I work with photographers and wedding businesses that want to generate more traffic, more enquiries, more bookings and grow your business using SEO.
I’ve written the free guide below, to help people get a hand on their own SEO, and I also offer a variety of training and SEO solutions to photographers and other creative businesses.
What can SEO do for your business?
I’ve been running a wedding photography business for over 15 years, bringing in between 600-800 enquiries every year. I do 20 weddings a year, so having so many enquiries lets me fill my calendar with the right kind of weddings.
Alongside my photography business, I run a Digital Marketing & SEO agency and have taught SEO for photographers, both at workshops and individually. I love helping photographers and wedding businesses improve their rankings and generate more traffic.
The process of doing SEO for yourself is often daunting – many think they aren’t technical enough to handle it or are scared they’ll make mistakes that will hurt their business.
I want to make that easier for you.
I want to show you how to take control of your SEO and with a couple of hours each week, how you can drive more traffic to your website and clients to your inbox.
The truth is, you’re probably already putting in the work – blogging etc.
I want to help you to focus your efforts & obtain better results.
SEO FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS – THE DIY GUIDE
- 1 SEO FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS – THE DIY GUIDE
- 2 First Steps in SEO
- 3 SEO Tools for Photographers
- 4 Other useful tools
- 5 Keyword Research
- 6 Keyword Cannibalisation
- 7 Writing content with SEO in mind
- 8 Titles
- 9 Meta Descriptions
- 10 Images & Page Speed
- 11 Naming your images for SEO benefit
- 12 How to write a wedding blog
- 13 Links
- 14 Backlinks
- 15 Site Speed
- 16 SEO Services & Training
- 17 ‘Done For You’ SEO Services
Do you want to increase the amount of traffic your website gets? This guide should help!
I’m going to start simple and explain everything in as basic terms as I can, I want this guide to help anyone who hasn’t felt confident to do their own SEO work before.
If you are more advanced, I hope you still get value from it, and I apologise if anything is overly simplified!
(and if you still don’t fell confident or don’t have the time – book some 1:1 training with me, or to hire us to do it for you.)
What is SEO?
SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization is the name given to the process of structuring your content and generally tweaking your website to make sure Google (& other search engines, yes – there are others – Duck Duck Go, Bing & Yahoo) find it and show it to the right people.
Before I was a wedding photographer I ran a graphic design studio and SEO was an area that particularly interested me, an area that I’ve been sure to keep my knowledge up-to-date in and it’s been immensely useful for my photography business.
I’m putting together this guide to help other wedding photographers drive more traffic to their sites. The information is structured so as to be most useful to wedding photographers – but the techniques can be applied to anyone in the wedding industry and pretty much any industry.
What’s the most important bit of your business?
When I was at college, some 15+ years ago, one of my lecturers started a discussion –
“What’s the most important part of your photography business?”
We all came back with different answers, ranging from your camera to your eye, to your personality to your branding – you get the idea.
I probably said ‘your artistic vision’, being a pretentious teenager.
None of us came up with the answer she wanted – which was the telephone.
OK, showing my age a bit here – but back then the primary point of contact for all business would be the telephone.
Her idea, however, has stood the test of time, even if the telephone hasn’t – the idea that, without clients contacting you – the rest doesn’t matter one bit.
Over the years I’ve come to understand this idea more and more, nowadays the majority point of first contact will be email, or at least some form of online communication – be that your website, social media etc.
But how do you get people to make that first step? Your work may be amazing, but what if nobody is looking at it? How do you get your work in front of the right people?
Need some help?
If you feel daunted (though trust me, it’s quite simple!), don’t have the time or just don’t fancy doing it for yourself, then I’d be happy to help you out. I help a limited number of people each year – mainly in the wedding industry, but I’m keen to help everyone get more work. Drop me a message for rates.
Assumptions and Websites
OK, so this guide assumes you have a website – I think that’s a fair place to start, but if you don’t – you probably already know you should get one.
Some people start their businesses using Facebook Pages, and whilst this is great, there isn’t much you can do to SEO a Facebook page.
I’m a big advocate of a self-hosted WordPress site – with the right theme you can get it looking amazing and with a little work get the SEO perfect – all without a huge range of technical knowledge. I custom build my own WordPress themes, but if you’re interested in getting one or having some help setting up an ‘off the shelf’ solution – give me a shout.
First Steps in SEO
The first thing anyone interested in monitoring, improving and growing their website needs to do, is to establish ways in which to monitor and gauge success, or failures.
SEO is a trial and error game, with experience and data it becomes a more exact science, but while Google gives ideas on what they look for, but there is never a definitive ‘do x, get x’ checklist.
One of the biggest things I can tell anyone when looking at SEO is to be patient.
I can’t stress this enough – patience pays off.
SEO is a slow game, Especially for wedding photographers whose sites usually aren’t receiving tens of thousands of visits every month. I’ve found google tends to index pages once every few months and make changes to its algorithms and rankings when it feels like it.
You won’t publish a post, or change your site and expect to see any change in your rankings, potentially for a few months, sometimes longer.
Sometimes you will rank quickly with a piece of content, and sometimes it will take 3+ months to see any movements.
It’s essential to play the long game – keep an eye on the big picture and document the changes and movements as they happen to find the patterns (we’ll get into ways to document changes in a bit.)
If you keep tweaking things without waiting for those changes to get indexed, you’ll forever be wandering blindly, hoping to get some results.
The more you can track changes and monitor successes and watch changes over time – the more SEO will become a predictable science, and the less it will be a dark art.
In short, SEO isn’t a quick fix. It takes time & consistent effort, don’t rush and be patient – the results are worth it.
Keeping track of changes
Before you make any changes to your site, even simple changes like page titles or image names – I recommend you keep notes of it. Whether that is a spreadsheet or some other document – keeping thorough notes is a something you need to learn early. Its a massive key to SEO success, yet often overlooked.
By keeping track of precisely what you’ve changed you can see how those changes affect your search rankings over time, and if they are negatively affected, you can revert to whatever you had before. Think of it as an SEO safety net.
Simple notes like this –
will be immensely useful to collect throughout your journey and give you the option of going back to previous content, if the search results aren’t what you’re aiming for.
