The video below has been aimed primarily at WordPress Sites. But some of the content will be relevant for any photography website.
Summary Of SEO Actions for Photography Websites
- Decide on your longest edge for your photos in pixels before you start. I’ve gone for 2000 pixels on the longest edge. Don’t go below 1200 pixels on the longest edge.
- Export at lowest possible JPG Quality for the smallest file size in bytes.
- Compress your photos further by using either a standalone app or one of the many online apps. The best is www.squoosh.app If you use WordPress consider buying an image optimising plugin – like EWWW IO which can do the optimising automatically on upload.
- Name your jpg files to describe their contents, i.e. photo-of-a-kitten.jpg is better than img001.jpg
- Use the alt (alternative text) in the HTML <img> element to describe the image.
- Add a caption to your photo if possible.
- Make sure your HTML Title element accurately describes the page contents. “Photo Gallery” as a title is pretty meaningless. Whereas “Isle of Wight Photo Gallery” gives Google some idea what your page is about.
- Use the Meta Description in the <head> of a document to describe the page.
- Even on your Gallery pages add some text as a preamble to your gallery. Google prefers text over images. A few lines will do.
- Write naturally with an awareness of the keywords that are likely to be used by someone querying a search engine. Write for the reader, not the search engine. Do not flood your copy with keywords.
- Use a correct document outline. Use headers in the right order. And use lists to bullet point your text where applicable. The more you can add structure to your content the better.
- Make sure your site works on all devices from desktops to the smallest mobile phone.
- Use a site like GTmetrix to test your pages load times. Any site that takes more than 2.5 seconds to load on mobile devices is seen as “Slow” by Google. Take note of its recommendations.
- Make sure web caching is being utilised. Some web hosting companies have caching implemented as a part of the hosting plan, some don’t. Ask your hosting provider what they recommend.
- Consider a CDN (Content Delivery Network), to speed up page load times. On WordPress, some image optimising plugins offer a CDN as an addon. There are a lot of options so ask your hosting provider what they recommend. If they won’t give you advice, you’ll have to do your own research.
- Use Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to get feedback about your site’s search performance.
- Join “Google My Business”, “Bing Places for Business”, and create a Facebook Business Page.
- Social Media is important as it raises your business profile, and it might drive traffic to your website in the short term. Don’t forget to post now and then. Nothing says I don’t care like an unused Facebook Business Page.
A Life Cycle of a Web Search
- The Search Bot (Internet Robot) systematically Crawls the web following web links to parse the content from websites. Googlebot is Google’s web crawler.
- Once crawled this content is then indexed.
- Searcher queries a search engine (User Intent).
- The Search Engine looks into its index and uses hundreds of algorithms to show results that match the user intent. Google admits to having around 200 SERP ranking factors (algorithms). Plus they use human website reviewers as well.
- Google might deliver these results in many ways including The Knowledge Graph, Direct Results, Featured Snippets and the Rich List.
- The results you are given are increasingly being personalised to the searcher. And could take into account your current location. What you’ve searched before. And, anything else Google knows about you.
These search algorithms are very complex. You cannot just create content and expect to be listed immediately. Especially if you are a new kid on the block.
Trust & Authority
Trust and authority is not a phrase that Google has ever used in their search documentation. Do a Google site search if you don’t believe me.
SEO “Experts” have come up with the phrase Trust and Authority, and as such any proclamations made about trust and authority by SEO practitioners should be treated with some scepticism.
It’s pretty obvious if the US government is linking to your site, it’s safe to say Google would take that as a positive ranking signal.
Or, you are a well-known university professor writing about your subject on a webpage that would be seen as a search ranking signal by Google.
I’m being a bit harsh on the SEO ‘experts’ here, as trust and authority would be an easier way of expressing what some search algorithms probably do.
Often Trust and Authority assumptions made by self-styled SEO experts are probably not far from the truth. For example, sites that are assumed to be trusted backlinking to your site would be an indicator of trust.
SEO For Photographers In More Detail
Make your Images load faster
- Decide on what pixel dimensions you are going to use for your photos. Going above 2600 pixels on the longest edge is not necessary. I now use 2000px longest edge as I think this covers most device screen sizes.
- In your, Image Editing Software, export your photos at the lowest possible JPEG quality for the smallest possible file size in bytes.
- Further, optimise your images using one of the many online or standalone solutions. The big one that stands out, and it’s a web app called Squoosh.app.
- If you’ve got WordPress there are some very good plugins available so you can skip No.3 and just upload your photos and let the plugin do the image optimisation. I’ve covered this topic here.
- Try and avoid sliders if you can, as pretty as they are, they slow a webpage’s download speed. I’m a hypocrite here, I can’t resist a slider.
