Business Matters: Sure-Fire SEO

On Page SEO refers to all measures that can be taken directly on your photography website in order to improve its position in the search rankings. It consists of making small changes to your site’s content to make the site’s pages appear higher up in the search results. In the ever-changing, mysterious beast that is SEO (search engine optimisation), On Page SEO is a relatively simple but nonetheless powerful technique. It’s also one area of SEO that’s an effective way to build and maintain consistent traffic to a website. It’s not a set-and-forget measure by any means, but as long as you abide by some basic rules, On Page SEO requires little upkeep. And this article will teach you the little upkeep that’s needed.

These tips to make sure your On Page SEO is sound are easily accessible for all levels of website owner. Even if you’re adept with SEO, keep reading as you may be reminded of something you need to update. If you’re using a WordPress website, install the Yoast plug-in. If you’re not using WordPress, don’t worry. Yoast won’t do anything magical to your site to make it rank well in Google – it’s just a simple way to check you’re on the right path with your On Page SEO efforts.

If you’re not using WordPress, your website platform should have a way for you to make the edits described in this article. If not, I strongly advise you to look into creating a WordPress website for your photography business. Here’s a guide I created that will show you how: shotkit.com/how-to-make-a-blog/

Yoast has some powerful features, but at this point we’ll be using it for its basic functionality – that of making sure your On Page SEO is set up properly.The basics of post-level On Page SEO (ie. SEO concerned with an individual blog post on your photography site, for example) are outlined below. We’ll call them the ‘ranking factors’, in that doing these things properly will increase your chances of ranking well in the search engines.

 

Content

I can’t tell you how to write good content in your blog posts. We’re photographers, not writers after all. However, one thing is for sure – without text on your blog posts, Google isn’t going to be too happy. Google has a tough time deciding what your photos show, so by using plain old text, you’ll give it a greater chance to discover what it is you’re talking about in your blog post.

In your content, it also helps if you mention the keyword you’re trying to target in the first 100 words (I’ll be delving into the topic of keyword research next issue). How many times you should mention the keyword in your content depends on who you ask, but the Yoast plug-in can give you a fair indication of what to do. Having said this, take Yoast’s feedback with a grain of salt . Our blog posts as photographers are typically characterised with many images and a few words, so Yoast will remind you to add more text. However, I’d advise you to think about your user’s experience first and foremost – if the addition of a lot of text doesn’t contribute to the story you’re trying to tell, don’t worry too much about forcing more words into your post. Keep your content on point, and if you can sneak a keyword into your text naturally, all the better.

Writing well doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so you may want to outsource this every now and then. Sites such as Hire Writers and even Fiverr offer affordable freelance writers, but you get what you pay for. Investing in a good copywriter is advisable if your budget allows it.



The H1 Title Tag

This is what Google will show in its search engine results pages at the top of your search result. Not only is it an important ranking factor for SEO, but it’s also important in terms of whether a user clicks on the link or not. As you can see in the example , Google is getting better at recognising words, synonyms and other semantics, making search results more dynamic than in the past. Therefore, it’s wise to put some thought into your H1. You’ll also want to include the keyword you’ve decided to target at the start of the Title tag. An example would be: Natural Wedding Photography – Capturing Emotions Candidly.

Using Yoast, you’ll be prompted to enter a Title tag, and will be shown a preview so you can see exactly how long it needs to be. Any longer and your preview text will be truncated – not a huge deal, but it looks messy. If you don’t have Yoast, there’ll usually be a way for you to enter a Title tag using your software’s dashboard. If not, get a developer to add it to your blog post – I recommend hiring someone from Envato Studio ; they seem to have a good standard of worker at affordable prices.

If you want to have a go at editing your Title tag using HTML, it’s pretty simple – just add the following code to the top of the html on your blog post:

< head >

< title > Example Title < /title >

< /head >

An additional importance of having a good Title tag is that other websites will use this text as the link ‘anchor text’. As in example , posting a link to your blog post into your Facebook page to share it with your friends will generate a Facebook preview which shows your Title tag text.

