Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technique that helps your website rank higher in searches on Google and the other major search engines. But what searches are you aspiring to rank higher for in the first place? What’s the practical application?
When users are looking for something, they type in a word or phrase that they believe is likely to lead them to the best results. For example, a couple might be looking for a wedding photographer, so they search for:
Upon seeing the search results, they realize that the search was too broad, so they narrow the scope by adding some geographical component.
chicago wedding photographer
Another couple might type in the following:
wedding photographer in Chicago
How do you know which term to optimize for? And once you have that information, what do you do with it?
Google’s main revenue is derived from selling ads which appear alongside search results. In order to get potential advertisers to open their pocketbooks, they created a tool called AdWords that shows what other users are searching for. This gives the advertiser the following decision data:
- Popular terms
- Approximate search volume
- Advertiser competitiveness
The more popular, high volume terms are more sought after, therefore, Google can charge more money per click. It’s supply and demand in action.
What does this have to do with photographers? Well, the same tool can be used to figure out which terms are important from an SEO perspective. For example, we can compare the two wedding terms and figure out which is more frequently searched for. Here’s what Google AdWords returns:
“Chicago wedding photographer” has over 11 times more searches per month than “wedding photographer in Chicago.” AdWords also returns similar keywords, so we can see that “Chicago wedding photography” has even more search volume that “Chicago wedding photographer.”
Unlike a search engine that you might find on Getty Images, Google doesn’t automatically add grammatical intelligence, i.e. they don’t handle stemming, plurals, etc. So the exact search term is what is search upon.
Writing Copy for Your Website
Armed with this information, we can now make smart decisions about how we describe our products and services on our website. This is how I would approach the SEO for my photography website homepage armed with this information:
We know that page title is the most important on-page factor for SEO. Most photographers are inclined to stick their name into the page title, but people don’t know who you are. So while it’s informative to have your name, it’s more important to describe what you do. Here’s my suggested page title:
Chicago Wedding Photography | Allen Murabayashi
HTML meta data can’t be seen by humans, but provides some valuable information to search engines. In this case, we can use other high ranking terms to build SEO. Most SEO experts recommend a meta description under 150 characters.
Allen Murabayashi is a Chicago wedding photographer, and has photographed over 800 weddings with affordable rates. His photojournalistic style captures the most important moments.
The 150 character rule exists because that is what Google displays in a search result. In my case, I’m over 150 characters, so part of my description will get truncated, but the important stuff will appear. Since the meta description appears on the search results page (SERP), it’s really functioning like an advertisement. So you need to write compelling copy that will get someone to click on it – not just a string of terms you want to optimize for.
Many photographers like to have a big image (or rotating images) on their homepage with no copy following a minimalist philosophy where “only the image matters.” This might be great from a usability perspective, but not so great from an SEO perspective.
I advocate the inclusion of descriptive text “below the fold” (or below your main image) to reinforce who you are and what you do. One or two sentences can enhance usability as well as providing SEO benefit. The on-page text shouldn’t be a copy of your meta description.
I’m a Chicago wedding photographer serving the great metropolitan area, and have shot over 800 weddings in the past 12 years. My staff of professionals can help you capture photos and videos for large or intimate weddings alike.
I’m not a Madison Avenue copy writer, so I won’t instruct you on specific techniques, but hopefully you get the gist of tailoring the content on the homepage to hit your target demographic.
This particular article only touches the homepage. We know from the SEO experts that you should have different page titles, meta data and content on all your pages because Google doesn’t view duplicate content favorably.
Next Steps: Your Keyword Hit List
Use the AdWords tool to generate a “hit list” of terms that you want to try to optimize against. Once you’ve generated an informed list of terms, you can start using those terms throughout your website with a higher frequency. As you add more images and galleries, see if you can integrate those terms. If you maintain a blog, make sure to use the keyword list as well. All the little factors will add up to better SEO over time.
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