I have many Google Doc’s that I can easily share with people I’m working with, or access from anywhere so I can see where we are at and what needs doing, even if I’m out of the office.
In short, keep notes of every change you make, no matter how small – that way you can go back if something doesn’t work.
SEO Tools for Photographers
This is a list of tools that help me to monitor sites, explore opportunities and generally grow sites traffic organically.
I plan to go into depth with all of the tools in time, but this is an overview to start with.
Data & Tracking Progress
The way we monitor our progress varies depending on what we are trying to achieve, Usually, we want more traffic, in which case we need a way to track where it comes from and how much of it there is.
Analytics is a set of monitoring and tracking tools deployed by installing a little snippet of code into your website. It’s easy to install, but once it’s been running for a few months will provide you with an incredible level of detail of how people are interacting with your web site. Nb – Be aware of GDPR restrictions if you’re in Europe.
Search Console (FREE)
Search Console is Google’s interface for showing you how your site is performing in their index, for data geeks there is a lot to enjoy in here.
You can see what search terms your content is showing up for, what positions its showing up and see how those trends are changing over time. Handy for understanding how things are going.
Next up we’re going to look at some of the tools I use, and you can too – to research your market, take a peek at what competitors are having success with, monitor the health of your site and generally set you up for SEO success.
The following tools are more advanced and more costly – but will give you much greater data and tools to research both keywords and your competitors.
Ahrefs is a premium tool aimed at search engine optimisers and digital marketing agencies. An incredible level of detail diving deep into basically any website you are interested in – your own, your competitors – whatever you need, they’ve got information on it.
Data such as best performing pages and what kind of keywords they rank for.
It’s also a great keyword tool for exploring the volumes of searches for any given term, alongside its difficulty and suggestions for other opportunities.
They have other tools including a crawler, which will look at your site and highlight any issues – as well as monitor its general health.
I’m not even listing all Ahrefs features, just the ones I use. It’s a truly exhaustive tool and one I spend a lot of time in.
Screaming Frog (FREE + PREMIUM)
One of the best names in SEO. Another premium tool, albeit with an excellent free offering. Screaming frog is an SEO Spider – its basically a program (like Google uses) that will crawl your website, gathering as much information as it can. This one, however, will feed all of that information back to you for you to take action on. After a good crawl with this, you can see at a glance which of your pages have important information missing or worse – duplicate information. You can see which pages link to which other pages, you can see if any of your outgoing links are broken or going somewhere they shouldn’t. It’s a health check-up for your website (and more!)
SEMrush (FREE + PREMIUM)
Similar in a lot of ways to Ahrefs, SEMrush is a premium, subscription-based tool for doing keyword research, competitor research and many other SEO tasks – I find it useful for keyword position tracking (although on the free version, you are limited to 10 tracked keywords) and have email notifications keeping me updated on some of my main keywords movements. I don’t find the data to be as deep as Ahrefs, but it’s reasonably user-friendly and has a decent free offering – incredibly useful for small businesses trying to save some monies.
Other useful tools
Lightroom & Photoshop (PREMIUM)
If you’re a photographer, you know what these do. If you don’t, they’re image editing programs. I use Lightroom thousands of hours every year editing weddings.
From an SEO perspective, they are excellent for getting your images ready for your posts and making sure they are compressed as much as possible and resized correctly. Fast loading websites are favoured by Google, so small image file sizes are one of the most significant considerations for photographer.
JPEG Mini (PREMIUM)
JPEG mini is the simplest of photo compression tools. There are others I’ll go into which potentially edge out a little more from the file sizes – but for a one-click boom, I can’t say enough good about JPEG mini.
The first thing you need to do whenever you start to delve into SEO is keyword research. This is a huge subject and one I’m pretty passionate about.
Essentially, you wanted to do as much keyword research as you can before setting out to make content. If you don’t know what people are searching for, then you can’t create content that serves that search intent. It’s also not a lot of fun to write a 2500 word article only to realise that nobody is searching for it.
Knowing which keywords to target, based on how many people are search for it, along with your potential ability to compete for certain terms will allow you to focus your efforts on the highest converting and best performing keywords.
I’ve covered in great length over at: Keyword Research For Photographers.
Basically – you don’t want two pages aiming for the same keyword. That is a big SEO mistake.
I see it so much, a lot of the photographers I work with have their entire site, which can be on average 200+ pages or even larger, Targeting the same keyword over and over again. Stuff like this –
HOME – LONDON WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – EPIC PHOTO CO.
ABOUT – LONDON WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – EPIC PHOTO CO.
PRICES – LONDON WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – EPIC PHOTO CO.
BLOG – LONDON WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – EPIC PHOTO CO.
You’ve probably seen it, maybe you’ve done it – basically what you’re doing is confusing the search engines as to which page you want them to show, imagine you’re in a race and you’re competing against 4 of your own runners, it may sound like you’re increasing your chances at winning, but in reality that isn’t how it works.
If all of your pages have your main keyword as titles, or repeatedly stuffed into the body of the text, Google won’t know which page to show, and potentially won’t show any of them – opting instead to move onto someone who is doing it correctly.
A Better Way
I believe the best way of structuring your site, will have:
- Your home page aiming for your main city or county.
- Landing pages for other cities/counties near you, or specific location you want to target.*
- Your ‘top-level’ pages – contact, about etc. – not being SEO focused at all. Overstuffing the ‘top level’ pages with keywords doesn’t work. These are there to handle the vistor once your landing pages get them hooked.)
- Individual pages (ie. blog posts) aiming at specific venues or locations.
* I’ll discuss crafting perfect landing pages in a later post.
But I’ve done 20 weddings at Some Place, what should I do about the rest?
Ok, this is something that’s pretty unique in wedding photographer SEO and something lots of people struggle with. It’s perfectly logical to assume giving all of these blog posts similar titles would pay dividends.
I mean, showing you’ve been to the same place lots of times is only going to be a good thing for clients right?
This is true, but sadly Google doesn’t care how many times you’ve been there.