Make Your Images talk
- Use the HTML Alt (alternative text) attribute in your <img> element to describe your images.
- Use Captions below the image if possible.
- Make the image filename describe the image i.e. “picture-of-a-ginger-cat.jpg” instead of img-0001.jpg
Use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) – HTTPS
This will ensure your site has HTTPS rather than HTTP. Google Chrome now puts ‘Not Secure’ in the browser bar as a warning if a site doesn’t have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). It is also a search ranking signal.
Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
Google favours sites that work on mobile devices. If your site does not work on mobile devices it’s guaranteed to get your site pushed down the SERP rankings. This is definitely true if someone is doing a Google search using a mobile device. Google is not going to serve up pages that don’t work well on a mobile device.
The terms Responsive and Adaptive relate to sites that work on a variety of devices. The word Adaptive is old hat now, and Responsive is used more often. Bottom line – your site better work on all devices.
If you have a separate mobile version of your sites like “m.mysite.com” and another site called “mysite.com” for desktops it’s best to have just one site for all devices.
It is not fundamentally wrong to have a mobile-only URL version of a webpage. Google will know which URL version to show depending on the device doing the search. It just adds complexity and can cause problems in the SERP.
The following section is about data stored in HTML <head> of a page. The metadata is not seen in the body of the text except for the Title which is seen on the browser tab.
Write a descriptive Page Title
If you don’t know a Title HTML element does not appear on the webpage itself. Title tags appear on the browser tabs. And when you bookmark a site it becomes the bookmark name.
Titles are vitally important. Make sure your title is succinct and describes the subject of your page or post in the optimum number of words; 50 to 60 characters.
Go over 60 characters and the Title might be truncated in the SERP. It’s possible that Google may even rewrite your title in the SERP. Bizzare but true.
Use the Meta Description
The Meta Description sits in the <head> section of a webpage i.e. where it can’t be seen on the page. It’s there to give search engines a summary of your page.
It used to be very important, and it was often abused by people who flooded it with keywords.
It’s still important and can show up in search results as a summary of your page.
This is how it appears in the <head> of the document for a page I did some time ago.
<meta name=”description” content=”Getting image size right when exporting from Lightroom is not easily understood by beginners. Hopefully this article will help.“>
This is the Bing Search Result which uses the Meta Description in its entirety.
This is a Google Search result. Notice it does not use the Meta Description. It takes some text from the third paragraph of the webpage.
Hang On! This is Google again. It’s decided to use the Meta Description…..What the hell.
So the takeaway is this. The meta description could be used in the SERP and therefore important.
The Meta Description is less important than the content
See it as a complimentary summary to the content of your webpage.
If you use WordPress, the SEO plugin Yoast allows you to edit the Meta Description.
If you are on Website Builder like Wix or Squarespace you should have access to the Meta Description also.
Or, you might have to go inside the code to do it yourself.
Meta Keywords – Don’t Bother
Meta Keywords also lie in the had <head> of a webpage. Fill it in if you wish but it’s no longer a SERP ranking factor according to the Google Search Team.
Write Good Content
Write for your readers, not for the Search Engines.
Always spell-check. Even good spellers make typos.
Don’t scrape or copy others content. Google will know you are doing this. There’s no harm in asking permission to use someone else’s content and then mark it appropriately so Google recognises that you are paraphrasing others work.
Do not stuff your page with too many repetitions of keywords. Good content is nuanced and has a natural balance of keyword use.
Sites with thin content and lots of Affiliate Links offer very little to the reader. Google will not show a webpage in the SERP that has thin content.
Make sure the affiliation links are secondary to your content and flag these links for what they are – commission earners.
Give Your Page A Correct Document Outline
Use H1 header once only and at the top of a page.
Then structure your page with the correct headers. Also, ensuring that paragraphs are not too long, and lists are used where possible to bullet point data. Tables are not often used these days, but they can be ideal for Google to use in Rich Results.
Gain Trust and Authority
This is a vast subject and is argued about more than anything else in the SEO world.
Google doesn’t use the phrase ‘trust and authority’ in their search documentation.
What would make you trust a webpage, or give that page authority? It’s kids stuff really if you think about it.
Google Search Console
Make sure you register your site with Google Search Console.
The registration process is a bit intimidating as it can require you to put metadata in the head of your webpages. That’s easy for some, not for others.
There is a plug-in for WordPress called Insert Headers and Footers which is very useful for this.
Some hosting providers like Godaddy have a seamless method for registering your site with Google Search Console without messing with the HTML.
Once registered there are a host of reports you can run. Also, you can receive warnings about your site from Google.
