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.
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.
Keep notes of every change you make, no matter how small – that way you can go back if something doesn’t work.
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
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.
Research and deeper analysis tools
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.
I’ll add more to this list as time goes by, but the next article you should probably read is: Keyword Research