If it finds 20 posts all tagged like this:
Some Place Wedding Photography – Sarah & Mark
Some Place Wedding Photographer – Kelly & John
Some Place Wedding Photographs – Lisa & Pete
Wedding at Some Place – Rachel & Leon
Wedding Photography Some Place – Joanne & Charlie
Wedding Photographer Some Place – Chris & Sam
From that data alone, Google’s not really sure what’s going on and one of two things will happen –
- It will get confused, not know which to show and either pick a random one, potentially not the one you want future brides to see or not pick one at all.
- It will think you’re trying to spam the system and just ignore your content… or worse hit you with a penalty.
Nb. I’ve seen in super low competition keywords that sometimes Google might show two pages from the same domain, I’ve never seen more than two and even that is rare – certainly worth mentioning though.
So what should I do?
The simplest and easiest solution is to use the keyword ONLY on your ‘main’ post. The one that you want future couples to see first. Perhaps that’s your most recent one or your very first one at that venue.
Other posts about weddings at that venue can then be written in a more relaxed way with less focus on SEO for that venue.
But, you might want to use the other posts to target the local area around the venue or target on a city/county based level.
The better method would be Siloing/Landing Pages. It’s a little more time consuming, but this is worth doing for venues that you want to shoot at lots – those high budget wedding venues that are 5 minutes from your house for example.
Landing Pages & Silo Pages
The idea here is to create a landing page for that keyword and fill it with useful content about that venue and information about all of the weddings you’ve photographed there. Keeping it updated every time you shoot a new wedding there, adding new images – new text content – new stories.
In a way, treat it like a mini blog just for weddings at that venue.
From there you can link into all of the other weddings you’ve done there and really provide value to the people landing on your site.
There are ways to make this less time to consume using WordPress and ways to enable the page to auto-update as you post new weddings at that venue, but if people are interested I can discuss this in a future post.
TL;DR: You don’t want two pages on the same site, targeting the same keyword. Every page should have different target keywords.
Writing content with SEO in mind
OK, so we have some keywords, we know people are searching for them, but how do we actually get in front of those people?
Right now, and I would imagine for the foreseeable future Google is all about content.
Whatever you’re creating, you need to keep the end user in mind and be sure your content is serving them in some way, providing tangible value.
I’ll mention other ideas in other articles, but good content is the basis of your search rankings.
Good content can be whatever you want it to be, but from an SEO perspective, we look at a few different things.
nb. Titles and Meta descriptions are super easy to edit if you’re using WordPress, by installing the Yoast SEO Plugin.
The title of your page is often the first thing someone will see in the search results.
So, titles – you want to write something that is:
- Tempting for a user to click (when they see it in the search results)
- Informative as to what they’re going to see when they click it.
- Targeted to the right search terms
- Short enough not to be truncated in the search results (less than 65 characters usually!)
For the majority of sites, I’d recommend the title for the home page of the brand ‘EPIC PHOTO CO.’ might look like –
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER LONDON – EPIC PHOTO CO.
In this example, they’re targeting the keyword WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER LONDON, because they’ve already done their keyword research and it shows that keyword has the highest traffic balanced with the lowest competition (although London keywords, as anyone who has targeted them will know, are the highest competition keywords you will find.)
For the majority of photographers, fewer people will be searching for your brand name, than they will for your targeted keyword – so I add the brand name at the end of the title.
People searching by your brand name will still be directed to you.
Some SEO experts will say having your brand name is just a waste of space in the (character limited) title.
I personally believe in letting people know your name as soon as possible – to try and stick in their mind.
I also prefer to target pages to specific keywords, where possible, and don’t feel the urge to stuff lots of different keywords into the titles, so there is usually room for the brand name, but if your keyword is super long – the brand name can happily be cut out to stay under the 65 character count.
To edit the title, if you’re using WordPress & Yoast, you want to fill in the SEO Title box. You’ll find this below your post/page in the WordPress editor –
Good titles are about finding a balance between relevant keywords and engaging the user’s attention – a keyword heavy title that shows up in thousands of searches is useless if nobody wants to click on it.
Creative Titles And *Shudder* Clickbait
Another thing to consider is that each click from a search result acts as a vote.
Google is certainly tracking which sites are getting the most clicks from the results and the more ‘popular’ sites are almost certainly getting promoted more.
It’s something to keep in mind – you want your titles to be relevant, but also tempting to click.
New sites and stories in Apple News are particularly good at this – by posing questions in their titles they cause the reader to be intrigued. But it’s easy to wander into the realms of clickbait – ‘You’ll never guess what this Bride did to her Groom!’ – probably not what you’re going for.
How Can You Apply This To A Wedding Photography Blog?
It’s not so easy for individual blog posts, you’re pretty much limited to talking about the venue, the season, the colours etc. ie:
A beautiful spring wedding at Some Place House – Some Place Wedding
Is slightly more compelling than:
SOME PLACE WEDDING – EPIC PHOTO CO.
With articles and other pages you can get a bit more creative and look at posing questions in the titles relatively – things like –
- ‘19 ways to make your wedding less boring for guests!’
- ‘Will the rain ruin your wedding day?’
- ‘Want some Ideas for a great winter wedding?’
- ‘How to deal with your mother-in-law’s wedding photo demands’
In short – the more eyes hitting those posts and being engaged, the better your search positions.
As with everything – the more thought you put in, the more results you get out.
What About Individual ‘Top-Level’ Pages?
Most wedding photographer websites follow a certain structure.
There is the home page, then a few ‘top level’ pages like ‘About’, ‘Prices’, ‘Portfolio’ and ‘Contact’.
Below that, you’ll have blog posts telling the story of a specific wedding/shoot etc.
I usually see people attempting to optimize these ‘top level’ pages, so their pricing page might actually be called ‘Cheshire Wedding Photographer Prices’, the about page will probably be ‘About Manchester Wedding Photographer’ and of course, the contact page will be ‘Contact North West Wedding Photographer’.
I’m picking on the North West here, as I have a fair few friends up there and they can take it ;)
In days gone by, maybe that worked, but I always recommend against that now.
Firstly, it looks rubbish.
Secondly, think about who is landing there – if someone looking for a north-west wedding photographer were to land on your contact page, what reason would they have to contact you?
You’ve not earned their trust – you’ve not met their enquiry head on and you’ve given them zero reasons to fill in that contact form.
