This post draws upon a lot of the concepts from my earlier post – Writing Content for SEO – this time though, I’m going to go through an actual post as I put it together, write it and post it, to share the thought process that goes into each and every blog post.
Wedding photographers are in an ideal spot. Most weekends throughout the year we have the potential to generate a huge amount of content. Content, as mentioned in earlier posts – is the key to good search rankings.
We witness beautiful stories that we can write about, we visit incredible places we can discuss and comment on, we capture hundreds of images to fill our social channels and populate our articles. We also meet hundreds of interesting people to inspire our stories and with whom we can network (or just share a laugh!)
Lots of marketers would kill for the opportunity to have that kind of content engine running behind their website. Yet often, we as photographers, get bogged down in our editing, customer care and the general day-to-day running of our businesses to appreciate it and make the most of the opportunities.
I’m terrible for this and as of this moment I have 23 weddings that I’ve not blogged from the past year. Twenty Three. Saying that out loud makes me feel pretty dumb.
That 23 wonderful stories that were amazing to be a part of, 23 lovely couples who are happily sharing their images (not even thinking about how many of their friends/family are sharing and enjoying the images).
In total, that’s over 14,000 images that I’ve taken, edited and delivered.
Yet, zero new pieces of content for my website.
Zero new channels for bringing in traffic.
Whilst I have a little time at the beginning of 2019, I’m making an effort to get caught up – I’m consciously not making a ‘best of 2018’ post, which is something so many photographers fill their December/Januaries with as.
For two reasons –
- I believe a ‘best of’ post holds very little SEO value. (That’s not to say the post has no value, just from a targeted SEO perspective.)
- I’m going to get infinitely more traffic from 20+ new pieces of well-targeted content.
So, what better opportunity than to share a ‘how to’ guide on writing killer blog posts, researching the right keywords and building a page for maximum SEO value.
It’s not about the past
The first thought I’ll share is that blogging isn’t for the couple whose wedding it was.
Ok, some sharp intake of breaths there.
The blog posts are for your future clients and they are for your growth.
Of course, the couple whose wedding it was will want to see it. They’ll be proud to be on your website and they’ll get the warm fuzzies from seeing it.
But they’re not looking to book a wedding photographer.
They’re not looking for wedding inspiration and, one would hope they’re not considering hiring you again (for a wedding at least! – set up a family portrait business if you want repeat business.)
These posts are for the next person that lands on your site looking for ‘SOME VENUE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER’.
The goal of the post is to build trust and show your expertise. Demonstrate your experience working at their venue and wow them with images that capture the dreams they have for their wedding. Images they would love to call their own.
The posts are also an opportunity to have an initial conversation with a potential client, show them who you are and what you care about.
With such a large amount of blog posts in my backlog, I’m going to detail how I will do the research on them in bulk – and hopefully, that will give you the inspiration to grab hold of the SEO of your posts on an individual level.
Let’s get Started!
First things first, I write a list of the post I’ve yet to share, along with the venues.
Then I load up AHREFS keyword research tool and start searching for the venues, along with any variations I think of – things like:
‘VENUE NAME COUNTY’
‘VENUE NAME CITY’
‘VENUE NAME WEDDING’
‘VENUE NAME WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER’
‘WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER VENUE NAME’
This helps me to get an idea of what the popular searches are for that venue, and indeed if anyone is actually searching for it! Which in turn helps me to prioritize the content that has the greatest chance of SEO success.
Of course, it’s important to get the pieces that showcase the type of work I want to shoot, and the work that best reflects my brand – but as we’re focusing on SEO for this piece we’ll leave that for another day.
After the research I end up with something like this:
I’ve highlighted keywords with relevant search intent green, and keywords with high volume, but potentially wrong intent in yellow.
The x’s are venues I’ve worked at many times, so the keywords need more careful selection – as the default ‘VENUE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER’ is at risk of cannibalization. I’ll return to those later.
The red row is a wedding that is subject to an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), meaning I can’t blog it due to privacy concerns. I did the keyword research in case it looked good, and I could blog some details or venue shots – but neither the search volume or the search intent is there to justify skirting the edge of the NDA, so we’ll leave that alone.
What can we gauge from the date I’ve pulled?
Of course, there are going to be more people searching for locations – a hotel for example – with the intention of staying at it, or hosting an event there other than a wedding, than there are actual wedding related searches.
So, whilst there is the chance of getting more traffic from targeting those keywords – that traffic isn’t correctly targeted and will likely have a very high bounce rate (traffic that leaves without visiting other pages, or interacting with your site meaningfully). A high bounce rate is a negative factor and will hurt your site over time.
So looking at this, I would prioritize the order in which I work on my posts and consider the effort going into each post against the potential traffic yield.
