SEO for Photographers: Q&A from the PDN Virtual Trade Show

SEO for Photographers: Q&A from the PDN Virtual Trade Show

Thanks to the hundreds of people who attended my webinar on Search Engine Optimization yesterday at the PDN Virtual Tradeshow. There were many more questions than we had time to answer, so I figured I’d post a bunch of them here for everyone to see.

Remember: The best time to get started on your SEO strategy is today! Don’t sweat the minutae — get your page titles and captions in place, then started building your links. Download our free SEO Cookbook for more step-by-step instructions.

If my website is flash, can I still go in and put different meta data for each page? (Thia)

Flash, in and of itself, doesn’t support HTML meta data. You’d have to write some custom code to do this. The more common way is to build a mirror site in HTML, which is only displayed when a user doesn’t have Flash and to search engines.

We are a new business and just registered our name into google two days ago. how long does it take google to process all those entires (we can’t find our site even when we type in our exact name). (katarina)

If you’re talking about a Google Local Business entry — it can vary from a few days to a few weeks depending on the verification method. I would suggest also creating a Google Webmaster account and registering your website with them.

Are direct links to every photo important? Some photo sites dynamically generate links (e.g. (Chuck)

Most experts recommend having text links to every image — i.e. don’t just rely on a clickable image without also having a text link.

My photos used to come up as large thumbnails, 400×600 in google image search. They’re now coming up as thumbnail size thumbnails 180×200. They look tiny, what happened? (Ellen)

A few things good be happening. 1) Google tests new things all the time, and this might be a part of a new test or presentation, 2) Google isn’t indexing your larger images, and apparently deciding that the thumbnails are deep enough in your website.

I would make sure you have text links to the larger images — preferably with good anchor text (e.g. “waikiki-beach.jpg” instead of “DSC_0123.jpg” or “picture”). And I would build links into a specific gallery of content.

There was an article that listed the Lynx text browser as a tool to check SEO capability, Have you recommended this browser as a checker? (Claude)

It’s an interesting approach, but an unnecessary one. Lynx doesn’t display images nor does it support Flash. You can turn off Flash in any browser by disabling the Flash plug-in, and there are tools for turning off images in browsers too. But don’t get caught up in the mechanics. The point of this testing is to ensure you have good textual content. So instead of disabling everything, just ask yourself:

– Do you have unique page titles and meta data on each page?
– Do you have descriptive text on each page (captions, descriptions, keywords, etc).
– Do you have good anchor text (the text that’s actually linked) on your pages? The more specific the anchor text, the better.

I have a photoshelter address but have added a customized link. Can google see this customized link or does it only see the orignial site/link? (Janice)

Google can see both, but if you want to give preference to the customized links, create a Google Webmaster account and register your domain name, and when  you build links to your content, link to your domain, not PhotoShelter’s.

My site and the blog linking to my site are on the same server and IP, is this negative? (Luciano) & I’ve heard that SEO is optimized by having a blog with its own domain, rather than one through WordPress, etc. Is this true? (Nora)

Nope. It’s actually the preferred way because you are building more SEO “juice” on a single domain.

How can I integrate my constant contact email newsletters to my site for seo purposes? (Lori)

Unless you’re publishing the newsletter on the web along with e-mailing it, there’s not going to be any inherent SEO benefit. But SEO aside, you could use Google Analytics to track what happens when people get to your site. Constant Contact will tell you how many people opened the newsletter and what they clicked on, but once they do that, you lose your tracking capability. But if you use Google’s URL Builder in conjunction with Analytics, you can see how different newsletters perform. Check out our Google Analytics Kit for Photographers.

Is Twitter used any way by Google? (Brian)

Yes, although probably not in a very significant way yet. Google looks at activity on social networks like Twitter and Facebook (all a part of what’s known as the social graph). If someone tweets about your website (instead of linking to it), it probably has an incremental benefit to your SEO.

Would it help to keep typing my own name into google every day to keep it up the top of the list ?! (Carlotta)

Nope — particularly if you’re logged into Google. Google can see your IP address or your Google account. They know that a single person is typing in the same search daily. It won’t be factored into SEO.

Do you think that Google would show any preference for picasa? (Joe)

I doubt it. There’s no benefit in Google gaming the system for their own products because if they are not giving the “best” search results, people will go elsewhere, which means they can’t sell more ads.

Does the | vertical bar separate out keywords/ What is it used for?? (Lawrence)

The “pipe” symbol is more often used in a page title — e.g. “My Galleries | Joe Smith Photography”. I wouldn’t recommend using it to separate keywords. Use a comma.

If my web site is made in flash, do google can read the names of the photos? (Ivonne)

Very unlikely. If you’re using Flash, build a mirror site in HTML.

What is the best blog building website to use? Does that matter? (Anice)

It doesn’t matter. WordPress is very popular, but the platform has no impact on SEO. Blogging regularly and linking to your content does.

For photographers just starting out, can you suggest an economical but effective website option that could later be transfered to Photoshelter? (Winona)

There are a ton of website hosting companies out there. The main issues, however, are: 1) do they have a photography focus, 2) are they scalable for thousands of photos, 3) do they have a competency in SEO.

I think it’s a situation where there are many cheaper alternatives, but switching from provider to provider is expensive in time and money.

Does commenting on other blogs help your rating as well? (Tracy)

In most cases, no. Most search engines do not follow links that are embedded within blog comments.

Is there a good way to combine a flash gallery, such as Slideshow Player, and still get good SEO? Is is okay to have both, like a small portfolio in flash, then a large data base of stock? Thank you! (Matt)

The overarching issue is this: You need to balance design/usability with your SEO goals. Flash can look great, but it’s not so great for SEO. So if you use Slideshow Player, that’s fine, but make sure that you have HTML galleries that are linked through your homepage so that Google can find it.