You’ve essentially tricked them into walking through your back door.
Do you know what they’re more likely to do?
Turn around, head back to the warm embrace of Google and find someone else’s front door to go in.
A front door that will greet them and offer them the customer service experience they desire.
Ok before all this front door/back door stuff goes into the realms of a carry on film…
An Alternative Approach
In the above examples, of keyword stuffing your ‘top-level’ pages, a far better solution would be to have 3 different landing pages for Cheshire Wedding Photographer, Manchester Wedding Photographer & North West Wedding Photographer.
Landing pages that are beautifully designed, with kick-ass content that actually helps the person, is relevant to the area and showcases your work in an appropriate way.
Building trust and, In turn, encouraging them to take an action, like contacting you.
To summarise. Keep your structure clean, logical and avoid being spammy. The bottom line, you’re not always trying to get people to land on your ‘top-level’ pages, they are there to nurture and build trust for the people that enter your site via your home page, a landing page or a blog post.
Also, if they go back to Google quickly – they’re sending a message to Google with that action that the page didn’t serve their purpose – and Google pays attention to that, but we’ll get into that later.
So, after all that, for these ‘top-level’ pages, I suggest keeping it simple and using titles like:
CONTACT – EPIC PHOTO CO.
PRICES – EPIC PHOTO CO.
ABOUT – EPIC PHOTO CO.
What About Titles For Blog Posts?
The home page title is done, your top-level pages are looking good, next up is the blog posts.
If you’re like me there will be a lot. I don’t blog every wedding I shoot, but I try to do a reasonable percentage. This means your blog will potentially be full of amazing content from all the places you have been and the weddings you’ve captured.
Having a consistent structure with your post titles is a must for your blog posts – as is good keyword research.
Finding exactly what people are searching for relative to the venue is a huge key to success
The difference between –
‘Wedding Photography at Some House’
‘Some House Wedding Photography’
‘Some House, Kent Wedding Photography’
‘Some House Wedding Photographer’
may not appear huge – but once you start to dig into the keyword research, you may find that one of those has ten times the traffic of the others.
That’s the stuff that will make a difference to your traffic and in time, your enquiries.
In the above case, you’d want to use whichever is the highest traffic, balanced with the lowest keyword difficulty.
It’s usually better to aim for lower difficulty keyword variations, with medium traffic – as opposed to a high competition keyword, with only slightly higher traffic. But it varies and if all else fails and nothing stands out – just aim for the highest traffic volume.
So let’s assume Some House Wedding Photography has the highest traffic and reasonable competition. Your title might look something like this –
SOME HOUSE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY – EPIC PHOTO CO.
So your titles are looking good. Next up we have the other thing that shows up in the search results – the meta description. Titles and Description work together to convince the searcher to click on your page. The title is going to catch their attention – the description is going to convince them to click through.
Good descriptions are killer for increasing your Click Through Rate (CTR) – the percentage of people that actually click your results when presented to them. A high CTR usually results in higher rankings and higher ranked pages tend to have higher CTRs. So basically – get people to visit (and keep them when they do) and you’re winning.
Meta descriptions should be no more than 150-160 characters and get truncated beyond that.
It’s great to get your keywords and their variations, into your descriptions where possible – because if someone is actually searching for that phrase Google will embolden that text if it appears in your description – potentially drawing the viewer’s eye.
But again, moderation and relevance are the keys to success, I’ve seen so many blog posts using descriptions like this:
Some Place Wedding Photographer at Some Place House in Kent. Sally & Mark Some Place Wedding. Nice Wedding at Some Place House. Some Place Wedding Photography.
Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes.
If you came across that, what would you expect to be on the other side of that link? Would you expect some spammy badly written post? Would it encourage you to click? Would you feel like that was a site to trust?
Sally & Mark’s Some Place House Wedding was a wonderful day filled with eucalyptus, spring colours, DIY details and so much laughter. A truly special day.
How does that one make you feel?
Both have very similar character counts, but one is considerably more elegant and would resonate more, and build more trust – with the bride who is looking for weddings that have taken place at that venue. The second one should also give a much better idea of what the searcher will find on the other side of the link, both in terms of content and hopefully, writing style.
Unless you write your blog posts like the top one, in which case – go ahead!
For your home page, landing pages and top-level pages – the description is your chance to give the searcher a taste of what to expect on your pages, try to get your keywords in if they are relevant and flow nicely – but don’t force it.
Instead, try to show them who you are and what you are about in 160 characters. Not an easy task, but it worked for Twitter.
To edit the description using WordPress and Yoast, you’re looking for this box, below your editing panel –
Images & Page Speed
What’s the point in a photography blog, if it doesn’t have pictures?
The photographs are the end result of our work as wedding photographers. They’re the things we make for our clients and the things future clients want to see.
They can also be huge and slow your page speed down.
Google is all about speed (an entire article about this is in the works!) with the majority of searches coming from mobile devices you can understand why – people’s attention spans are short and they want instant results.
Google has said itself many times that it values fast loading, lean content and that is usually reflected in the search engine rankings.
How this sits with us as photographers is a difficult subject.
On average, I post 100 pictures for a wedding blog post. I went through phases of posting 200+ and other phases of posting less than 20 per wedding.
But however many you want to post you need to factor the site speed into account.
Compression is the key here when exporting from Lightroom you want to squash those files as much as you can without degrading quality. Our entire craft is about quality imagery, so showing someone a mushed up highly compressed file just isn’t in our nature, but at the same time – if you’re serving huge files neither Google – nor the end user’s mobile data allowance is going to thank you.
I use a two-step compression process, which I will go into depth in during another post.
But essentially involves exporting images from Lightroom around 70-80% and then running them through JPEG mini, or through another compression tool, I’m currently trialling.
Another huge helper for your SEO efforts will be to cache your content and Lazy Load your images (another, in-depth post coming soon!)
Naming your images for SEO benefit
Google understands images and Images factor into your rankings. There’s a debate about whether they can actually tell what the image contains – but I’m sure in time, with AI etc. they will ‘read’ images as they do everything else.
Right now the assumption is that Google only read and interprets your content as text.