From this info, I deem the most vital post for me to get up as soon as possible, would be the one about Cowdray House, specifically the keyword Cowdray House Wedding – it has reasonable volume and relevant intent.
The wedding I photographed there was my first at Cowdray House actually, so doubly vital to get something on the site ASAP to drive some traffic.
After that, my attention will come to the Blackstocks Farm Wedding and then Bartholomew Barn Wedding.
The Blackstocks results are interesting, as in my initial research I was looking at optimizing for ‘Blackstock Barn’, but from looking into it, it seems significantly more people search for ‘Blackstocks Farm’ and ‘Blackstocks Farm Wedding’ – It just goes to show that you need to know what people are searching for before making any content.
So, now I will go about selecting my images & preparing the content for a post on a lovely Cowdray House Wedding.
For this, I’ll use Lightroom, as it was quite a recent wedding and is still in my catalogue.
**Half an hour later**
So I’ve picked around 100 images, a nice selection that tells the story and shows both my approach and the venue.
I’m using the following Lightroom export settings –
Things to pay attention to here, are:
Compression – I don’t go too heavy at this point, mainly as I’m going to be running them through the Photoshop plugin Storyboard – to organise the post better. If you are repeatedly opening and saving jpegs, it will cause the files to look lousy.
File names – I added the primary keyword I’ll be targeting into the file names, It’s not best practice to leave them like this, but I’m working with 100+ images and individually naming each file would take a long time.
Size – My site is set up for 900px wide images, and with retina screens needing around double the resolution I export at 1800px wide to make sure all devices are catered too. I use a WordPress plugin (WP retina) to ensure the right image is served to the right devices.
Storyboarding and Layout
Once I have these images exported, I open Photoshop and run them through the storyboard plugin. I find it a relatively easy way to ensure my images flow together nicely to form a story and would rather spend a little additional time making things look perfect than just blogging in chronological order. I’m quite a visual thinker, so I like the way storyboard works – there may be faster or more efficient programs now, but that’s what I use.
I also apply additional sharpening at this stage. (not SEO related, but I’m a photographer first – SEO second!)
After this, I’m left with 75ish JPEGs – time to squish those files down a little more.
I aim for each file to be in the region of 250kb, but sometimes this isn’t possible and I’d rather pretty pictures than massively compressed ones.
Some will rocket up in size – especially images with grain or particularly complex patterns and textures – but lazy loading them will help that, as far as SEO is concerned.
**At this stage, I also batch renamed them in groups of 25 into different file names using keyword variations, this allows the WordPress plugin ‘SEO Optimized Images’ to auto-populate the alt tags from the file names. I may manually tweak a few, but this will do for now.
Now I have a full set of images, I can actually get on and make a post!
Picking a post title
Now referencing the keyword research I did earlier, I’m looking at naming my post something along the lines of
Cowdray House Wedding – Alice & Greg – Fazackarley Weddings
If I want it a bit more personable, I could go for –
Alice & Greg’s lovely Cowdray House Wedding – Fazackarley
A Christmas Themed Cowdray House Wedding – Alice & Greg
A Lovely Winter Cowdray House Wedding – Alice & Greg
All of these contain the keyword we’re aiming for and land below the 65 character threshold for Google’s results.
I’m going to stick to the first option, as it fits with my sites other posts and maximizes the efficiency of the keyword – the belief is that having the keyword closer to the start of the title increases its ‘weight’.
I may tweak at a later date to experiment with ‘click-through rates’.
URL or SLUG
The address you type into your browser is also known as the URL.
Keywords in the URL are usually good, and having good clean structured URLs is what you should aim for.
Side note – The end bit of the URL, the bit that is your actual post or page title, is sometimes called the slug.
This post will be:
Nice and simple – only one level down from my home page, in the category of weddings – which could be seen as a keyword – and the actual posts URL contains the posts target keyword.
Some SEO experts will say that you should have your keyword as close to the front of your URL as possible and try to avoid sub-directories – in my case, that would mean removing the bit referencing the category ‘weddings’. But I like the organisational structure from a usability point of view and ‘weddings’ is relevant to my keyword anyway.
As my title is a little more keyword focused, I can be more personable in the meta description and go for something like this:
Alice and Greg’s lovely Christmas Cowdray House Wedding was filled beautiful wintery light, magical candlelight and one of the happiest, smiliest brides you will ever see.
The meta description isn’t a huge ranking factor nowadays, so stuffing keywords in there isn’t helpful. Of course, if you can get it in there easily and logically – go ahead. But think of this is the space as a way to try and connect with the searcher – in an effort to increase your click-through rate.