The warnings and reports are important. It’s Google’s way of telling you about the health of your site from the point of view of the Googlebot.
What About Bing
Google is the biggest player in the search engine arena. So, I’m not going to mention Bing too much. But, you should register your site Bing
Don’t forget many people in offices have Windows system computers, that use the Microsoft Edge browser which is usually defaulted to use Bing as the default search engine.
Do join Bing Webmaster. Much of what is said about Google Search Console applies to Bing Webmaster Tools.
List your Business on Google, Bing and Facebook
Essential If you serve a local community. And, even if you don’t operate locally, get set up on Google My Business, and Bing Places for Business and get a Facebook Business Page.
This all helps your online presence.
To say that Social Media is very important for SEO is incorrect.
Instagram might make YOU more prominent.
But it is doesn’t have a huge impact on how Google ranks Your Webpage in the SERP.
Social media is important in bringing people to your site. That, in turn, has got to be an influencing factor in SEO. How much Google is influenced by your Social Media presence – only Google knows.
Social Media is transitory. So your site might get a short term boost in the SERP if your social media accounts are getting a spike in traffic.
P.S. If you are going to link your website to your social media accounts and vice versa. Post once in a while on social media. A dormant Facebook business page is not a good advertisement for your business. Use it or lose customers.
To be honest I wasn’t going to mention Structured data as Photography sites wouldn’t normally need to use Structured Data.
Structured Data is a way of marking up data to make it easier for search engines to present.
For Google to recognise your Structured Data it would have to be written using one of the methods below.
- JSON-LD (recommended)
And the data is marked up using Schema.org rules.
Google has many ways of presenting search data and structured data helps Google present data to the end-user.
There’s no guarantee that Google will even use your structured data, as it would have done in the past.
Don’t use structured data if you don’t need to. Sometimes just using an HTML Table, or List can help data to be better presented in search results.
Using spammy methods with Structured data, for example, marking up content which does meet Schema.org ‘Types’ will guarantee a de-indexing of the offending page.
A web cache system stores copies of documents passing through it; subsequent requests may be retrieved from the cache if certain conditions are met.
Using Caches improves page loading times significantly.
Web caches can be stored in different places.
- Host (Origin) Server Caching – on a separate server designed for caching.
- Web Browser Caching (on web browsers on your system)
- Some ISP’s use a Caching proxy server for frequently accessed content.
- CDN (Content Delivery Networks). A set of web servers worldwide serving up cached resources of a webpage for which you normally have to pay for.
What actually gets cached is the resources that change very little like logos, CSS, and images.
All Caches have an expiry date and ‘freshness’ testing is done to ensure that the cached version is an up-to-date version of a web page.
Implementing Web Caching
How you implement caching is dependent on what environment you used to create your website.
Host (Origin) Server caching is controlled by your hosting provider and is normally beyond your control.
If it’s Wix, for instance, you have to turn it on a page by page basis.
If it’s WordPress you could get a Caching plugin like WP Rocket
Also, your hosting provider might have caching enabled as part of the hosting package, (that is becoming increasingly likely). My site you are looking at now is on Site Ground and I use the SG (Site Ground) Optimizer plugin, which is part of my hosting plan, and I also use WP Rocket.
Before you implement any caching strategy, check to see if your hosting provider is providing caching already. If it does provide caching is there anything more that can be done to improve caching.
If your hosting provider does not provide caching still ask questions on how you can implement caching.
If you haven’t created your website yet, ask your potential hosting provider about caching they provide if any, and what they recommend.
CDN (Content Delivery Network)
A CDN is a network of servers in different geographical locations serving a cached version of web documents.
A CDN has an obvious advantage. It can serve up a webpage from a server physically closer to the user agent requesting that page. Which reduces network latency. For example, someone in Tokyo does not have to access a site from a host server in London. As it’s very likely that the CDN provider has a server in Tokyo.
The other advantage of CDN’s is that they have very powerful servers, compared to most web hosting companies. Google Cloud is a good example of a CDN.
Even if your target audience is in the same country as your hosting server, you will get better performance with a CDN.
Do you need a CDN? Yes, if you want optimum performance.
Test Your Website Speed
There are many tools and websites that offer speed tests for webpages. The best in my opinion is:
Wix or Squarespace?
As of June 2019, both Wix and Squarespace have slow webpage loading issues.
Hopefully, Wix and Squarespace will remedy the slow webpage loading speed going forward.
If you don’t believe me run a Lighthouse test on a Wix, or Squarespace photography site.
Metadata in Images (Exif & IPTC)
There’s something I think worth mentioning is Exif & IPTC data.
Exif = Exchangeable image file format (Camera Info).
