Secret Social Media Marketing Recipe from Photographer John Lander

Five Ways to Use Social Media Sites to Boost Your SEO

by Grover Sanschagrin

John Lander's website

Imagine every one of your PhotoShelter galleries that you care most about is showing up on the first page of Google Search results for their chosen keywords. Impossible, you say? Not so, according to John Lander, who is accomplishing this by using social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinedIn and StumbleUpon as the main ingredient in his SEO-boosting recipe.

Lander is a freelance writer and photographer based in Japan, specializing in editorial and stock images of Asia.

Try these Google Searches and you’ll see:

Japanese Garden Images
Kyoto Images
Dalat Images
Hakodate Images

To boost search engine ranking for his images, Lander estimates that he spends about 50% of his marketing efforts on social networking sites.

“I spend a lot of time working on SEO. Tweaking captions/keywords, tweeting photo galleries, adding them to Facebook and recently using StumbleUpon as well with very good results,” Lander said. “I have managed to get almost all galleries on page one of Google.”

His suggestions:

1) Keep blogging.
Lander’s main blog,, is updated constantly with links to his various PhotoShelter image galleries. He uses the embedded PhotoShelter Gallery slideshow to insert images into his blog posts. The search engines will follow these links deeper into his image archive, and index them.

(Example of an Embedded Gallery:)

Cebu Images Gallery – Images by John Lander

In fact, Lander maintains several different topic-specific blogs. (Some topics include: Japanese Garden Images; Kyoto Images; Tokyo Images; Vietnam Images; and Cambodia Images.)

The secret here is consistency. Once you start blogging, you should keep it up at regular intervals. Keep growing the links to your content and it will eventually pay off. Many photographers expect instant results, get frustrated too quickly, and give up. It can take several months for anything to even show up in Google’s Search results, and even longer to make a difference.

Lander didn’t give up, even after months and months of nothing. Today he gets to benefit his patience and consistentcy.

2) Show your own special viewpoint as a photographer.
Encouraging links to your galleries should be a high priority, so make sure that you give people a reason to link to you. If people feel you are unique, have a distinct viewpoint, have a different style, or a great approach, they’ll be more likely to share a link with others.

3) Edit image galleries and slideshows down to the best of the best.
Make sure you are only showing your best work. A tightly edited gallery of high-impact images will go a lot further than a gallery that has every image plus the kitchen sink added.

Remember to be respectful of your visitor’s time. Don’t expect them to look through 100 images that look similar and be inspired to share the experience with others.

4) Tweet, and retweet to keep your galleries visible.
Each time you add a new gallery, post a link to it on Twitter. Although we don’t recommend spamming the system with the same tweets containing the same links, it’s usually fine to retweet things a few times (but don’t overdo it). Keep in mind that if you post something on Twitter, it’s most likely buried within 20 minutes so most of your followers will never get to see it.

Tweeting again, at different times of the day, worded differently, linking to a slightly different gallery with a slightly different focus will increase the chance your tweet will be seen.

5) Keep on top of LinkedIn – that’s where the editors are.
Here’s something most photographers overlook. There are a lot of editors (aka: “customers”) on LinkedIn. Posting status updates here can be a very effective way to keep in touch with a photo editor you’ve worked with in the past, and make it easy for new editors to find you or recommend you to others.

Some photographers monitor LinkedIn for status updates made by photo editors. Since they tend to move from one magazine, newspaper, or agency to another, it’s easier to remain in contact with them when that email address you have stops working. If you notice that an editor has changed employers, it’s the perfect opportunity to re-contact that person, and remind them you exist and you’re ready to help them in their new job.

Marketing your images beyond social networking sites.
Of course, not all clients are online. Social media sites can’t reach those people. Lander doesn’t forget about these people, though.

“Every so often I send out a post card from a photo shoot just in case editors aren’t engaged by email alerts, but it’s hard to tell if they are ‘reaching’ clients,” he said. “I don’t figure they are having much impact so I only do this now once or twice a year – to reach those that may not be so wired, or remind others that I’m still around.”

The other 50% of his marketing efforts, he says, involve sending email alerts to existing or previous clients.

“I regularly send out emails to regular clients, photo editors and even text editors when I am going to be traveling as they may need to ask me to add anything special to my shot list,” he said. “I find this is rather popular these days as a kind of virtual-assignment.”

Lander is willing to work hard, experiment and explore when it comes to his marketing efforts, and it is paying off. Patience and determination are critical components to his strategy.

“I had a very tough 2009,” he said. “One client who used to be one of the best, almost completely dried up last year in terms of requests, sales, downloads etc. Not wanting to hassle them, or perhaps they had some new ‘deal’ with a photo agency or microstock site. I just continued to send cheery Christmas/New Years cards etc, without mentioning “hey why have you stopped buying my images.”

“Just when I had all but given up on that publisher, I got an email from their lead photo editor requesting a batch of images,” he said. “The message is: hang in there – it is sometimes not as dire as it appears.”

social-media-for-photographersJohn Lander is one of the photographers profiled in PhotoShelter’s free “Social Media for Photographers,” a 55-page report available for download in PDF format.

This comprehensive guide covers the ground rules every photographer should know about using social media, choosing where to participate, smart strategies to foster conversation, tips to increase social sharing and generate quality links, measurement, and tools that can help achieve maximum results.

Grover Sanschagrin is co-founder and Vice President of PhotoShelter. Follow him on Twitter at @heygrover.

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There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Greg Vaughn at 8:25 pm

    In the example for Google searches, the term “images” is used. Do serious photo buyers search for “images” more often than “photos”, “stock photos”, or “photographs”? Is there any data on which is the most used term (by photo editors, not the general public)?

  2. Kiribane at 12:42 am

    Vaughn asked: In the example for Google searches, the term “images” is used. Do serious photo buyers search for “images” more often than “photos”, “stock photos”, or “photographs”? Is there any data on which is the most used term (by photo editors, not the general public)? You could look up Google adword/keyword tool you will find different hits like: photo hits 13,600,000 images hits 6,120,000 photos hits 6,120,000 picture hits 6,120,000 digital photo 3,350,000 image hits 3.,350,000 Hope that helps!

  3. Werbefotografie Jobst von Heintze at 4:49 am

    Just out of curiosity – is it just because I did the request from Germany (I used the links provided to nevertheless) or has anybody else noticed the same: I had the in this post referenced images or galleries not in top 20 of the search results. Instead there where other images from other photographers and other links to other blogs. This could be additional evidence for the “localizing the searcher” approach of the search engines. Any ideas?

  4. Randall P. Whatley at 5:07 pm

    I have read many articles about promoting words online but this is one of the only articles I have read about promoting images. Great job! I plan to tweet this link to call more attention to what you have written.

  5. Fredrik Naumann at 4:12 am

    I want to put in a word of caution against carpet bombing your pictures,blogs,links etc on social networks. If you keep pushing too hard it may backfire. A certain japanese garden photographer several times put up blatant self promotion – totally irrelevant to our work – on our agencys fan page. The posts were deleted, I was annoyed, and had it continued I would have blocekd him. A more subtle approach may be in order at times, so you don’t put potential clients off.

  6. ZooMMER Travel Photography at 8:20 am

    Thanks for the info, I didn’t do much SEO work yet, but was surprized to find my site on page one for “professional photos of Poland”, “professional photos of Switzerland”, “professional photos of India” and some more. Really reassuring start. Werbefotografie Jobst von Heintze, I’m localised in Russia, but I have referenced galleries on page one of the search results.

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