SEO for Photographers – The Complete Guide

Even though digital automation has brought picture-taking to the masses, professional photography remains a popular career undertaking amongst creatives.  In this SEO for photographers, the most challenging aspect is the optimization of visual content. The internet has inspired new opportunities to showcase and market this particular art. The problem is that artists all face similar challenges that many freelancers involved in the creative arts encounter when it comes to the business side of things.

For a small business, it is essential to rank highly in search engine results and be discovered by people searching for relevant keywords.

Here is a great article that explains the 101 of search engine optimization for small businesses.

Professionals in creative fields have difficulty staying in touch with their artistic side and wearing their corporate cap. Many would rather not be bothered with business at all. Sure, you can hire lawyers and accountants to take care of the nuts and bolts of law and financial matters, but how do you handle marketing in the information age? Even if you hire a pro to handle the web design, a lot of the marketing and outreach is up to you.

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Why Photographers Need to Develop SEO Skills

If there’s one thing that you can find on the internet, it’s photos. The point of SEO for photographers is to differentiate yourself from other professionals out there, not just with your photography niche, but with how you present it to the public. Search engine optimization (SEO) allows Google and other search engines to understand your website content and how to index it for presentation to people or companies looking for professional photography.

Because photographic websites are image-heavy, it’s difficult for web crawlers to make sense of content unless it’s presented with some context. Through tags and other optimization tactics, SEO helps give the technology something to grab onto and evaluate. This will prevent you from getting buried under the weight of the thousands of other freelancers vying for market share.

Organic SEO for Photographers

Any website owner or a person who wants to build a following and engage the public; needs to become proficient with SEO. Google uses hundreds of metrics to determine how to rank websites, and they change algorithms several times a year, highlighting on-page media, quality of content, backlinks, relevance, user experience, and keyword optimization.

Most changes are minor, but the algorithms undergo major overhauls every couple of years. The latest significant change is a shift to mobile-first indexing, which means it’s essential that your website is responsive and optimized for mobile web searches and viewing.

Best Practices on SEO for Photographers

Before consulting with a website designer or re-tooling your existing website, try to determine what your goals are for creating a website. Identify any issues you’re having gaining or retaining traffic, and whether you want to cast a wide net or focus on grabbing local business. Setting goals will give you and your web developer a foundation for your design and SEO requirements.

It’s suggested, at least in the beginning, to contract professional SEO services; you can always take over website maintenance yourself as your knowledge increases. SEO pros are familiar with current best practices, changes in search engine algorithms, and what consumers are looking for in a service provider.

Whether you go to a web designer or you DIY, it helps to know how to optimize your website. Unless you have a full-time social media manager, marketing expert, and IT specialist at your disposal, you will likely be handling all maintenance and content creation yourself.

The first step in SEO is to identify which are your money pages; those are the pages that get the most traffic and offer the best opportunity for ROI. If you engage in email marketing and manage to stay out of the spam and phishing filters, many customers will find you through your landing page. Otherwise, they’ll find you by searching for a photographer. Your main selling point and the portion of your website that most viewers will gravitate toward is your portfolio. After that, you will want to optimize your services and contact pages.  Here are some SEO tips for photographers.

Submitting to Directories: 

It is quite necessary for any small business to submit their website to popular online directories. Submitting your website is easy, punch in your essential information on the popular directories. The results will start showing up shortly. The search result pages will be more likely to find you and eventually help you rank higher.

Optimizing Meta-tags:

The meta-titles and meta-descriptions of your portfolio websites are imperative for good search rankings. A plethora of businesses commits the mistake of ignoring it and eventually suffer the loss of exposure. A meta-title is typically a 70 character long tale of your website, and a meta-description is a short description of your product/services which will appear on the search engines.  Netpeak Spider is a great tool that searches for different website errors and helps you to optimize meta-tags.

Keyword Rich Content:

The age-old mantra of keyword-rich content goes without saying. Content is king, and only the content rich in keywords can get you a definite win in search rankings. Do not forget to assign descriptive alt attribute to your images as well. Use keywords in both site settings and on-page text. Many companies are running the risk of exposure by not investing the keyword-rich data appropriately.

NAP consistency:

Your business’ name, address, and phone number should be clearly mentioned on your website. Also, look for NAP inconsistencies of your business on other forums to prevent bad search rankings. Enabling geographical locations for your website is highly essential.

Connect your Social Media profiles:

Your social media profiles speak volumes about your business ideology. Make sure that you’ve updated your social media profiles and do not forget to link it back to your website.

Google Analytics tracking:

It may also be a good idea to set-up a separate filter for your search engine rankings. Your Pixpa website comes with built-in integration with Google Analytics tracking that can be used to monitor traffic directly from your own Google Analytics dashboard. Analytics can help you understand the nature and behavior of your traffic. Restrategize your content according to it.

Using Backlinks to Built Authority:

Backlinks are links on other websites that lead back to yours. They help build trust and increase the perception of your authority in the industry, but they should be used sparingly. One backlink from a high-authority will do more to boost your brand than a dozen low-quality links. Google also measures the relevance of your links, so be discriminating. Query ahead, engage with the website before attempting to get a backlink by commenting, offer to write a guest post about your work or a trending topic, and be patient.

