SEO is arguably the most sustainable and consistent form of lead generation for photographers (and most other small businesses). However, we often “put it off” until later because we don’t know where to start or what advice to follow. To make things simple and cut through the clutter, we’ve created this complete guide to SEO for photographers.  This article will dive into the key concepts and focus on common problems we’ve seen many photographers face based on the hundreds of website reviews and personal consulting sessions we’ve done. Here’s a brief overview of what we’ll cover:

For more in-depth information, we’ve also created a free guide called “Essential Photographer’s SEO and Website Checklist” that you can download for free.

Use Keywords with a Plan

planning seo

The first step to SEO is understanding keywords. Think of your keywords as the words or phrases someone is typing into Google to find pages on your site. Are they searching your genre + the word “photographer” + your city, i.e. “New Orleans Newborn Photographer?” Are they searching for related terms and stumbling upon your work like venues and locations, i.e. “Marriott Los Angeles Wedding”? The first step in understanding how to rank well is determining what you are trying to rank for. Start your plan with a list of terms you’re trying to rank for.

Let’s go through a couple of common mistakes in regards to keywords:

  • Each page should tackle a single keyword – So, for example, if you’re writing a page on the “wedding first look,” then you should focus on that keyword, using it a few times within the article organically and giving your readers a thorough explanation to satisfy the user intent of their search. What happens though, is that photographers sometimes try to force in other keywords like, for example, “Atlanta wedding photographer” into that page, which isn’t helpful and can be confusing. Keep your pages clear and organized so that the readers and Google can easily understand the topic of the content.
  • Each page should tackle a unique keyword – Related to the above, do not try to create multiple pages that tackle the same keyword. The result could be “keyword cannibalization,” when search engines have a hard time determining which page is most relevant to the user’s query, and as a result, both pages may rank lower than they would if there was only one page targeting that keyword.

Submit Your Sitemap

Sitemaps help Google crawl and understand the content on your site. If you’re using a good website builder like Format, your sitemap is automatically created. All you have to do is submit it. Click here for more info.

Focus on Local SEO

Many forget to put any effort into Local SEO for photographers, i.e. optimizing your website and online presence to appeal to customers in your geographic area and to appear in local searches. For small local businesses like photography studios, this is absolutely critical.

The process can seem daunting but it’s actually pretty simple to get started. It includes optimizing your website for local search engines, creating listings on related directories and review sites, and making sure your contact information is up-to-date and consistent across websites. By taking the time to optimize for local SEO, you can ensure that your business is visible to the people who are most likely to become customers rather than attracting views from people who aren’t in your area. To keep things simple, here are a few action items to complete if you haven’t already done so.

Action Steps

  • Sign up for Google My Business – If you could only take away 1 thing from this entire article, this would be the one, absolute, must-do action item.
  • Mention your city and region – On your home page and contact page, mention your city and region. You’d be surprised how many photographers don’t do this!
  • Use Consistent NAPs (name, address, and phone number) – Use the EXACT same name, address and phone number in all of your directory listings.
  • Sign up for recommended directories – Keep all of your information and images handy and just crank away at creating profiles for each of the directories listed. It may take a few hours but the results will be worth it over time.  See our recommended list here.

From there, continue outranking your competitors with targeted content and high quality backlinks, which will take time. However, just doing the steps mentioned above puts you ahead of many photographers and gives you a great starting point.

Create Enough Website Content

The next most common mistake I see photographers make is simply not having enough content on their website. How can a fisherman catch enough fish if he doesn’t have enough hooks in the water? Similarly, how can you get more organic search traffic without enough web pages to potentially appear in search results?

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Having enough content is critical to boosting your overall SEO rankings. And content is easier to create now more than ever with AI technology. Services like Jasper AI assist with SEO for photographers by automatically creating high quality, original content with simple prompts.  Alternatively, copywriters are more accessible than ever. Read more about how to create written content without any writing skills.