POST CONTENT – aka HOW TO WRITE A WEDDING BLOG POST
Writing blogs is hard, or at least that’s what I used to think.
I used to sit down (months after the wedding) and start trying to write the text, trying to find lovely, unique things to write about every wedding, interesting anecdotes to share and tales to tell.
I didn’t get very far.
Every blog looked the same – short, soulless and uninteresting.
I had an epiphany when I was on the road for a wedding, staying in some random hotel one night. It was simple but game-changing.
Ok, simple right?
Basically, throughout the day of the wedding (during the quiet bits) or the evening when I’m backing up – even when I’m editing, whenever something comes to me – I jot it into my notes.
Then when I come to write the content for my post, I have tons of little snippets of ideas and fragments of sentences to start my post – crazy simple, but so helpful – for me at least!
It’s also great because I’m not straining my brain trying to remember key details about the day, or doing the couple a disservice by writing something generic, or worse – wrong!
The other method I use in conjunction with this is based around a series of headings
If you paste these into your post and write a quick couple of sentences about each one, you’ll have lots of content super quickly.
For maximum SEO benefit, coupled with ease of writing – I tend to aim for 300-500 words per blog post.
Less than this you have what’s known as ‘thin content’ – not good and won’t rank well.
For this post, my notes were in the region of 150 words – bulking this up and creating more flowing prose resulted in just over 400 words.
I’ve lots of experience that long-form content (ie, over 1500 words) ranks better than shorter content, but if you can eek 1500 words out of a wedding without spamming, you have my respect.
I’ve seen it done, but it doesn’t read well and I feel detracts from your images.
Long form content will work better for landing pages, silo pages and other content that makes sense to be longer – but keep your blog posts simple and meaningful.
Reoptimizing the text for SEO
After finishing up my text content, I read through it a few times to see if I could naturally squeeze in any keywords or keyword variations – without being spammy or changing the flow too badly.
I also aimed to link to any relevant internal pages, such as another wedding I did at the same church – useful for passing some SEO juice over to that post, but also potentially helpful to the bride-to-be reading this post, keen to see other weddings at that church.
Other internal links on this page will head out to other services we offer, or other weddings I think would be helpful for the searchers to see – as well as any posts I might be trying to edge up the search results. A little internal link juice can be helpful there.
It’s good practice to link to other vendors who were a part of the wedding – it’s a nice hat tip to them for a job well done, it’s also great for networking, not to mention useful to the bride-to-be you’re aiming to attract.
The main ones will be linking to the venues, this is also super helpful when trying to rank for those venue related keywords as its showing the search engines that there is a relationship between your content and theirs.
Depending on your theme this may not be necessary. My theme features a big ‘hero’ image at the top of posts, this is above the fold content so has huge SEO value.
Often people will just pick an image from the post, and use that as the thumbnail – perfectly reasonable thing to do!
The trick here is twofold:
One, you want your primary keyword in the title/alt text.
Two you want this image to be as small a file size as possible, if necessary compress this image more than others in your posts – page speed is a huge ranking factor.
Because of the batch file renaming, the image I chose had a file name that didn’t fit the keyword we were aiming for explicitly – it was something along the lines of ‘sussex-wedding-cowdray-007.jpg’. So I downloaded the file – recompressed it (at a higher level than the original, every little helps!) and renamed it ‘cowdray-house-wedding.jpg’. This makes it the perfect thumbnail.
That’s the post pretty much done, and we’re ready to post it.
After posting it, have a good look through and double check everything looks good – check the text reads well and all the links work.
Internal Links (Part 2)
Now the post is live, I’ll potentially go through some of my other posts and pages, and link to the new one (where relevant).
This post, for example, was at a church I’ve worked at before, so linking from that post to this new should provide value.
If its a venue your keen to get ranking for quickly, a link from one of your top-level pages might make sense.
Not strictly part of SEO, but a useful marketing exercise and one that has SEO value –
Publish some images from the post on your Instagram, share an excerpt on your Facebook and pin some of the images on Pinterest – it’s a brilliant opportunity to drive some traffic to your new post, and show the world what you’re creating.
This would be the point you’d want to reach out to all the venues/vendors you’ve linked to (you did that right?) and let them know the post is there!
So, now the post is up, I’ve run it through my favourite little lighthouse audit tool – anyone who has read the other pieces of this guide, such as Site Speed, will know I obsess over these numbers.
My mentality is that if (traditionally secretive) Google is giving us something with such clear signs, then we should do our best to adhere to it!
These are the results I get from the post we’ve just worked on –
Very happy with that, now time to leave the post to hopefully climb the ranks for the keyword we’re after and revisit it in 2-3 months.
Now that one’s done, I’m onto the next 28 – wish me luck!