounce rates, Robert might make the erroneous assumption that “behind-the-scenes” articles aren’t good.
So what is the ideal?
In my opinion, the ideal structure would be this:
In a lot of cases, this is not possible. Maybe your blogging or website software doesn’t support this structure. So the second best is the use of a subdomain.
Subdomains are essentially treated as a new domain from an SEO perspective. I mentioned that MagnumPhotos.com has a PageRank of 7, but the page rank of their Expression Photo Award is a 4 (by the way, if you want to win $10,000 for taking a great photo of communities, you should check it out).
The subdomain can use the same analytics code, and then you can create a different profile with a filter to just look at the blog traffic.
But I already have a blog with lots of entries!
Most major blogging platforms will allow you to export entries, so there are ways to move your blog information around. Of course, this means that you’ll lose any existing SEO, which might not be ideal.
Ultimately, you’ll have to make the judgement call as to whether or not it’s worth it. If you don’t have a ton of SEO chutzpah, then move it. It’ll be better in the long run. But if you’re already well established with your URL, and you’re seeing good SEO, then let it be.
By the way, haven’t downloaded our awesome SEO Kit for Photographers? What the heck are you waiting for?