SEO for photographers part one

What is SEO?

It is simply getting found on a search engine (search engine optimisation). And as photographers, most of the time, the search engine we want to be found on is Google, so that is what I am going to talk about in a series of blogs. This, the first blog in the series, is all about initial research, which is essential before embarking on any SEO work.

So, how do I get to the top of Google?

This is a question I get asked a lot and it doesn’t have a simple answer. But I usually respond with two key questions. Without answering these questions most of your SEO work will be a waste of time.

What search terms do you want to appear in the Google search for?
In what geographical location do you want to appear in the Google search for?

Until you know these two things you cannot direct your SEO work. As photographers the search terms we would like to appear for and the geographical area are often relatively simple. You know where you live, how far you are willing to drive for work and the types of photography you offer.

Keyword and geography research

Once you have answered the questions above there is more research to do. Just going with what you have thought of off the top of your head is a bad idea. We need some data here to help us. There are a few things we need to know. We need to know
How competitive those search terms are?
How many searches per month are made on those search terms?
What is your domain score?
What is the Domain score of other websites appearing in the top ten entries in Google search?
How does all the information above vary for different geographical locations (except your domain score)?
To answer these questions we need to use an SEO tool such as Ahrefs, Google Ads keyword planner or Keywords Everywhere. These tools give detailed data on keyword search terms but unfortunately they are subscription based or in the case of Google Ads there is a minimum spend before you can access the data. A couple of free options for doing free keyword research are Google Trends and Google Search Console.

What does this research tell us?

The competitiveness of the search terms gives you an indication of how hard it is to be found for this search term. The higher the number the more competitive it is.
Searches per week is a vital metric. There is little point working hard to index for a search term that no-one is searching. You will not gain traffic, visitors, and customers, which is the point of the exercise. A few hundred searches per month upwards is good to aim for.
Your domain score is a number that gives the authority of your domain. The higher your domain score the easier it will be for you to get found for search terms on Google. Newish sites often have a very low domain score, 10 or below. For a small business like a photographer anything 15 and up is an OK domain score. Reaching 20 is good.
You can see what domain score other websites have that are appearing for your keywords. If your domain score is in a similar range as others ranking, this shows you have a good chance of ranking for those search terms too. If your domain score is well below others you might be best looking at other search terms, or, putting in some work to improve your domain score.
All of the above (except your domain score) will vary from place to place. So when you are doing your research try different locations. Try within local towns, also try using whole countries or even wider areas.

What are you already appearing in the Google search for?

If you have a new website you can ignore this you won’t be appearing in the Google search. If you have had your website for more than a few months you will have started to appear in the Google search. So as with the information above you can use tools to find out what keywords and phrases you are currently indexing for and in what geographical area. Google Search Console (a free tool provided by Google) is the best place to find this information. Just doing the search yourself is a bad way to do this, searches are highly personalised and your current location and past search history will effect what Google shows you.

What do we do with this research?

Once you have all of this information it’s time to decide what to do. Ideally you are looking for search terms in a specific area that are not too competitive, have a reasonable number of searches per month and where other websites appearing in Google have a domain score below yours or maybe a little higher. Remember with geography to not just pick geographic areas, but also use geography in the search term. For example you could look at “portrait photographer” in West Yorkshire, or you could look at “West Yorkshire portrait photographer” in West Yorkshire. Remember when doing the research the more options you can come up with the more likely you are to find a search term and area that works for you. If you are already indexing for some words and phrases, you want to see if they are right for you, and if you want to build on what you already have. For example by trying to get higher in the search for the same keyword, or by expanding for that keyword into new geographical areas.

What should I do if my domain score is substantially lower than other websites?

If you are finding your domain score is consistently lower than others for all the terms and areas you are interested in, then you need to work on improving your domain score. This is going to be covered in detail in another blog. One of the most important things you can do is get more links to your website. These are called backlinks.

Work gradually don’t aim too high initially

I am not saying don’t have grand goals with your SEO. But I am saying build slowly to those grand goals. If you have a brand new website and want to aim for “headshot photography” in London that is going to be almost impossible to do right away. So, make it a long term goal. In the shore term start to work on more niche search terms in smaller geographical areas. For example you might try “small business headshots” in Lewisham. And once that has been achieved start to expand to other areas and to less niche terms within Lewisham. Keep those big goals in mind, but start small and build towards them.
What next?

This blog has gone through all of the research you need to go through before you start any SEO work. Without this essential work your SEO work is almost bound to fail. In fact it will be almost impossible to say if it has succeeded or not as you won’t actually know what you are aiming for.

This blog is the first in a series on SEO.
SEO part 1 – This Blog

SEO part 2 – improving your website

Further SEO blogs, on the way