Search Engine Basics for Photographers
How to get your photography website ranked in search engines
(Google, MSN, Yahoo etc)
Okay before I get started I would like to say, search engine formulas are constantly changing and optimizing a site to rank high in search results is a complex and ongoing procedure. This article will cover some of the very basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and should not be considered a full guide on SEO.
A lot of people choose to create their own websites or unknowingly hire someone who calls themselves a professional but do not know fundamentals necessary for ranking well in search engines. Unfortunately, anyone who can buy ( or pirate ) a web development software,
can call themselves a web design business, but that does not mean they know what they are doing. It is amazing how many sites are not covering the basics and some people pay good money for people to do bad work.
The following tips should help you optimize your photography site for higher ranking in search engines.
1) Give serious consideration to what searches you want your pages to appear for in the major search engines. If you are a wedding photographer in Birmingham Alabama you will probably want to come up for searches such as “Birmingham Wedding Photographers”. For your pages to appear in search engines for such searches these words MUST appear throughout your site. ( It is very surprising to see how many sites make absolutely no reference to what area the photographer services. There is no way for search engines or visitors to know where you are from and what areas you service if you don’t say so on your pages.)
2) Title Tags – Title tags are perhaps the most powerful words on your pages when it comes to search engine optimization. Consider what people entering a Google search may look for and be sure to have these words in your title tag. It is a good idea to target one search per page. If you have a 10 page website each title tag should target a different search and the search it targets should be relevant to the page. (ex: a good title tag for a Pet Page for a Photographer in Halifax would be “Halifax Pet Photographer”
What is a title tag?
When on a webpage you can see the title tag at the top of the window. The title tag in the image below is “Find Professional Wedding photographers - directory”
In the code of the page (aka the HTML or Source code) this title tag reads as follows
<title>Find Professional Wedding photographers - directory</title>
This title tag is also what is shown as a text link when a page is listed in Search Engines. When you do a search in Google or other search engines a list of sites is displayed. Items in this list have a) a text link for the title of the page b) a description of the page and c) the url (web address of the page). Your page’s title tag is what will appear as the title in search engine results.
I will say this again… Title tags are perhaps the most powerful words on your pages when it comes to search engine optimization. Give thought to what phrases you want to rank high for in the search engines and use these words in your title tags.
SAD BUT TRUE
Many people have either created their own sites or have hired web developers who do not have a clue. In a lot of these cases title tags are completely overlooked. Easy ones to spot are pages that have “Unititled Page” or “Home Page” as the title. The words “Home Page” are completely useless. If a web developer has created a site for you with title tags like this ASK FOR A REFUND!
Your pages should also have something known as a description tag. The description tag is not actually seen by visitors on your site but is seen by search engines. An example of a description tag is <meta name=”description” content=”Wedding Photographer list - Photography Pros is an online directory of professional photographers around the world.”>
When on a web page you can view the code that makes up a page by clicking View / Source in your browser (or View / Page Source). Look for <meta name=”description” content=” to see what the description of your page is. When doing a search in a search engine this description tag is used to describe the page. In the example below the description used in the tag was “Tips on how to make an effective professional website for a photography business.”
Website Content – The words seen on your pages
It is a common mistake for photographers to not include much or any text on their pages. This may help the presentation of your portfolio but it drastically reduces the effectiveness of the page, from a search engine optimization perspective. If you want to rank well in search engines you should not only display your best photos, you should also describe your services and write text that has key words you are targeting throughout the paragraphs.
Links / Buttons – The navigation menus on your site –
If your site is more than one page (as it should be) visitors will need to see a navigation menu so they can click through from page to page. These navigation menus are created either using text links or images (often referred to as buttons) . The names of these links tell the visitors what will be on the next page VERY IMPORTANT – The names of these links also tell the search engines what will be on the next page and therefore are a major factor in ranking the page. If your text link says “Wedding Photography” it will strengthen your position for “wedding photography” searches in search engines.
If you are using images for your navigation instead of text, search engines will read alt tags to understand what the name of the link is. A properly created page will have alt tags on all images (Especially those that are linking to other pages). If your image links to a wedding portfolio a good alt tag would be “wedding portfolio”. This would strengthen your pages search engine ranking.
An example of the code used to make an alt tag on a linked image is as follows. (The alt tag is highlighted in red)
<a href=”http://www.photographypros.com”><img src=”/images/pic1.jpg” alt=”photographers” width=”125″ height=”98″ border=”0″></a>
Backlinks are incoming links to a web page. The number of sites that link into your pages indicates the popularity or importance of your pages to the search engines. Search engines use the number of backlinks that a page has as one of the factors in determining that page’s search engine ranking. Entire books have been written on backlinking importance and strategies so please know that these two paragraphs are not to be taken as a guide on backlinking.
If both you and your competitor follow search engine guidelines and create search engine friendly sites, you will likely be competing for placement for the same search phrases. With all other things being equal, the site with a lot of strong back links will rank higher than the one without.
Please note: When attempting to get more backlinks pointing to your pages it is very important to be ethical and follow guidelines set by the search engines. Breaking the rules or trying to cut corners in search engine optimization can actually lead to you being banned from search engines. If you choose to hire a search engine optimization company, do your homework and check their references. An unethical company can do you more harm than good.
We hope this information has helped. Please feel free to send your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org