Up for Discussions – SEO for Photographers, Part 1

by Leanne Cole Photography on June 10, 2014

Today’s Up for Discussion post has been written by Mary McAvoy, she also has a WordPress blog, Sublime Days.  Mary wrote commented on my post last week about post production and started telling me about what I should be doing to get better at SEO. I’m sure many or most of you have heard of this. I keep getting emails from people telling me if I pay them they can get my SEO rating a lot higher, and my husbnad keeps saying Google hate them and if you do it, it will make it worse.  So Mary was telling me things I didn’t know, so thought it would be great for us all to hear.  It is tough area, but really, it is so very important and you all should read it, think about it, and see you can make some changes to your blog/website, next week she will talk about images.

I will hand it over to Mary now.

I’m grateful to Leanne for giving me this opportunity to share with her readers what I know about search engine optimization (SEO) and how it pertains to photographers who blog and who have a website on WordPress.

This article will come to you in two parts. Part 2 will post next week.

First, about SEO generally.

I’m surmising that pretty much everyone who reads this post has, at one time or another, “searched” or “googled” a topic. You typed in words that you hoped would bring you to web pages that specifically addressed the particular topic about which you had interest. The words you typed in are “search terms.”

Search “engines” or “spiders” or “robots” or “bots” read those terms and in milliseconds they scoured the world wide web and then presented to you pages of results, listed about ten to a page. If you were accurate in your choice of search terms, your hoped for results came right up on that first page, perhaps even in the first three sites presented on the first page.

To understand SEO, you need to know that the bots’ search behavior is governed by an algorithm – a set of instructions that tells them how to prioritize what they find on the millions of sites they are scanning for you. This algorithm is changed and refined all the time by search services (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) in an effort to make search results more accurate for the person who is searching the internet, and also to weed out spam from being listed in the search results. Also, different search services have their own algorithms, though there is much overlap. What I’ll discuss in this post is pretty standard in any search service.

Now, let’s look at that same topic but from your point of view as a blogging photographer or a photographer with a website. For the purpose of this post (and for Leanne’s benefit), I’m going to assume that your photography is a business enterprise. And I’m going to assume that your two goals in having a website are to sell your images and to offer lessons in photography. I’m also going to give instructions based on using WordPress (WP).

Here we go.

When you write a post or create pages of your website, you should have a few things on our mind:

1) good content (i.e. quality writing or text)

2) an exceptional and deliberate heading (h1) or title for your post while keeping SEO in mind

3) well labeled photos

and last but hardly least, here’s what’s most important in terms of SEO as you prepare a post:

– in your content and when labeling photos, use the terms a person would type into a search box to find the post you are writing. Think as they would think and use the terms you imagine them using to find the topic of your post. Those terms should be throughout the post and also added as category and tag words

Below I’ll elaborate on each of the above.

1) About good content – believe it or not, the bots do care that the quality of your writing is good. This is one way they can sift out spam sites. If your writing is done well and stays on the topic of the keywords you add as “categories” and “tags” (and also on the topic of your overall site) then you’ll be better viewed by the bots. As you write, know that the first paragraph is the most important in terms of what the bots “read” so put your keywords in that paragraph. Make this opening paragraph concise and directly related to your topic.

2 About your heading (h1) – the heading(h1) of your post is the “title” you put into the title bar at the top of the page where you write your post on WordPress. (It is also the page titles of the pages on a site. But I won’t digress to that in this post.) In the image below “Leanne Cole Offers Lesson for Street Photographers” is the title. It’s of utmost importance that the most defining words (the search words) of your post appear in this title line. This is the top hierarchy for the bots. This title bar creates an “h1″ level heading. In the search algorithm, the number one thing the searching bot looks for is h1 content. H1 content is brief – generally the title. (So, you can’t change your whole content to h1! To do that would probably be looked upon as spamming!)
SEO post title sample

 

Often as you write a post, if you are thinking about SEO (and you should be if your site’s purpose is to promote your business), you’ll change to more targeted and succinct titles (h1 content). To help you understand refining your h1 content, let’s say you decided to change the title above to something even more focused on searchability. So, you might changed it to: Street Photography Lessons by Leanne Cole.

A WP tip: If you change the heading at any point while you are preparing a post, be sure you edit it in the line just below the title bar. To do so, click on the Edit button. The text that now shows (in the image below) in yellow will turn to blue. Copy the text in your title bar and paste it into the edit bar, replacing what was there.

So, before (as you change the title/h1):

SEO post h1 edit in WordPress

And after:

SEO post h1 title change

Then press OK. WP automatically puts the whole title in lowercase and adds the dashes between the words so that you don’t have to. But read it to be sure it’s correct. You should make a habit of checking this bar before you Publish your post to be sure it’s accurate. It is the most important SEO content in your post.

NOTE: While I’m on the topic of headings, do you see that Paragraph bar in the first image above – it’s in the lower row all the way to the left in the tool bar? If you click on the down arrow next to Paragraph, you’ll see all your heading choices.

It will look like this:

Wordpress dropdown menu for headings

These options are not just about the font look. Anything you change to heading 1 (h1), heading 2 (h2), heading 3 (h3), etc. will set a hierarchy of search importance. So, you might make a short subheading (one or two brief sentences) in h2, placed as your first paragraph in the post body area. It would be made up of content that includes the next most important keywords that are not in your title (h1), though it might also repeat the content of your title. Unlike the writing we were taught in school, in blog writing you should repeat your key words and phrases in the most natural way you can. For this post example Leanne might add an h2 that reads: I’m offering a Street Photography lesson in Melbourne this Saturday, September 21, 2013, at noon.”

Part 2 of this topic will be published by Leanne next week.

It will cover 3) labeling your photos.

Please let me know if you have questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

mary-mcavoy-syntax-and-style

Mary McAvoy is an author and photographer. She owns Syntax and Style, a business that specializes in the web presence of writers and photographers. Mary’s been blogging since 2007.

Her sites are:

sublime days – where Mary writes about all sorts of things and shares about her writing and her books

The Ripest Pics – Mary’s photography site

MaryMcAvoy-Photography – Mary’s photography-for-sale site (hosted by Fine Art America)

SilverLining-MaryMcAvoy – Mary’s photo-blog about a pond in New England

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