This post is part of PhotoShelter’s Guide to Conquer the Rest of 2014. We’ve compiled our best business tips to help you get over the mid-year hump and make the next six months count. Plus, don’t miss your chance to win a Fuji X-T1. You have until June 13th to enter. Details here.
Jim Goldstein, a California-based outdoor and nature photographer and VP of Marketing at BorrowLenses.com, has been a professional photographer for over a decade. Jim teaches workshops, has an e-book on creating high-impact images, and writes about the ins and outs of photography.
By day a photographer, by night (or mid-afternoon) Jim is a web marketer and strategist. This is why we asked him to give us some pointers for photographers to boost their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to help you get recognized by major search engines, and ultimately by potential clients. Here’s what he had to say.
1. Know your brand The first step to tackling SEO is knowing your brand, or what the core focus of your business is going to be. “If you have a good grasp of your brand, then you’ll have a better idea of key terms and phrases you’re going to use for optimization going forward,” Jim says. Because SEO has to do with being found online, the more you know what you offer—your specialty, your services, and products—the more you will come to understand what keywords to associate with your business and what people will be typing in Google when they are looking for images like yours. So if you haven’t been thinking about SEO, how do you know the terms or words someone is using when they search for images like yours? “It’s a learning process,” says Jim. “Few people are able to know right away. It’s like asking a five-year-old what they want to be when they grow up. It’s essentially, trial and error.
- Write out a brand statement (who you are, what kind of work you do, and what your specialty is within the market). An important part of any business is its brand. If you haven’t done it yet, take a step back to your positioning statement check out tips here, and then expand upon it making a list of key phrases that describe your brand.
- After you list keywords and phrases that you think someone would use when trying to find work like yours, expand the list to include synonyms of those words and phrases with a similar meaning. To help you with this, you can use Google’s useful keyword planner, which lets you type in a word and see other common alternatives. Type in a word or phrase, enter your website name and the market category, and the generator will give you a list of commonly searched phrases, how often they are searched for globally as well as locally, and how much “competition” that phrase has.
- Peruse other photo blogs or websites similar to yours, then Google them using phrases you think they would “pop” for. See where they rank (how high up on the search they appear). Check out how that photographer has labeled his or her images, what the blog titles say,and take note of patterns. Though Jim says this is by no means an exact science, there are a few tools you can use to get a handle on someone’s SEO strategy: Compete.com and Moz.com are two that show your how your competitors stack up.
2. Remember, everything you do is SEO The good news is, everything you do online contributes to your SEO efforts, including blogging. Jim posts on his blog about once a week and has trained himself to write each post with SEO in mind. “People are contributing to their search-engine rankings whether they think they are or not,” Jim says. “Inaction is essentially action, as backwards as that sounds.” By not posting often, and not adding keywords to images, you’re sending a message to Google that your content is old, which means that you will be hard to find online. This reflects poorly on your business and can even be a turnoff for clients. When Jim posts images on his blog, creates his blog titles and descriptions, and promotes the links through social media, he reiterates the terms he identifies as core to describing his business. He says, “If you educate yourself, then almost every marketing effort can be connected to SEO. By adding metadata to your photos, publishing work online, and having text around it, or even just linking back to your site with the proper wording, that is helpful for SEO. If you have it on your mind it will appear in everything that you do. I think that’s the best practice.”
- Include as much metadata and description as you can to every image you publish online. Be consistent with your tagging. If you choose to forgo all image descriptions, metadata and smart blog titles, it can negatively impact your chances of being found. (Metadata is information – data – stored within a digital image file. If you want to learn more about embedding metadata, check out these tutorials for different image software). Not only does this help SEO, it can help protect your images from theft and misuse.
- Remember that “inaction is action.” Be active with your blog and website updates so that Google sees your content as fresh. Regularly update your website and social media platforms. By ignoring them you’re telling the search engines you’re not relevant—the opposite effect you’re looking for to help improve where you rank on Google.
3. Update, update, update Just when you think you’ve got the keywords and tagging down, it’s time to reevaluate. “SEO is a moving target, things are always changing, and no company stays the same. The market is always changing, too,” says Jim. “You might have to revolutionize your approach. Don’t become complacent; stay consistent.” That’s why Jim says that ideally you should be spending one hour a week on your SEO efforts. Jim spends most of this time on his blog, which is what he links everything back to.
- Google yourself and refine the keywords and phrases as your business and services or the language your specialty and industry uses changes.
- Work on improving your search-engine rankings for at least one hour a week. Whether it’s updating code, blogging, or adding description to your image gallery.
Want more tips to amp up your SEO? Check out our guide, SEO for Photographers.