Does the order of words…Boston wedding photographer or wedding photographer Boston? (Armen)

The short answer is you want to be optimized for both because people are searching for both terms. Why not put “Wedding Photographer in Boston” in your page title and “Boston wedding photography” in your meta data.

What is an alt atribute? What does ALT stand for? (Diane)

HTML is a scripting language, and it’s the underlying language used on the web. To display an image, you’d write something like this in HTML:

<img src=”happy-girl.jpg”>

the <img> tag also has another “attribute” called ALT that you can enter to describe the picture. This can be read by search engines, browsers without image display capabilities and blind people.

<img src=”happy-girl.jpg” alt=”A portrait of a happy girl lying on a bed of grass.”>

If you’re building your own site in HTML, you need to enter the ALT attribute manually. If you use a website service like PhotoShelter, we populate it for you automatically with your image captions.

ALT stands for “alternate text.”

Allen, How do I secure a “first page” show of my site in my area if “Tom, dick and Harry” are doing the same SEO? (Mrs. Storrs)

If three people have the exact same on-page SEO factors, the thing that will put you ahead of the others is having more links to your website.

I was reading that over use of keywording or keyword phrasing could hinder your SEO is this true? (Tracy)

There’s a little bit of debate as to whether over-keywording will penalize your SEO. I personally don’t think so. I think the search engines just ignore it. But once again, you need to balance SEO against display concerns. It’s very typical on stock photography sites to have blocks of keywords which help users find what they are looking for once they are on your site. This is a different goal from SEO.

What’s the nicest, most effective way to code a photo slideshow that loads quickly, plays smoothly (and preferably automatically), and has optimal SEO? (Scott)

Slideshows simply aren’t conducive to SEO for a few reasons. Most are built in Flash, which cannot be effectively indexed. And most slideshows aren’t dynamically changing the page title, which is the most important on-page factor.

So I’m agnostic as to how you code a slideshow. I just don’t think it can be the sole way you display your photos on your website.

Why is a blog such a good idea? (JC)

Blogs are very conducive to linking. And when you write a blog, you can pick the topic and the words used to describe your content. This is hugely powerful from an SEO perspective.

Where do you place keywords? When you say “put key words around the image” does that just mean write a sentence before and after the image on the blog? (Carlos & JC)

Place them near your images. Google is smart enough to know that text near an image is probably related to that image.

Is there a trick to getting on Google Images results. (Andrew)

Beyond all the on-page factors already mentioned, having file names with descriptive keywords seems to be key to being on the first page of results. e.g. do NOT name your files IMG_123.jpg, but rather “empire-state-building.jpg” using dashes “-” to delimit spaces.

Can a splash page and blog be enough to get good SEO even if you have a flash site?

A flash website with lots of backlinks (other people’s websites linking to you) can create good SEO results — but for your homepage. If you really want to be found, you need to have as many indexed pages as possible, and you simply cannot do that with Flash.

How much does a site map impact SEO and google (Ed)

Hard to say how beneficial it is. I don’t think the mere presence of a sitemap means you’ll have better SEO, but sitemaps provide a way (through a priority flag) to tell Google what pages you think are important on your website.

What are good and real altenatives to flash sites for photographers? There is simply no substitute for the flash presentation…or is there? (Neil)

Lots of questions about Flash. Let me do one last explanation of my position.

I’m not anti-Flash. It’s just a fact that Flash content has fewer links than its HTML breathren, and Google cannot index Flash images. This means that you might have a pretty Flash website, and people might link to your homepage, but people aren’t linking to the 4th image in your 3rd gallery because in most cases, your URL isn’t changing each time you load a new picture.

It is an objective fact that Flash websites get fewer links to them, and links are the most important factor for SEO.

The other issue is that photographer often design websites that appeal to them, not their audience. Sure, everyone likes a pretty Flash website, but photo buyers who we’ve talked to don’t care about the technology as much as an easy-to-use interface that loads quickly. You don’t need flash to accomplish that.

Define keywords please. Would I list Washington DC photographer all together or break it down as washington, dc, photographer. (Brooke)

“Keywords” are single words or phrases used to describe your images. But instead of creating massive chains of keywords, I would simply write grammatically correct sentences. Why? Because if you have an easy to understand website, people are going to have an easier time understanding it, which means longer time on site, higher likelihood of backlinks etc.

Good website design engenders the type of visitor behavior that you want. And Google is generally trying to modify their algorithm to detect what a good website is (e.g. well organized, descriptive, etc).

Does web page dir matter? is it better to have: or (Daniel)

Probably not. Having descriptive paths is more important than getting the content close to the root directory.

What’s a backlink? (Thia)

A backlink is a link back to your website from a different domain.

Do you need the http//www. in your link to get noticed by google? (Brian)


When you say links back to your website….they dont have to be links to the actual photos you put on the blog? Or is just a link to my website (Scott)

Build links to specific content and make the anchor text of those links (the linked text) as descriptive as possible. If you create links that only go to your homepage, your deeper content will never get indexed.

So how are flash websites ranking so high on Google? (Deb)

A domain can build SEO “juice” irrespective of the technology used to build it. For example, photojournalist Ami Vitale used to have a website built in Flash. If you searched for “ami vitale” you’d find her website because Google isn’t excluding her domain. But if you searched for “Kashmir lake photos”, you’d never get a direct link to a specific gallery on her site.

She has now switched to an HTML-based site, but her name still comes up in google when you search for it. But since the galleries and images are now HTML-based and have unique URLs, Google can build links to this specific content.

What is seo? (Monica)

See above.

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

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