So we’re told use alt tags to describe what your image contains, this is primarily for users with screen readers, blind and visually impaired users for example – for whom their screen reader software will narrate what’s on the screen.
I’m also a believer that Alt Text has a bearing on Google’s interpretation of your images.
In the past, it was perfectly acceptable to name every one of your images the same – stuffing your primary keyword in there –
Now, not so much. If you imagine the aforementioned blind/visually impaired person navigating your content – it’s not terribly helpful if their screen reader says the same thing over and over again. In actuality, as someone who’s grown up in a house with a screen reader being used – it’s massively annoying to hear the same thing over and over again – no quicker way to get someone to leave your site!
Now, you’ll probably think ‘But I’m selling pictures, what does it matter if a blind person can’t access my site well?’ but Google is very much in the anti-discrimination game if they think your site is going to be rough on people with different ways of accessing content, they’re likely to let you know via lower rankings.
Getting people onto your site, and staying there for a long period of time is one of the keys to success in SEO (This is referred to as dwell time, which will get its own post!) whether those folks are sighted or visually impaired and using a screen reader – they’re still users and you need to show Google that they’re catered to and want to stay on your site.
Ok, So what should I name things? And the Alt Text?
Google’s guidelines suggest giving your images descriptive, relevant file names and giving the alt text similarly descriptive titles. Now, for a blog post of 100+ images, this is going to be massively time-consuming, but the more effort you put in, the more success you get out.
In an ideal world, each and every image will have a unique, descriptive file name, some of which will have your keywords and its variations (sparingly!)
Personally, I have a bad habit of exporting my images in the above style, using repetitive file names. As a high volume shooter, any other more hands-on method would become maddening. It’s my belief that Google applies relatively little weight to the file names – but If I had definitive evidence to the contrary, you can be sure I would put the time in and name them individually.
A quick way to avoid having 100+ images with the same file name would be to export in batches using different file names. So you may end up with:
25 called ‘Some-Place-Wedding-01.jpg’
25 called ‘Rachel-Henry-wedding-some-place-01.jpg’
25 called ‘wedding-details-some-county-01.jpg’
& 25 called ‘epic-wedding-photography-01.jpg’
It’s not an ideal answer, but it better fits in with the workflow many of photographers.
I will often add unique alt text to my images, as Google has publicly stated this is important.
But, even so – this is one of the last things on my SEO list as, with wedding photographer sites in particular – it can be incredibly time-consuming, for relatively small gains.
A quick and dirty method of adding alt text to your images is using the WordPress plugin SEO Optimized Images – you can set it up to use the file name as the Alt text, making for one less thing for you to do.
But as I said above – the more effort you put in, and the more attention you give the small things, like file names – the more success you get out.
Writing the text
So, I’ve got a set of images, titles and keywords – can I write my post now?
Indeed you can! You probably don’t need much guidance on this point – but the aim is to write decent length, useful & engaging content.
My tests show that posts with less than 100 words and 50 images, do not rank as well as posts with 500 words and the same 50 images.
But don’t force it – no need to fill your post with junk just to hit a word limit, but do be mindful of writing enough. There is no firm number of what to write – some SEO experts will say you need 1000 words minimum, I tend to write between 300-500 where possible.
Try to include your keyword where possible, but again – don’t force it, Google values natural, well written, engaging content. The idea should be that you’re writing for your future couples to read, Nobody needs to read –
“I enjoyed being a some place house wedding photographer at some place house. Some place house weddings are so lovely and the light over this some place house wedding was just magnificent. Bride and Groom were so lucky to get some place house as their wedding venue. The reception room at this some place house wedding looked wonderfully grand and some place house lends itself wonderfully to wedding photographs.
If you’re looking for a some place house wedding photographer – get in touch!”
It’s a big steaming pile of crap right?
I know, I’ve been guilty of writing junk like that in the past and maybe some of my blog posts still hit those sour notes, but by and large it should be natural, nicely written and if you can stick in some solid keywords a few times without it breaking the flow, have at it!
One thing that you can use to build up both your word count, but more importantly – the usefulness of your content to future couples – is to write about things like:
- What the previous wedding couple did to the venue to make it their own
- How the venues worked for their plans
- The number of guests and any characters that made the day special
- The quality and quantity of food
- Why they chose that venue
- Where the venue was in relation to other locations on the day (church/hotel etc.)
- How that worked with travel etc.
- How they set up the venue
- How the schedule of their day fit with the venue – which rooms worked for specific parts of the day
- Any locations that worked particularly well for photographs
- Nearby facilities to consider, hotels, pubs etc.
- Other vendors they used and how they helped on the day
We’ve got keywords, titles, description, images and text – I can hit publish now and have a sleep?
Once you’ve got content you need to tie it together to the rest of your content, and to other content out in the world.
How to write a wedding blog
I’ve actually just blogged a wedding putting a lot of this guide into practice and wrote a guide following my progress – How to Write a Wedding blog.
There are two types of on site linking – Internal and External.
Internal linking is the act of linking your content to other relevant things on your site with two intentions
To keep the viewer engaged, show them other things they might like to see and keep them on your site longer. The longer they are there the more trust you’re building and the greater chance of them contacting you and even booking. Keeping viewers engaged is also key to showing Google your site is quality – which in turn will result in higher rankings.
To boost the visibility of your other content to search engines – Search engines crawl through your site, they follow any links they find and will go off and look at that content too. The more they look at your site, the better your relationships with the search engines will be and the quicker new content will be picked up and potentially listed in the results.
– say you’re posting a wedding at Some Place and you’ve done 3 other weddings at some place, now you’ve not used the keywords ‘Some Place Wedding’ in the others to avoid Keyword Cannibalization, but you still want the viewer to take a look – because its relevant to their journey through your site and may convince them that you are the photographer for them.
By mentioning and linking to these posts – or having some kind of ‘related posts’ section, you’re likely to direct the viewer to those also – easy win!
There is also a google benefit to linking – each page passes ‘juice’ to everything it links to, think of this as a vote of confidence in the content. So linking out to your key pages, pages that you really want people to land on, is only going to benefit them.
nb. There is currently a lot of discussion in the SEO world about how links within content (ie – not the links in your navigation, or footer) actually pass more benefit onto the pages they link to.
