Why No One is Linking to Your Photos

We talk a lot about Search Engine Optimization and how it can benefit photographer websites by bringing unsolicited visitors and expanding your marketing reach. There’s not a photographer in the world who couldn’t benefit by having more eyeballs on their work.

Many photographers have downloaded our SEO Cookbook, and made all the suggested on-page changes like unique page titles, meta descriptions, captions and keywords, etc, but still can’t figure out why they aren’t showing up on page 1 of a particular search.

According to most SEO experts, on-page factors only account for about 10-15% of your SEO juice. The real meat comes through building links to your photos and other content. But how the heck do you build links to your website?

Build it yourself
There are a number of easy ways to build links to your photos.

  1. Blog: A blog is an SEO machine. You pick the topic, you pick the keywords, you build the links. Even if no one is reading your blog, you’re still gaining some SEO benefit.
  2. Join Trade Organizations: Many of the photo trade organizations maintain websites with member pages. And in many cases, these pages allow you to list website information. It’s a perfect way to link back to yourself.
  3. Social Networks and Online Communities: Been resisting the social networks? You might want to rethink that strategy. Having a public presence on Social Media sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn can benefit your SEO juice. And of course, community sites like SportsShooter give you great ways to showcase your photography at the same time.
  4. Google Local Business: Make sure to create an entry with Google Local Business. This not only provides you with some SEO juice, it also gives you the potential of showing up on Google maps when people search for photo services.

Create Compelling Content Regularly
I see a lot of photographers shooting the same old crap in the same style every day. You know what I’m talking about. A rose in a vase on white seamless. Raindrops on the window. More “street photography.” And you wonder why people don’t link to your content.

As an extreme example, think for a moment about the stupidest YouTube video you’ve ever seen. Was it David After Dentist? Chocolate Rain? Dog Dreaming? Star Wars Kid? Humiliating or not, these viral videos make for compelling content. And besides the millions of “views,” they each have thousands of links to them (I just created four more).

What’s compelling photographic content? Tomas van Houtryve posed as a Belgian chocolate maker to gain access and shoot phenomenal photos in North Korea. On Location News shot the first on-set photos of Iron Man 2 with Robert Downey Jr.

Photo by Tomas Van Houtryve

Ok, maybe you’re not ready to risk life and limb to enter a country controlled by a brutal dictatorship, but you certainly are creative enough to shoot something compelling and distinct. Shawn Rocco’s cellphone photos have been featured in numerous sites like PDN and the New York Times Lens blog.He didn’t risk life and limb, he just followed a project which other people found interesting.

You need to understand that the average joe on the Internet doesn’t build links. Links are built by a very small population of users who we call the “linkerati” (the linkerati aren’t a mystical group of people, by the way. They are just people who take the time to link to content they like). They are the power users of the Internet, and they aren’t interested in pictures of flowers. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a market or interest in flower pictures, but the linkerati are much more interested in things like these crazy underwater/overwater photos by Dustin Humphrey.

Photo by Dustin Humphrey

And while there are many cases of one-hit wonders on the Internet, you need a much more constant production of content for SEO purposes. Google will look more favorably upon you if content on your website is updated frequently (Google has a concept called Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) that is factored into their search algorithms). And think about it. Doesn’t it suck when you go to your dentist and they have a copy of Women’s Home Journal from 1997? Wait, George Clooney is the Sexiest Man Alive again? No, no, no, my friend. That’s the November 2006 issue of People. Doesn’t it make you think that your dentist is out of touch with the times?

Think about how a visitor to your website feels when your last update was two years ago. Maybe you have pictures of Borat, when you should really have pictures of Bruno. I think you get my drift.

So keep in mind that link building is the most important factor in your quest for SEO domination, and don’t get frustrated if your on-page work hasn’t yielded you the best results. Building links takes time and effort, but creating compelling content can dramatically help your linking strategy.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. SEO Palm Beach at 5:10 am

    SEO Palm Beach

    We recently tested“ how many keywords will Google read in the title tag/ element? ” using our simple seo mythbuster test (number 2 in the series). And here’ s the results, which are quite surprising.

  2. acclaimimages at 2:37 pm

    SEO is worth the time invested and I can say from experience that this is true and that you need to stick with it. I have been at this since 1995 and now have some 8 million visitors per month to my various web properties. Spend most of your time building interesting, usable content and then a bit of time building links in and any other type of marketing you can think of. Having great content will allow you to ignore marketing because once you get a bit of exposure people will want to link to you. Don’t pay people to market for you unless you understand what they are doing to help you. Many of these services can actually hurt your search results.

  3. Essex at 12:18 pm

    I concur with the above post, SEO is a simple but effective technique but to get the best from it you need to work over a period of time rather than trying to force a quick win. In addition to the content the use of social media can add value in bringing people to the site, awesome pictures are often hotlinked to once people have seen them, search results are a big driver but remember now Google is pushing brand so look to deliver longtail as well as the generic terms. Twitter and other SM outlets can drive a lot of interest when you build up a following, also consider setting up squidoo etc. Most of all don not spam your linking through farms, link spikes are definately a no go now.

  4. spikephoto at 9:37 am

    As traditional paper directories decline and folk turn to Google to search for photographers, SEO is becoming increasingly important. I was wondering why some photographers in Nottingham were showing up much higher in Google rankings than my site – I have had a site on the domain http://www.spikephoto.com since 1998. After getting in touch with Photoshelter, they explained my backlinks, although good, were nowhere near the page one sites. So here I go, building up links. Does posting on a blog count, I wonder?

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