Any photographer knows how much effort is put into their passion: the gear, the travel, shooting, development/editing, and finally, a website to exhibit the final products. Professional photographers that want to take their craft to the next level should start a website in order to show off their artwork to the community, provide tips & tricks, and/or show off the gear they use to capture their magnificent shots. However, creating a website doesn’t automatically mean eyeballs will be drawn to it. Getting people to see your work isn’t as simple as buying a domain, uploading your content and calling it a day — it takes a practice called Search Engine Optimization, aka SEO. In a nutshell, SEO best-practices aim to ensure that your website shows up first in search engine results pages (SERPs) when users enter a given query on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.
Here we’ll go over some beginner tips on SEO for photographers and printers. Keep in mind that at the advent of the internet, SEO used to be a very basic practice that often centered around keyword stuffing to trick search engines; as algorithms evolved, it became an entire industry and can get technically complex very quickly, so this surface-level overview won’t get into the weeds too deeply.
Alt Tags, Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Header Tags
Tags, descriptions and keywords, oh my! First and foremost, it’s important to understand how a search engine interacts with your website to determine its authority and, by proxy, its ranking on SERPs. In order for a search engine to “understand” what a given web page is about, it analyzes the keywords within various on-page elements, most importantly the title tag, heading tags (h1-h6), meta description and image alt tags.
What is a Title Tag?
The title tag of a web page is the wording displayed at the top of the browser tab. It is also the text that appears in SERPs when you scroll through the organic results.
What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is a brief (read: under 165 characters) description of the content on a web page that appears within SERPs.
What are Header Tags and Image Alt Tags?
Header tags are lines of HTML code that tell search engines the type of content on a web page, by order of importance. Headers are numbered 1 through 6, with 1 being most important. For example, the <H1> tag on this web page is SEO For Photographers & Printers: How to Outrank Competitors on Search Engines. This tells search engines that the content’s primary focus is on educating photographers and printers about SEO. Meanwhile, the <H2> and proceeding tags indicate sub-topics that are referenced within the content. The <H2> tag for this section is Alt Tags, Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Header Tags.
You know how when you google something, you can browse image results instead of website listings? The images in those results have optimized alt tags. While image alt tags are often overlooked when it comes to SEO in other industries, they are uniquely important for photographers. Attributing alt tags to images is a way of telling search engines the exact subject(s) of any graphic/image on a web page. This is useful for two main reasons:
- Search engines are able to index the image, allowing it to appear within image search results.
- If a visually-impaired user browses your website and can’t see the images, screen reading tools will read the alt text aloud.
Image alt tags should be as descriptive as possible, under 125 characters, and support the on-page content without keyword stuffing. For more information and examples of good and bad alt text in various situations, check out this Hubspot article.
Completing Keyword Research is Essential
Keywords are the phrases/terms that are entered into Google, Bing, etc. when conducting a search. By using certain SEO tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush, you are able to conduct keyword research. This is helpful for a number of reasons — here are just a few. It will allow you to:
- See just how often a keyword is searched for
- Determine how difficult it will be to rank highly for a particular search term
- Analyze competitors
Keyword research should inform every facet of your web pages. Whether you’re writing a blog article or creating a product page on your site, knowing what people are searching for can inform what you post and how you post it. So, if you see that the keyword “best camera for nature photography” has a lot of searches per month, then it might be a good idea to write an article about it with your own unique twist.
Provide a Positive User Experience
Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving. As we briefly touched on in the intro of this article, much emphasis was placed on the now-shady practice called keyword stuffing during the early days of the internet. Search engine algorithms were pretty basic back then and mainly identified valuable content via keywords and number of keywords, rather than on-page relevance. This led to businesses and marketers stuffing high-volume keywords within irrelevant content to drive traffic to their website.
So, hypothetically speaking, if your company sold custom camera lenses and your website had a paragraph that read, “We sell custom camera lenses. Our custom camera lenses are the best. If you’re thinking of buying a custom camera lens, please contact our custom camera lens specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org” then your website would have been ROLLING in the traffic.
However, search engines quickly realized that user experience depreciates significantly with this practice. After all, if you’re searching for a custom camera lens, but completely irrelevant websites populate the SERPs because of keyword stuffing, what’s the point of even having a search engine? By providing a positive user experience on your website, search engines will be more inclined to favor you in organic (unpaid) listings. Elements of a good user experience include:
- Easy-to-use navigation tools throughout the site
- Cohesive, clean design
- Valuable, interesting or unique content
- Mobile optimization (search engines now heavily factor in how your site works in mobile, since most users these days use their phones to browse the web)
- Natural flow of on-page elements
Upload Compelling and Relevant Content
Nowadays, Google will actually punish your website (read: remove it from organic search results!) if it thinks you’re attempting to keyword stuff. Search engines have become extremely sophisticated at identifying valuable content not just by keywords, but also user experience and relevance. While nobody knows exactly how Google determines its organic SERPs, we do know that keywords still play a role, albeit among many, many other factors. The bottom line is producing helpful and relevant content that users will find valuable or interesting is paramount.
At the end of the day, users will be attracted to your website if you provide a unique, valuable perspective and consistently upload content that you are passionate about. Churning out the same regurgitated, cookie-cutter blog articles or photographs will turn off prospective fans and probably won’t rank well in SERPs.
This article has barely scratched the surface of the SEO world, but we hope it’s a good foundation for how you can go about creating and maintaining an authoritative website, whether you are selling prints or photography services.
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.