As a professional photographer, you always have to balance being an artist and being a business person.
One of those “business-y” things that are often neglected is maintaining proper SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”) on your website so people can find you when they search.
But neglecting that can be costing you dozens or even hundreds of quality leads.
SEO is the #1 driver of traffic to my website and #1 source of new bookings. So I created this guide to help you do a little better with SEO on your site. I’ll cover the basic things you need to look out for.
But if you want to really dive into SEO and level up your marketing and lead generation, you can skip to the end by CLICKING HERE for my recommendation on a great course for photographers to learn SEO.
1. Get A Website
Yeah ok, this one goes without saying. But you might be surprised how many photographers out there just use Facebook and/or Instagram and don’t have their own website.
I highly recommend getting a WordPress website. Skip the ones like Wix and Squarespace. If you put your website on their platform, (1) you can’t easily transfer the content, (2) you are limited to the functionality that those companies offer, and (3) you’re betting that they are going to stay in business longer than you.
WordPress is used by over 1/3 of the internet at this point and there are so many supporting plugins for it and experienced web designers out there that know it that you’ll never limit yourself.
This site you’re reading is a WordPress site.
2. Pick A Specialty
The more specific you are on your website, the better chance you have of ranking high in search for that type of photography.
There are a LOT of photography businesses out there.
How many times have you visited a photographer’s website and it says we shoot “weddings, family portraits, seniors, babies, pets, headshots, corporate events, products, commercial, and the list goes on.
If you were looking for a photographer to get an epic portrait of your dachshund, then you might pass on that and look for someone that specializes in pets. In fact, you’ll probably search for “pet photographer” or even “dog photographer” instead of just “photographer.”
Those specific searches are where the best leads are found. And generalists don’t get anywhere near the top of those searches.
So, if you want to shoot dog portraits…then don’t try and brand yourself as just a photographer. You need to make sure anyone visiting your website knows that dogs are your thing.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do the occasional cat portrait, but when it comes to your website, stay consistent and stay focused.
3. Get The Technical Stuff Right
This is where photographers tend to tune out.
Unfortunately, SEO can require some technical skills.
But, the good news is that the technical stuff with SEO is more about just simply following the right steps to not do something wrong.
Some technical SEO things you want to consider:
- Make sure Google is indexing your site.
- Avoid having two or more pages or posts going after the same keyword.
- Keep your site loading fast (stop posting 20 MP images directly to your site!)
- There are way too many to go into right here…this is probably the place where you’ll want to get some expert advice.
4. Set Up Google My Business
Google is by far the biggest search engine in the world. So make sure they know all about your business.
Google My Business is a MUST for any small business.
I’m not even going to say anymore, just go set it up now. Google has a pretty decent setup walkthrough to follow.
5. Create Resources Not Showcases (Blog Strategically)
This one is going to be hard for a lot of you to hear…but the Smith Family could really care less about the Jones Family’s portrait session or how much fun you had shooting them.
You need to know what your ideal customer is looking for, what their questions are, what is stopping them from booking you, and what their pain points are when hiring a photographer.
What the Smith Family really wants to know when they come to your site are things like the best local parks for family portraits, what to wear for your shoot, how to schedule their wedding day to get the best photos, where to find the best florists, what are the great shots to get at a specific wedding venue, and the list goes on depending on the type of photography you shoot.
Those are the kinds of things that people search online.
You should also mix in content that addresses things that your client should know or would want to know even if they aren’t topics that are searched for. That will make them more likely to book you.
Here’s an example from my site…
So if you are the one providing the best resources for whatever it is they are looking for, they are more likely to click on that “Contact Me” button if and when they need a photographer.
Even if they don’t need a photographer today, resources like those are very shareable and bring people back month after month and year after year.
Which leads to the next point…
6. Update Your Best Content
When you create the right kind of content (ie. not just 20 photos from your last shoot), then you need to continue to cultivate and update those resources.
There are two ways you can accomplish this.
First, simply go back to your best performing content every year and make sure all the information and links within the article is current. Then maybe add some more.
Second, use your new shoots to update the work featured on that page.
If you do these two things then you are ensuring that your audience has the best resources possible AND that they are seeing your best work when they do click on it.
7. Use A Logical Site Structure
This one may not seem that important, but it is one of the ninja tricks that can make a huge difference in how Google sees your website.
If you are going after a search term with a lot of competition…don’t avoid it. But you will need to give it some support.
What does that mean?
Let’s take an example, “New York City Wedding Photographer.”
Imagine how valuable it would be to rank #1 for that keyword…
But creating a single page with the title New York City Wedding photographer will absolutely NOT work.
You need to create supporting content that props up your main page. Write posts about NYC venues, NYC florists, NYC portrait locations, etc. and have each of them link to your main page. Then for each of those posts look for even more niched down topics. Perhaps you have a wedding shoot that made use of a particular spot in a wedding venue. Make a post about that awesome spot within the venue.
At the very bottom of this hierarchy is where you should put your posts about a specific client (if you insist on doing client-specific posts at all).
That creates a strong site structure where everything funnels into that main page and will give you the best opportunity to rank for those competitive searches while at the same time ranking for more specific searches that will drive traffic and leads.
Putting It All Together
Those are the big-picture things that have been working for me and what I think are the major factors that got me to the first page in my area for my specialty. Go search “senior portraits new jersey” and see for yourself.
Or just check out the screenshot here.
But…just so we’re clear, this is NOT a comprehensive list of everything you need to do as a photographer to maximize your SEO. Properly setting your website up to rank well in Google can be a detailed and sometimes frustrating process.
If you want to do it right, I highly recommend checking out this SEO For Photographers Course by Corey Potter. He lives and breathes this stuff and has helped many photographers (including yours truly) kill it in Google searches. That is an affiliate link so Corey gives me a commission if you buy (without it costing you any more).
But I never recommend any course that I don’t 100% believe will help your business. Following some of his strategies I have learned over the years has added $1000s of dollars in revenue to my photography business without the need for ads or any other type of paid marketing.