The URL

It’s important to have a good URL structure within your photography site. Avoid messy URLs which contain the category of the post, the date and whatever other irrelevant information in them. If you’re using WordPress, one of the first things you should do if you haven’t already is to change your Permalink structure to Post Name (select Settings in the side bar menu, then Permalinks and choose Post Name).

When composing your WordPress posts, you’ll also be able to manually modify the URL when you are creating your post by modifying the ‘slug’. Just click the Edit button next to your post’s Permalink. Don’t edit your Permalink after your blog post has gone live as you could run into some broken link issues. There are ways around this with a 301 redirect, but that’s getting a bit technical. Make sure your URL isn’t too long, but if possible, make it keyword rich. Google has stated on numerous occasions that the first three to five words in a URL are given more weight. Keyword rich URLs are slowly becoming less relevant, but at the time of writing, Google is still bolding them in the URLs and descriptions of its search engine results. Any way you can highlight your space in the Google results is a good thing, so take the opportunity to stand out.

Outbound links

For whatever reason, some bloggers are cautious about linking to other websites. Perhaps they’re afraid that the user will go and not return, or maybe they’ve heard rumours about it somehow diluting your SEO strength. On the contrary, linking to good quality websites can actually have a positive effect on your site’s SEO. Outbound links to related pages are a relevancy signal that helps Google figure out your blog post’s topic. It also indicates to Google that your page contains quality content.

With a photography post, this can be as simple as linking to your vendors within the content, eg. Mary and Bob got married at the Crowne Plaza in Hunter Valley, an exquisite location for a wedding. If you’re going to be writing a lot of content, a good rule of thumb is to link out to other sites two to four times per 1000 words. Keep in mind though to always link out to quality sites that are relevant to your topic, as this will reflect on your own site’s authority.

Loading speed

How fast your site loads is also considered very important for both SEO and user experience. Shared hosting is the cheapest and most common way that photographers host their websites, and means that there will be hundreds of other sites on the same server as your own. This isn’t great for site loading speed. As our photography sites will be image heavy, it’s even more important to have a fast-loading site. Your next client is no doubt impatient, having seen too many other photographers’ websites already. Make sure you’re showing your client your images as fast as possible, or he’ll lose interest.

If you’re using WordPress, there are many free ways to check your site’s speed e.g. WP Engine Speed Tool . If you’re not using WordPress, you can check it out here. Then you can make a decision based on your site’s speed score as to whether you think it could load faster.

If you’re ready to invest some money to test whether having a faster site will help you rank better in Google (and also help you ‘convert’ more of your website’s traffic – ie. increase the number of visitors to your site who fill in your contact form), I’d recommend using a dedicated WordPress host such as WPEngine. WPEngine is made specifically to host WordPress and provides the fastest and most reliable hosting I’ve experienced. In addition, it includes something called a CDN, which will make your images load much faster. You can try WPEngine out risk free for 60 days just to check if it makes any difference to your business. I’d recommend the Personal plan which should be more than enough for most photography sites. You can read a detailed review on why I recommend using WPEngine here.

If you don’t use WordPress or need a more affordable solution, I recommend Bluehost. Whilst their basic shared hosting is great for sites that don’t have much content, you’ll want to choose the VPS option for your photography site to make sure your images load fast. You can save some money by going for the Standard VPS plan, which is a good start. Many factors affect your site’s speed, but hosting is like your house’s foundations. Without good hosting, anything else you try and tweak to speed up your site won’t be as effective as it could be.

Mark Condon is a British wedding photographer living in Sydney. He recently published his ebook More Brides, and on his Shotkit website gives us a peek at some of the world’s best photographers’ kit.

See more of Mark's work:

Shotkit.com
Gold Hat Photography
More Brides book

As featured in Professional Photo magazine, issue 125.

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