Blog With a Purpose:

You might be thinking right about now, “I’m a photographer, not a writer.” However, blogs are proven traffic generators, and they allow you to make your photography more personal. If you aren’t exactly a wordsmith, here are some tips that will help. You can also hire a professional content writer.

  • Use a primary keyword in the title and the first paragraph of the content, and sprinkle secondary keywords throughout. Keep density to 1 – 3 percent overall.
  • Keep it simple and tell a story.
  • Make the content visually pleasing and scannable, with short paragraphs and plenty of white space
  • Use meta tags, H1 title tags, and h1 – 4 tags for headings and subheads.
  • Be original. Don’t copy content from other websites.

Use a Content Delivery Network:

Content delivery networks (CDNs) improve page load times and overall performance. Rather than putting your entire website on a single server, it distributes it over a network of servers in different locations. When someone in Ohio sends a request from their browser, the CDN will choose the server closest to their geographic location.

A good CDN will make the pages load faster because the request and response cover a shorter distance, which provides your visitors with a better experience. Quality UX = higher page rank. Using a CDN will also conserve resources.

Use SEO Tools:

There are several tools available, many of which are free to use. They’ll help you with your SEO efforts. Using tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz (all of them have free accounts) can be indispensable for getting the SEO right even if you don’t know much about it. Another useful tool is the speed test from Pingdom that you can deploy to measure page load times and other metrics.

A note about copyright protection and intellectual property:

If you have a large body of work, copyrighting your images could become impractical and expensive. Even if they are copyrighted, someone could still download them and use them for their purposes. You can protect your images further by placing a watermark over them. A watermark also helps provide context for web crawlers. How you optimize your photos will be a little different depending on the type of images and your area of specialty.

Local SEO for Photographers

Local SEO: This is a side of SEO that’s mandatory for any website that’s tied to a physical location or a service performed in the real world. Local SEO is geo-targeted. It’s especially important in the age of mobile search and on-the-fly consumerism because it helps residents and visitors find companies and services in their immediate area. You can optimize your website for local SEO by using keyword phrases like “photography in Philadelphia” or “wedding photographer near me,” and by tying the content to Google maps and local consumer review websites like Yelp.

Choosing Your Keywords and Keyword Phrases

Choosing your keywords is one of the essential elements of SEO. You want to make sure that you select relevant keywords and phrases that people commonly use by those looking for a photographer. There are keyword research tools like Google Ad Words that can help make this process more efficient, but here are the basics for finding the best keywords to pepper your blog and images:

  • Think like a client. If you were looking for a photographer, what words would you type into a search engine?
  • Check out the competition. Visit the websites of photographers who rank high and would be considered your closest competitors. What keywords and phrases are helping them rank?
  • Prioritize long-tail keywords over single words. These have lower overall search volume but return more targeted results.
  • Analyze and retool. Don’t just insert a bunch of keywords and forget about them. Use your metrics to determine which are working and remove those that aren’t helping you reach your goals.

Image Optimization

Image Optimization is especially important for portfolio websites. The main content for photographers and other visual artists are images and illustrations. They are mostly low on text-based content, and so you must work on the photos if you want to be anywhere near the top of the Search Engine Ranking Pages(SERPs) for your chosen keywords. At Pixpa, we regularly interact with clients who are photographers, designers, and architects. They need to showcase their work, and most of their content is visual.

Most website owners optimize text content; as a photographer, you’ll want to optimize your images. That means employing SEO that will allow Google to see and evaluate your photos.

Overview of SEO for Single Photos

The purpose of posting single images is usually to highlight your best work on the home page or give potential clients an idea of your photographic style. The elements of single image SEO include:

  • Choosing a relevant file name for your image.
  • Coordinating the file size with the image size as displayed.
  • Reducing the image size to support faster page loads.
  • Captioning images to add context.
  • Using image alt text.
  • Adding appropriate social media tags.
  • Using metadata and structured data when needed.
  • Adding images to your XML sitemap.

Particulars of SEO for Galleries and Online Portfolios

When setting up your website, photo galleries should be grouped with similar images or themes together. Although you can caption each picture in a gallery, telling a story about the collections of images adds more context and allows you to double-down on your SEO of images. Using alt text for each separate image could lead to accusations of keyword spamming and cause Google to censor you. For gallery images, it makes more sense to use a long-tail keyword phrase for images rather than repeating the same alt text. Long-tail keywords also help you rank higher because they add context.

For example, rather than just tagging a photo “portrait photography,” you could use “professional headshots for executives.” If you specialize in food photography, get creative with the type of dish featured in each image. The idea is to get specific about your photos to help prospective clients find what they need.

Why is it challenging to optimize visual content?

