Link Building Strategies

The next section might be the juiciest and most valuable section in this entire book. We’re going to review link building strategies in detail with specifics for the photography industry. While you can find SEO information all around the web, none will be this applicable and targeted to your photo business.

Overall Goals and Strategy

Before you jump the gun and start driving links to your site, let’s take a step back and plan an overall strategy.

First, think about which pages are most important on your site based on your keywords. Obviously, the home page is important because that focuses on your primary keyword. But what else are you trying to target? If your goal is to shoot more in specific cities or specific venues, then those would go on your high priority list. If you are focusing on specific genres or clientele, consider pages that feature those keywords as well. The goal is to come up with a plan within our link building strategy that helps those pages rank better in search results.

Avoid Relying Entirely on the “Trickle Down” Approach

What many website owners do is simply focus on driving links to the home page. This is what we call the “trickle down” approach (though this is not an official SEO term). In the “trickle down” approach, you’re simply driving all links to the home page; and the Page Rank trickles down to the rest of the pages on your site.

While it is important to drive the majority of your external links to your main page, this “trickle down” approach will have its limitations. If the “niche” keywords that you are targeting on your individual pages are competitive, this trickle down approach may never drive enough Page Rank for that page to succeed in search results.

Drive Links to Individual Pages

It’s important to drive some external links to some of these individual pages as well. This is known as “deep linking.” Doing so will help those individual pages rank higher quicker than the “trickle down” approach. Page Rank will also flow up to the home page and over to other pages on your site as well (via the links on the page), so you’re not entirely neglecting the home page or other pages.

General Rule of Thumb – Drive the majority of your external links to your home page, but also be sure to drive some links to other important pages as well.

As you review the strategies in this section, you will discover opportunities to get multiple links from a single site. When you find those opportunities, consider linking to your home page first and then find a way to link to other pages as well.

Set a Schedule

Google loves “fresh” links. Having new links point to your site is a sign of continued relevance. So be sure to plan and even schedule your strategy so that your efforts are consistent. Once a week or once a month is recommended in the beginning. And even down the road, engaging in link building practices every few months or so is recommended.

Vendor Networking

A great way to drive links to your site is to simply network. As a photographer, this is actually very easy because, after every shoot we have something valuable to offer – the images from the shoot.

Create an email that outlines your rules for image usage and send it out, along with a few select images, to everyone involved in the shoot. Require that they link back to your site in order to use the images and there you go! You now have targeted, local, related; and most importantly, legitimate links coming into your site.

Advanced Tip – While you’re shooting, snap a couple extra pictures of the vendors involved. Capturing an in-action shot of the makeup artist or DJ can benefit you in many ways. First off , they’ll really appreciate the images and potentially send you referrals. Secondly, they may use your images on their site, which, of course, you would allow ONLY if it came with a link to your site.

Example Email

Dear [INSERT NAME]:

It was wonderful working with you for [INSERT EVENT NAME]! We just wanted to let you know that we’ve blogged the event and given you credit for your amazing work.

Blog Entry: [insert blog entry link]
Facebook: [insert Facebook post link]
[insert any other links where you shared the event]

We hope you have the chance to share these links with your fans! Also, feel free to take any of the images on the blog entry and use them for your own blog. The only thing we require is that you link back to [insert your URL] any time these images are displayed on your site.

Also, here are a few pictures that we took of your wonderful team. [ATTACH PICTURES]

We hope to work with you again and please let us know if you’re ever in our area.

Sincerely, [INSERT STUDIO NAME]

Action Steps & Recap

  1. Create an email template for your vendors with the policies of your image use.
  2. Add the important step to your workflow of emailing all vendors involved in the shoot with the information and the images.

This strategy is not for everyone. Some photographers are very protective of their images and believe that anyone using them should be paying. Or perhaps some think that if the images are distributed, they would lose out on print sales or increase the chance of their images being stolen. While there might be some truth to these fears, the SEO, networking, and referral benefits far outweigh the risks for most photographers.

Guest Writing to Build Links

In 2014, Google cracked down on a few popular guest blogging networks for abusing the practice of guest blogging for links. However, if you guest blog with caution by using the right websites and the right content, this can be one of your best link building strategies.