IPTC = International Press Telecommunications Council (Copyright etc)
If you leave image metadata in your file, Google can read it.
But Google doesn’t say whether they use this data or not as a ranking factor. It’s very unlikely that Google would use this as a SERP ranking factor. Image metadata is not an indicator of content quality.
So, maybe just leaving your copyright (IPTC) data is good practice if you are worried about image theft.
Personally, I strip most of my Exif data out – things like what lens I used are not needed in my opinion for search engine rankings.
The bottom line is Google reserve the right to use image metadata.
This image metadata could contain your physical home, or business address as well as your email address. Personally, I don’t think Google would use this data in any way – I honestly don’t.
Want To Learn SEO? Try Google First.
Google have Guidelines. A good place to start is their Webmaster Guidelines. They also have guidelines on Content and Quality.
There are not many people who would spend a great amount of time pondering what website builder or framework to use in advance that would give them maximum ranking in the SERP.
SEO is normally something you think about after you’ve built your website.
Plus, I hope no one creates a website with the sole aim of ranking high in the SERP anyway.
You normally create a website because you believe you are adding value.
So, If I’m going to leave you with one statement which I believe sums up what SEO is about:
Write for your readers, not for the Search Engines.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimisation.
- SERP – Search Engine Result/s Page/s.
- PageRank – Was Google’s first link analysis algorithm created in 1998. It ranks webpages based on the amount of quality incoming links (backlinks) to a page. PageRank data was publicly accessible via a web browser toolbar. Google no longer divulges PageRank as they did in the past. PageRank was open to massive abuse.
- Origin Server – Hosting Server where your site is actually stored.
- Web Cache – temporary storage of web content in various locations (including a web browser) which reduces network latency, and therefore can speed up delivery of web content.
- CDN – Content Delivery Network. Simply put, is a network of servers worldwide serving up cached versions of web documents from servers closest to the end-user.
- White Hat SEO – Good (acceptable to Google) SEO methods
- Black Hat SEO – Bad (unacceptable to Google) SEO methods.
- Grey Hat SEO – Not so bad SEO practices. But not recommended.
- Meta Element is HTML stored in the <head> section of a web document and not visible in the body of a webpage. A few important ones are listed below.
- Title Element – Description of the document as seen in the title bar, or tab of a web browser. It’s important to make the Title Element as descriptive as possible.
- Meta Description – An element which can contain a user-defined summary of a webpage. It is stored in the <head> section of a webpage, and therefore not seen by end-users. But it can be read by search crawling bots.
- Meta Keyword – User-defined word/s or even a phrase stored in the <head> of a webpage and not seen by end-users but it can be read by search crawling bots. No longer a SERP ranking factor according to Google.
- Alt (Alternative Text) – an HTML attribute which accompanies an image <img>. Designed for Screen Readers, and as a backup, if an image fails to load It also gets read by search engine crawlers.
- User Intent – Is what the user is actually searching for. Sometimes User Intent is not always obvious as often no transitional words are used – just keywords.
- Keywords – as far as SEO is concerned are words that make up a search query. These keywords represent “User Intent”
- LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) LSI Keywords are conceptually linked terms that search engines use to understand the content of a webpage.
- Longtail Keywords – Are very specific low volume searches made by a user that should match your product or service. The whole idea is you should guess what these search terms will be, then use these terms in your content. Some SEO experts are not convinced this is a valid way increasing your SERP ranking – and nor am I.
- Search Bot, Googlebot, Spider, Web Crawler etc – A internet robot which systematically Crawls the web to Index the results for a Search Engine.
- Trust & Authority – Trust – For instance websites (already trusted by Google) that link to your website can make you trusted by Google. Authority – Does your content come across as being written by an expert? NB, I’ve never heard or seen Google use the words “Trust and Authority” myself but it would be safe to say it’s a logical way of ranking web content.
- Structured Data – a way of structuring data that makes it easier to display for search engines. Food recipes are good examples of data that benefits from structuring. Currently, JSON-LD is the markup code, and Schema.org is used to define types and properties.
- Conversion – In the world of the World Wide Web. Conversion is something you want your web customer to do. For example, buy something, or click a link for example.
- Backlink – sites linking to your site.
- Ranking Signal – Something Google Search takes into account when ranking your page.
- Bounce Rate – A web analytics term, usually expressed as a percentage. The percentage represents the number of searchers that leave your site after visiting just one page. A high rate could be interpreted as a bad thing. On the other hand, it could indicate they found what they were looking for.
- Google Analytics – A free (to must of us) tool that enables the webmaster to extract very detailed data about visitors to your site. In large enterprises, it is a very important tool. Install Google Analytics if you wish. I’d say most photographers will rarely make use of the data.