The search engines cannot “read” the photographs or illustrations. They can only read the text or words. So even if you have the best photograph in the world, the search engine spiders cannot possibly understand the value of it. But thankfully there are things that you can do to make the situation a bit better. For your readers, you should be making infographics that are easy to understand and visually rich, read more about infographics in this guide from Visme – How to Make an Infographic: The Ultimate Guide

Now, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty about how to get SEO of images right.

Choose the Image Name Carefully

Before uploading any image to the website, make sure that you assign a proper name to it. For example, the image files in the camera are generally assigned serial numbers automatically. But you should rename the files to make it easier for the search engines. Use simple English words for the same, and you may use relevant keywords as the file names. For example, if it is the photograph of a sunrise, it can be called sunrise.jpg, which makes far more sense than something like DSC001.jpg.

Using Alt and Title Tags

The Alt Tag is the alternative text that shows up in case the image does not load and is a great way for SEO of images. They are like mini captions or comments that web crawlers read and use to determine where your website should place in the grand scheme of things. An example would be using a tag like “bridal photography.” When someone who’s newly engaged searches for that term, results will include your images. If you’re lucky, the bride-to-be will share your photos for the approval of her family and friends, which will further improve your SEO of images with social media shares and backlinks. Alt Tags one of the best SEO tips for images to put relevant keywords and so never leave this part empty. The typical HTML code for the image looks like the following. The first part is, of course, the file name as discussed before. The second part is the Alt Tag, which you should use judiciously to include a keyword. The last section defines the size of the image. Please note that we are only using this line of code to explain the basic anatomy. Most of the content management systems and web design platforms will make it easier for you to assign such tags if you are not comfortable with coding.

JPG vs. PNG: Choose the right Image Type

Images nowadays come in various formats, and it is also possible to convert specific photos from one type to another provided you have the right image processing software. But you must be careful in using images of different formats as various systems are not compatible with certain types. To be on the safer side, use JPEG images for photographic images. It should also be noted that the PNG format is on the heavier side and hence may harm the site speed. You can use FreeConvert’s free online PNG to JPG tool to easily convert from one format to another.

Add Sitemap 

Getting better search engine rankings is challenging. An important first step is to make sure all your content is correctly indexed by search engines. This is where Sitemaps play a significant role and enable website owners to directly inform Google about the new additions and changes to their websites and make sure that the new or changed content gets crawled and indexed properly by Google.

Here are the four benefits of having a proper Sitemap for your website:

1. Helps Google find your content

Google and other search engines use external links (backlinks to your website) to find your website and its content. For a new website, this process can take a long time. If you have a Sitemap on your website, you can submit the same through Google webmaster tools and expedite the process of having your website crawled and indexed by Google.

Here’s a helpful article on how to submit your sitemap to Google and other search engines

2. Having your site changes crawled quickly:

To maintain high rankings, you need to keep adding and modifying content on your website, hence keeping your website fresh and relevant. By submitting your changed sitemap to Google again, you can notify Google about your website changes and have them crawled quickly.

3. Better crawling and indexing of your website:

Sitemaps enable search engines to crawl your website’s content thoroughly and efficiently.

4. Get better reporting on your website:

Google Webmaster tools provide a number of your reports on your website using your website’s sitemap

Optimizing Images Before Uploading

Your idea and Google’s idea of SEO for images will not be the same. Uploading high resolution or full-sized images will not help your image optimization efforts; it may even have the opposite effect of what you want.

Not reducing image size and resolution will make your web pages bloated and slow, causing visitors to become frustrated before they even get a chance to view your gallery.  Page load times longer than eight seconds can decrease your traffic by up to 75 percent. Get them on your page first, then dazzle them with your work when you meet in person. Many add-ons can be used to achieve that.

Shoot for 5 and 5; below five seconds to load and under 5MB in file size. Read here for more information on how resizing helps optimize your images.

How Slow Site Speed and Downtime Can Hurt Your SEO

The reality is that your web host’s quality or lack thereof, especially as related to site speed and uptime, can harm SEO efforts. It works like this. Google’s algorithms evaluate all the stuff we’ve been talking about on millions of sites in the blink of an eye. If your site is down, it makes a note but skips you and goes onto the next one. If your site is down the next time, it comes around, except that somewhere in the great halls of Google, it will be flagged as unreliable and likely not receive favorable placement in search results.

If you’re looking for a number, good web hosting providers should be able to hit 99.9% uptime. Any less is flirting with disaster. A recent uptime analysis posted by Gary Stevens of found that this metric varied from 99.993% to 97.643% among the best known small business web hosting services. The closer you get to that second number, the more chance Google will pass your site by, which has the effect of immediately invalidating every other positive SEO action you took. In other words, a fast, reliable website is the first step of good SEO for photographers.

Final Thoughts

You’ve worked hard to become a skilled professional with a talent that’s in demand even in the age of digital automation. Everyone thinks they’re a photographer, but you are or are planning to be. Making SEO for photographers an essential element of your marketing and outreach helps build your brand and reach new clients. It doesn’t take much time to get the hang of search engine optimization, and the ROI is worth the investment in time and money.

Author: Gary Stevens is a front end developer. He’s a full-time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor.

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