When linking, think about the text you use to link – this is known as the anchor text.
Essentially, you want your link text to fit into your content naturally, and if possible mention a keyword pertaining to that page. But keyword inclusion isn’t always possible and can start to get spammy quickly, a link that just says ‘look at that here’ is still going to work for you.
TLDR Link to your other content, its useful to the viewer and gives SEO benefits to the pages you link to.
Throwing links out to industry chums is great, say you worked with an amazing team on a wedding – it’s natural you want to highlight how good they are – I love doing this on my posts!
I tend to include a section in my blog posts giving a shout out to the other vendors that made a wedding happen. Florists, caterers, venues, DJs whoever they are, they usually have a website and it’s awesome to send people their way.
But, there is a caveat and it’s probably going to be controversial – I believe you are judged by the company you keep – and the links you pass out to people.
Links are valuable. Be mindful of this when linking out to external sites.
Over the years I’ve had to clean up old links in blog posts to businesses that have moved their sites, no longer exist, or have changed their market niche. Lots of venues have gone out of business, lots of makeup artists, bands and DJs have either gone out of business or just given up weddings.
One example from a while back, I’d linked to another wedding business (I think around 10 years ago.) Sadly they went out of business and some unscrupulous person purchased their domain name and used it for malicious intent. Fortunately, I picked up on this within a couple of days of the ‘switch’ otherwise, by linking to their site would certainly have had a negative effect on my own.
Too many links out to low quality sites, sites that don’t work anymore (this is known as a 404) or sites in different niches can start to hurt your rankings.
You can use tools such as Screaming Frog to keep a track of your old posts, or hire someone to do an outgoing link audit – and see if any of the old links you’ve given out no longer work, then either remove or redirect them somewhere appropriate.
TLDR The quality of the sites you link to also reflects on you.
If you have access to AHREFs, you can gauge a site’s quality and authority easily. There are other tools that enable this too, MOZ, SEMRUSH for example. You can also google ‘Domain Authority Checker’ and find some tools.
But AHREFs is my favourite and uses two key metrics in assigning a quality to a website DR or Domain Rating and UR or URL Rating. These metrics essentially rate how ‘good’ a website is.
If you’re working with an amazing person, but their site is a mess/being developed/out of date – you may want to link to their facebook page or other social media – Facebook is one of the top authority sites in the world and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. That way you can still share the love with a great person, but you’re not exposing your site to anything further down the line.
Now I’m not saying don’t link to people if you don’t like their site, or their site isn’t authoritative in the eyes of google – just be mindful of it.
Backlinks should form a large part of any SEO strategy and once you have a great array of content, you need to focus on building links from other sites to it.
A great way to think about links, is that they are votes. Votes from other websites that say your website is good, authoritative and trustworthy.
In short, the more links you have pointing towards your site, the better. But there is the caveat that they need to be ‘good’ links from ‘good’ sites. It’s always important to aim for quality over quanitity.
A hundred low quality links will probably do more harm than good on your site.
A link from a big media publication, or a local authority site will move the needle.
I have a handful of tried and tested link building methods that I use for both myself and for clients. I also have some industry specific strategies that I’ll go into in a future article – but in the mean time, sign up for a training course and I’ll share the secrets!!
Promoting your content.
Slightly off topic, but I take a holistic approach to marketing and SEO.
So often I see people posting lovely long blog posts with the most incredible photos. Text that’s gushing over the other amazing vendors and linking out to them – but often they haven’t shared that post with the person.
They assume that linking to them will somehow notify the person of the post, in some cases this is true, but more often than not the person never sees it.
Email them, Send them a message on Facebook, Tag them on Instagram – whatever! Make sure they see that you’re saying nice stuff about them and sharing pictures of weddings they were involved in.
I’ve made so many amazing connections from sharing the posts with the other suppliers, often they are as excited to see the pictures as the bride and groom. I’ve ended up with heaps of referrals and have even photographed the weddings of makeup artists with whom I’ve shared images. I’ve had the chance to collaborate with bands who I’ve sent images to. I’ve been invited along to events at venues because they loved images I sent them.
Good things come from sharing.
Often the other vendors will want to share the images with their audience (everyone is looking for social content these days!)
Sometimes they want to use the images on their websites which can bring in links back to you. I’ll get onto this later, but the bottom line – links back to you are good.
Even if they don’t want to use the images or don’t link back to you – sometimes, just sharing stuff is nice! You’ve poured your heart into these set of images, let people see them!
I’m such a geek, I’m excited at the prospect of writing this section, well technically I’m excited at the prospect of writing every section otherwise why am I doing it?
Optimizing site speed is part of a wealth of skills that come together to form Technical SEO – the name given to the optimization of on-site elements in an SEO campaign.
It’s something I’ve become borderline addicted to and something I recommend you do too.
As alluded to during the image section, Google has said that site speed is important to your rankings and given time I imagine will become more and more important.
Speed is an issue for everyone visiting your site, from people in offices with desktops and laptops attached to hugely fast internet connections, to mobile users with slow or limited data plans. Everyone wants a fast web experience.
With all the digital noise these days, from social media etc. we have less and less time to spare – not to mention less patience! We want the information right now, not in 25 seconds.
Mobile users are being more and more prominent (Since 2017, they have been the majority of my traffic!) – It’s something we can’t overlook. Google has also said that they consider mobile devices first nowadays when considering ranking and indexing sites.
One of the biggest considerations especially for mobile devices, but which has benefits for desktop browsers too – is site speed.
Lighthouse Audit for photographers
Google has gone ahead and given us a map to achieve success in this area by way of the Lighthouse tool, which bundled in their web browser Chrome, its a tool I use in site audits and a tool I think everyone should be familiar with.
They also offer a largely similar tool at:
It doesn’t go into quite as much granular detail as the Lighthouse Tool in Chrome, but it’s a bit more user-friendly.
Lighthouse is accessed by opening your site in Chrome, right clicking and hitting ‘Inspect’, a wonderfully useful panel full of developer tools opens up.
Don’t panic, there’s nothing you can do in this page to break your site.
Lots of what you see here deals with the code that actually makes up your site, the stuff the browser interprets to make things look pretty.