Here are some page ideas to get you started:

  • Preferred Venues/Shoot Locations (Read more about these)
  • Preferred Vendors (Read more about these)
  • Makeup and Wardrobe Guide
  • Gear and Equipment List
  • Answer FAQs your clients have
  • (We have a full list inside of our Business Training)

Balance Text and Images

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The next common mistake in SEO for photographers is common with many website templates and themes. Many of the most beautiful, image heavy themes and templates don’t leave much space for text content. Without enough text, it’s difficult to rank a page for a keyword. Search engines rely on signals to understand the page content and determine which search terms to rank the page for. Among others, these signals include things like the title of the page, the image names on the page, the URL (address) of the page, and yes .. the text on the page. While it IS possible to rank a page without much text, it’s an additional challenge that you have to overcome.

Action Steps:

Try to insert at least 500 words of text on your home page (and all other pages on your website). Within that text, include the keyword that you’re trying to rank the page for in an organic way a few times.

If the website theme/template you chose doesn’t allow for enough text on your homepage, consider changing themes or templates.

The next common mistake when it comes to SEO for photographers is not actively working to build backlinks. While it’s not reasonable to expect most busy photographers to connect with websites, write guest posts, and collaborate for the sake of backlinks, there are simple things you can incorporate into your existing workflow that will help you get backlinks.  For more information, see our complete article on link building for photographers.

  • Send out your images to related vendors and venues after each shoot – By providing the images, you will get some social media mentions, and every now and then, you’ll also get a link back if they decide to showcase your work on their website. Just be clear about your requirements for using your images.
  • Create Preferred Venue and Vendor Pages – Creating these pages on your website helps the venues and vendors that you include, and every once in a while, they’ll return the favor by including (and linking to) you as well.
  • Get your best shoots featured – Try to get your best work featured in relevant online publications for your photo niche or your local area.
  • Seek Ambassadorships with Brands You Use – Go through your list of gear and software and research ambassador opportunities with each of them, from your camera bags and camera straps to your Lightroom presets and other digital software. Most brands will list (and link to) their ambassadors.
  • Become a Writer – If writing interests you, consider applying to be a writer for a photography magazine like SLR Lounge, Fstoppers, DIY Photography, and others. Some of these have paid writing opportunities as well, so you can earn income while building up your website authority with backlinks.
  • Consider Wedding Maps Shameless plug alert! We started Wedding Maps to help photographers build their online presence and reputation. Wedding Maps takes the images submitted by their members and creates articles for websites around the web based on those images, mentioning and linking to their photographers’ websites.

Link Internally

As you write your content, be sure to reference and link related content. Besides being good for the user experience, linking from page to page allows the Google bots to crawl your site and index your pages. Also using the keyword which is the focus of the linked page in the hyperlink, will further reinforce the target topic of the linked-to page to Google, and help with rankings. Much like with everything else in SEO make sure you do not over-do your internal linking within content, and keep it modest and natural.

Follow Best Practices with Image Naming

The next mistake I see many photographers make is not renaming their images using keywords and related keywords. While Google AI is getting better and better at determining what an image is without the image names and alt text, it’s still important to give them as many signals and clues as possible to help rank your web pages in organic search results and your images in image search results. Here’s a brief overview of how you should be renaming your images.

  • Ideal Format: best-keyword.jpg
  • Example: wedding-first-look.jpg

When you have more than one image, start using keyword variations.  See these examples:

  • wedding-first-look-bride-groom.jpg
  • first-look-before-wedding-ceremony.jpg

To go one step further, include alt text with every image. Since this is getting a bit long, we’re not going to dig into this, but it’s a pretty simple concept that you can learn more about here.

More Info

The info in this article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO knowledge, but the actionable steps will undoubtedly yield positive results over time if you start taking action.  For a more comprehensive plan, be sure to check out our Complete Photography Business Training System in SLR Lounge Premium. And for help with building your online presence, links and mentions, be sure to check out Wedding Maps.