The following article is a guest post by Zach Prez, an SEO expert with a series of books and workshops designed for photographers. The information presented in this article is written independently of SLR Lounge, and the accuracy of these methods have not been tested by SLR Lounge staff. However, we feel as if the information is relevant and useful for our readers; and as always, we welcome your comments below.
Hey, Zach Prez here to talk about a very specific piece of search engine optimization for blogs. Hopefully you already blog into the wee hours of the morning, describing your photo sessions in equisite detail in order to capture the fascination of potential new clients? New, is the operative keyword. I expect most photographers blog for their existing audience, but blogging with search engines in mind will quickly grow traffic by a factor of 10x. Your same 50 friends will no longer make up 90% of your traffic, but shift to make room for the 50% or more of traffic you should be getting from Google. Let those new clients become satisfied customers and then refer even more business.
I know making a shift to writing for search instead of your existing customers is a tough one to swallow. But keep this in mind. Potential clients don’t go looking for blogs to read. They search for a phrase and find a relevant result – a page talking specifically about the topic they searched. Google finds those topical pages by looking for similar phrases in the keywords of your page or post. All you have to do is get the keywords you think your users are searching for into your pages.
If you’re reading this post, I bet you already know a bit about search engine optimization (SEO). You may think you already know everything about keyword placement and are already doing it. That’s why I’ll focus this post on the last place I see photographers using their keywords. URLs. Google first looks for keywords in the page title, then second it looks to the URL. That’s right, URLs are more important for keyword placement than in the first paragraph of text, images, or even H1 tags. Blogs make it fairly easy to control URLs. I’ll show you how with this excerpt from my latest ebook, Blog SEO Zen for photographers.
Types of URLs
When a user searches for a phrase like Napa wedding photographer (broad keywords) or Ritz Hotel Napa wedding (specific niche keywords), one of the first places Google checks for those words is the URL of your blog page or post. There are 4 parts to a URL:
1. Subdomain name: myblog.blogger.com
2. Domain name: myblog.com
3. URL Path: myblog.com/category/post-name.html
4. Slug: myblog.com/category/post-name.html
Google devalues subdomains, which is a shared domain name. A blog using a free domain like mysite.blogger.com should immediately switch to use its own URL or face an extremely difficult time in ranking. The reason is that Google thinks a shared domain is not a serious blog site and may disappear from the web at any time, thus it won’t risk ranking that site in its results.
The domain tells Google and users the main focus of the blog. If your domain name is yourname.com, then Google assumes your site is about YourName, making it more difficult for you to rank for other keywords. A domain name is best suited toward broad keywords that you intend to rank for since those appear on all pages of the blog. Dashes (hyphens) are perfectly fine, telling Google “This is a space between keywords.” By the way, purchasing a domain with quality keywords to forward to another domain does not work.
The path to blog pages and posts are generated via a permalink structure. Permalink just means the permanent link or URL location for a blog page/post. Here are some of the ways a blog will generate the permalink structure for a blog post:
Day and name: myblog.com/2010/05/23/post-name.html
Month and name: myblog.com/2010/05/post-name.html
No post keywords are used in the default slug, and numbers meaningless to search are used in the paths of the other two. Ideally, the URL would include quality keywords in the path and the slug.
To change this in WordPress (sorry – not available in Blogger or Typepad) go to Settings > Permalinks and select the radio button for custom structure. Enter one of these:
The first one puts the post’s first category name into the URL path and the second one doesn’t. For example if your Ritz Carlton post was in a blog category called weddings, the URL would look like this:
Categories are a cool way to integrate keywords into the URL without having to think about it.
Note: By changing the permalink structure, all the URLs in the blog change. Links within your blog should continue to work, but anything linking to your old locations (like from other sites) will be broken. To avoid broken links you need to upload a file to your FTP server telling it the old URL and the new URL for each post on your blog. THis gets rather technical, so hopefully you have a developer who can help you out with that part.
Slugs are the keywords in a blog post that appear at the end of the URL, telling Google what the post is about before it even starts reading the text. Most blogs (like Blogger.com) create this automatically from the post headline, but you can click Edit to remove any unnecessary words so that you end up with about 3-7 words, separated with dashes, that describe your post using the best possible keywords for search (not a list of keywords). If you’re a Napa Wedding Photographer like Tinywater Photography, you might update your slug permalink like so:
Post Title: Ritz Hotel Beautiful Outdoor Reception in Napa
Default slug: ritz-hotel-beautiful-outdoor-reception-in-napa
New slug: ritz-hotel-outdoor-reception
So if your using WordPress, remember to update the keywords at the end of the URL to be useful. If you’re using Blogger or similar platform then use quality words at the beginning of the post headlines since they will automatically get added to the URL. Remember that changing the permalink will break any outside links pointing to the post (if you are going back to old posts). I would not advise editing this field for all existing posts, but develop it into standard practice moving forward.
Video Demo for the Above URL Updates
Every image has its own URL, often times helping that image to rank by itself at images.google.com, which can be a secret source of huge traffic for people searching for photos. The image URL also appears in the code of each page where that image is embedded. Using keywords in the URLs to your advantage helps both images and pages rank well, especially for a page that might have 10 posts on it, and 10 images per post – that’s now 100 key phrases in one spot!
Get keywords into the image URL by:
- Name the image file properly
- Change the default upload location for images
When Google sees hundreds of default named images on your site, it assumes your site is about nothing. Not good for search results. Help it visualize your photos with names like bride-holding-roses-at-ritz-hotel.jpg instead of img004.jpg. Simply describe the photo in the filename. No need to include broad keywords like Napa wedding photographer because your image/post will never rank for it, and when those start repeating across images it looks like spam to Google. Note: I would only make it standard practice to name images moving forward and not spend the time to go back, except for your most essential images and blog posts.
A step beyond a great filename, is choosing a great URL path where the image will live. If you manually upload your images through an FTP location and embed the location in your post, then just make sure your folder structure uses quality keywords in the folder names. If you’re just clicking the image icon to upload the image to your blog from your computer, figure out where that image is being held and if you can customize the location.
In WordPress under Settings > Miscellaneous you can see the default folder for uploading images and change it to a folder that has keywords in the name.
Using the two recommendations above, my future images will change:
- From napa-photo.com/wp-content/uploads/image004.jpg
- To napa-photo.com/wedding-photos/bride-holding-roses-at-ritz-hotel.jpg
A rockin’ update moving forward considering I post a hundred images a month.
Zach Prez provides photoblog SEO and template reviews. His ebooks and free photography SEO email class have helped hundreds of photographers improve their search engine position to grow their businesses.
Also by Zach Prez on SLR Lounge:
Understanding SEO (That Search Thing) – A Basic Starting Point for Photographers
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Backlinks!