Yes, it’s technical, but not something you need to worry about.
The bit we’re interested in is the ‘Audits’ Panel, neatly tucked at the top of the develop panel (or potentially under the little arrow drop down, if your window is too narrow)
Open up the audits panel and make sure it looks like this –
Once you run this audit, it will spit out a huge range of suggestions to improve your site.
Remember this tool is provided by Google – if they’re saying it’s important to do X, Y & Z – you can be reasonably confident that achieving good scores here will reflect in the search rankings – if not now, then eventually.
Did I mention I was a bit addicted to this? I think that’s reflected in my sites scores below –
And for comparison, the results of another photographer, details removed, because I’m not interested in bashing anybody.
Now you can see there’s a bit of a difference. Granted their SEO score is perfect – but they’ve been working with an SEO company, so I’d like to think they should be.
But the other scores aren’t amazing.
Time to Interactive is a particular one to pay attention to, as this is the time you’re making a user wait before they can do anything on your site.
Another photographer site yields these results –
Now, this site is from someone I know to be more advanced at SEO and the technical side of website management – so we can see gains over the first example, much faster time to interactive, for example – but still room for improvement.
For completeness, both sites are WordPress sites, one using a theme from a company popular amongst wedding photographers theme and the other a more generic theme, customised to their needs.
To explain the various numbers –
Performance takes into account how quickly a site displays, how soon it is usable upon loading and how much data it actually forces users to download. It offers opportunities within the code to improve this, but we’ll dive deep later.
Accessibility looks at how well optimized your site is for visually impaired users accessing it with a screen reader, or any other user that has a non-standard way of accessing their computer. This takes into account things like good headings, alt text on images, titles on links. https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/accessibility/
Best practices are just that, sticking to guidelines published by Google and the W3C web standards consortium to ensure things are done properly
SEO discusses the ways in which the structure of your site can be improved to potentially rank better in search engine rankings.
Now I’m not picking on this other photographer, it’s pretty standard fare for a photography website to be pretty heavy as far as images and data go, something that will no doubt hurt the performance. But there are various opportunities that can be taken to improve things, as is indicated by my own site achieving perfect 100s – not something I was aiming for, I would have been satisfied anywhere north of the 80s! – But I’ll happily take the perfect score.
What do these results mean?
Most photographers sites will have a fair few negative comments or improvement suggestions from either the page speed insights or the Lighthouse tool – things like these are pretty common:
Much like the results above, I commonly see –
Properly Size Images – This is the main one for photographers, it’s important to make sure you actually upload the right size images for your theme. I can’t tell you what you need without looking at your site, but my site, for example, is designed for images 1800 pixels wide, so that’s what I upload.
A lot of photographers upload dramatically bigger or even full size, straight out of camera images and let their site handle the resizes – this is incredibly wasteful and will never achieve as good a results as you doing it yourself, either using specific lightroom export settings or Photoshop actions.
Efficiently Encode Images – Another big one for photographers, this deals with properly compressing files so as not to waste bandwidth unnecessarily. See the section on compressing images for more info and some tips for improving this.
Serve images in next-gen formats – Not something I worry about at the moment, Google is pushing a few other image formats for the future, notably WebP, JPEG 2000 and JPEG XR. In my opinion, they’re not supported enough to warrant worrying about (yet!)
WebP might take off, but is currently only supported by Google’s official browser Chrome.
Fortunately, you can get WordPress plugins that will handle the encoding of these next-generation image formats for you if they take off.
Defer offscreen images – this basically means, ‘let your users download images once they need them’ – rather than all at once as the page loads.
Again lots of WordPress plugins to do this for you. WP-Rocket a WordPress caching plugin I’ll discuss later can do this out of the box, but there are lots of options.
Eliminate Render Blocking Resources – this is a ‘fun’ one, I’ve spent ages refining the best techniques to combat this in the quest for perfect scores.
Essentially it’s telling you that some stuff needs to happen on your site, before the page even loads.
During this time your users are looking at a blank screen, keep them in this state for too long and they’ll surely leave.
The easiest solution is to get them loading at the end of your page – but this can cause other issues that could have an entire post to it. WP-Rocket has options to handle this, and I also have a few other techniques up my sleeve.
There’s no one fix for this issue, but If it’s something troubling your results – I’d be happy to work with you to find the solution.
Reduce Server Response Time (TTFB) – OK, easy fix for this one, get better hosting. (TTFB means ‘time to first byte’ – basically, how quickly before anything happens)
So many photographers are hosting their sites with the cheapest host they can find, understandable in the early days of their business – wanting to save some cash. But image heavy sites and sites with lots of bells and whistles, animations etc. and sites with high traffic need some powerful servers behind them.
Slow server response is often a sign of less powerful hosting, or hosting that is shared with many other users.
My site used to be on a server with over 1000 other sites, resulting in low speed and instability during times of high traffic. I moved it to an (almost) dedicated server and performance went up 10x. Easy win – albeit at the cost of some monies.
Defer unused CSS – Basically, don’t have messy code and make people download things they don’t need. This is usually due to either a badly coded theme or a theme that has been modified many times over the years without removing or tidying the unrequired bits.
Not as big a deal as the above points really, because the code is minuscule in comparison to images. But every little helps.
Again, WP-rocket has something to help this out.
Phew! So what can we take from all that?
Those are the main things that I see when auditing photographers sites. The site I’ve just tested forced people to download over 18 megabytes of data, just to see the page.
Not something they’ll be thanked for if they’re on a slow connection or have limited bandwidth/data allowances.
The total time for the site to load was 65 seconds.
Let that sink in, SIXTY FIVE SECONDS!
Over one minute, before the site was done.
That’s in the realms of ‘I’ll open this and pop off to make a cup of tea while it loads’.
If you’re making people wait that long to see your content, you’ve already lost the battle.
Ideally, you want some content to appear within a second. Then load the rest while they’re looking at that first seconds worth of content.
But how can we achieve such mastery of speed?
Caching is a big thing. To understand caching, you need to understand how your site works (a bit, at least!)
When someone visits your site – I’m assuming a WordPress, as it’s so common with photographers – but the process is similar for all content management systems. This (simplified) chain of events happens –
- Your server gets the ‘request’.
- WordPress starts up the bits it needs to run.
- WordPress looks at its database to see what to do. (Sometimes it does this multiple times depending on how your site is built.)
- WordPress gets all the info from the database and runs it through your theme to make it look good.
- WordPress sends the finishes site to the end user and their browser interprets it all.
- The end browser downloads anything else it needs, images for example.
Caching essentially gets your site to from 1. to 7. quicker, by doing all the in-between steps before the user even arrives. It keeps ‘static’ files of your pages ready to send to their browser – thus eliminating all the database lookups and busy work in between.
There are types of caching that, at the point of delivery, bypass WordPress altogether. Serving purely static files to your users directly from the server. Resulting in a super fast chain that looks like this –
- Your server gets the ‘request’.
- Your server sends the finished site to the end user and their browser interprets it all.
There are a handful of Caching plugins for WordPress, but I’ve had the most success with WP-Rocket. I’ve tried various others, but that’s the only one I’ve stuck with and the results speak for themselves.
Other things to improve the speed of your photography site
Use images sparingly – Yes before you jump on me, I know photographer sites need images. They’re kind of important in the sales process. But the more images you have within sliders, portfolios etc. the slower your site will be. No getting around this.
Lots of people I work with have full page sliders or slideshows at the top of their pages. They look beautiful – absolutely – but are killer on page speeds, and in turn search rankings.
The term ‘above the fold’ goes back to newspaper days, whereby the key stories were found above the physical fold of the paper.
Nowadays this means the first bit you see of a web page. The bit you see before you need to scroll down.
This is the main part you want to focus on using images sparingly, as we can use lazy loading plugins to defer images below the fold, thus not affecting our page speed.
In an effort to balance the visual effect of a full-size slideshow at the top of your pages with the need for speed, I’m currently championing the use of a single – well optimized and compressed – ‘killer’ image at the top of pages, rather than a slideshow. As this requires no additional coding or scripts to load it, therefore helping page speed.
I’m also experimenting with sliders than load the first image, and then wait until they are required to load the others.
Using a single image for your header is actually quite an interesting exercise in image selection and editing – you’re posing yourself the question – ‘which one image best captures my style’
It’s a tough decision in most cases – but the argument can be made, that if you don’t have one image that can capture your style, then you probably don’t have a consistent one – but that’s a can of worms for another day.
Compression. I can’t say this enough, compressing your images correctly and uploading the smallest files possible is so important. So much so I’m working on an entire post detailing the best methods to achieve this. As a minimum, you want to be using something like JPEGmini. But I’ll link to the full comparison feature once it’s finished.
Good Theme – A good quality WordPress theme should be set up to be fast out of the box. Now I understand that the end user may install all manner of plugins which will slow sites down or indeed run the theme on a slow server.
But I think it’s inexcusable to be releasing slow themes these days, given the increased focus on speed.
When you’re considering purchasing a new theme for your site, even one from a bigger company, or a company that claims to be WordPress or SEO specialists – don’t be afraid to run a lighthouse audit on the demo site – if they can’t get their demonstration sites running fast I’d be concerned.
Followup: Premium WordPress Themes
Followup: I had some questions about whether speed is heavily affected by things the end users install on their sites. Plugins etc. So I just ran a quick lighthouse audit on a demo site of a popular premium wedding photographers WordPress theme provider. Its one of their popular themes and doesn’t have any other plugins beside what is bundled with the theme.
These are the results – again, identifiable info removed, as I’m not interested in bashing anybody – just education.
SEO is good, Accessibility and Best practice are pretty mediocre, but not deal breaking. But my word, that performance metric is brutal – certainly not something I could tolerate.
Now, a positive – the site theme in question looks amazing – seriously cool animations and slick transitions, beautiful huge photos and lots of things to WOW a potential bride for sure. But only if that potential bride wants to wait nearly a minute.
Finding this all a bit much? We can simplify it all for you, on our training courses
We also take on a limited number of ‘hands-on’ SEO clients each year, to help them improve their visibility.
SEO Services & Training
I’ve built my business upon education, constantly learning and constantly improving and I love to share that knowledge with other creatives. That’s why I’m pleased to offer 1:1 training sessions in SEO, with a particular focus on Photographers, Wedding Photographers and Wedding Businesses.
Every business is different, and everyones website will require a slightly different approach, so I’m happy to tailor my services to your requirements. From SEO Training where I’ll give you and your team the tools to help yourself, to Full Service SEO offerings, where I’ll roll up my sleeves and get to work on your site – or SEO Audits, if you just need a nudge in the right direction. Whatever you need I’m here to help.
‘Done For You’ SEO Services
SEO For Wedding Photographers
SEO for Wedding Photographers is my speciality. Any SEO for photographers requires a special set of techniques in addition to those usually applied in SEO. I often find that photographers are more about photos and less about words – completely understandable. But SEO requires a combination of both to be successful. Dealing with the images themselves also poses lots of considerations and I often find myself working with photographers on things like:
- Image Compression
- Alt Tags & Optimization
- Pagespeed & Loading Times
- Word-count & Thin Content
- Local Search & Google My Business
I also have a huge arsenal of strategies specifically for wedding photographers SEO. From link building opportunities, to the best way to blog a wedding – I’ll help you out.
Whatever your technical level I can either guide you through ways you can improve your own content and processes, or implement changes for you.
SEO For Wedding Venues
SEO for wedding venues is something I can definitely help with. Many of the SEO techniques and skills I’ve acquired across my career are completely transferable across the wedding industry – in particularly for wedding venues. Wedding Venues also have many added strategies we can use and I’d love the opportunity to either teach these to you or implement for you.
Whether you would like me to guide and educate you or your staff, so you can do it in house – or if you would like me to take a more hands-on approach and do it for you, I’d love to hear from you.
An audit is a great way to get moving in the right direction and give you a head start on your competition. Whatever your technical level, an audit can help you.
I’ll go through your site and narrate a screen video highlighting exactly what’s wrong with your website and what you can do to fix it.
I’ll give you a combination of quick fixes to give you immediate results and direction for your longer term strategy to help you dominate your market.