There are a ton of popular photography websites that accept submissions. Submitting an educational tutorial to SLR Lounge, Fstoppers, or DIY Photography. net is a great start.

Note: For more information on guest writing for SLR Lounge, go to slrlounge.com/guest-writing.

These are all popular blogs that are directly related to your profession, which means each link is valuable for your website. Additionally, their large reach makes their content commonly referenced and shared. So excerpts from your article may end up in more web pages than just one, with more links pointing to your website.

More than Just Links

Besides gaining a valuable link or two, Guest blogging can boost your standing and reputation in the industry. Photography is a unique industry where the students can quickly become the teachers. Teach others how you got a particular shot. Tell the community how you cut time from your post production workflow. Give 10 tips on your specific type of photography. Review your latest gear purchase. Don’t feel like you must have years and years of experience to start teaching others. Share what you do know and what you are learning.

List of Photography Websites that Accept Guest Submissions

Though many of these sites may not have official guest submission procedures of policies, if you have a good enough article idea, you can likely get accepted onto any of these sites. It doesn’t hurt to get in touch and try!

Think Beyond Photography

Think specifically about your industry and consider guest writing for indirectly related websites. If you’re a real estate photographer, for example, connect with some real estate blogs or real estate agents if they have good web presence. Remember to gauge their web presence based on their Page Rank, Alexa, and other tools we have shown you.

If you’re a fashion photographer, then online fashion magazines might publish your opinions in an editorial piece. Even think locally! Maybe the local paper, university, or charitable organization has opportunities for guest blogging.

Action Steps:

  1. Contact 3-5 blogs to inquire about submitting a guest post
  2. Set a Guest Posting Schedule (weekly, monthly, etc.)
  3. Continue adding to your list of blogs and submitting guest posts.

Get Featured to Build Links

Getting featured is similar to guest blogging except instead of sharing your thoughts and experiences, you share your work. Think about popular online publications in your niche and see if they accept submissions to get featured.

For example, in the wedding industry, websites like Green Wedding Shoes or Ruffled Blog are powerhouses in terms of traffic, popularity, and SEO importance. Links from these websites can help you climb the ladder of rankings for wedding photography.

While the wedding niche has the most websites that accept submissions, continue to search for websites that are most applicable to your photography niche. Start with a Google search for “[INSERT YOUR INDUSTRY] Blog.” The search results should give you a good starting place.

Websites to Submit To:

 

Action Steps:

  1. Make a list of target sites
  2. Obtain their submission rules
  3. Set a schedule to submit

Register for Directories to Build Links

Generally, you want to avoid most web directories. If you’re simply paying for placement on a website that contains thousands of links to other websites in every category on the web, then that link will be of little to no value to your site. On the other hand, if the web directory is actually useful to its users and receives traffic from people (and not just bots), then you may want to consider getting a listing with it.

Ask yourself these general questions:

  • Does this directory relate to photography? If so, consider it.
  • Does this directory have recurring fees? If so, then you most likely should NOT list. Reasonable one-time fees are okay but remember, one of the major goals for SEO as a photographer is to invest time and effort so that you do not have to rely on paid services. Your recurring fees are likely better spent on other forms of direct advertising. There are certainly exceptions, but this is a general rule.
  • Will this listing be of value beyond SEO? If so, consider listing. Google is always coming up with new ways to cut off benefi ts from unnatural links. If you see value in the listing, there’s a good chance Google sees value in it as well. If you don’t, then it’s probably not a sustainable source of quality links.

Consider some “nofollow” listings

Listing in directories with “nofollow” links can still be useful because some have the traffic and relevance to lead directly to business. For example, wedding photographers should start accounts with sites like Weddingwire, Project Wedding, Snap Knot and others. Fashion and Fine Art photographers should strongly consider listing with Model Mayhem and Behance. Other industries should have similar listings.

Even though you may not get many SEO benefits from these “nofollow” links to your site, we still recommend that you list your business on them since they may lead to direct sales. Additionally, these listings will help with your local SEO, which we’ll cover in the Local SEO chapter.

Commenting to Build Links

Commenting is not the most eff ective way to build backlinks. First off , most websites have the “nofollow” attribute for outbound links. And the very few that still don’t are usually flooded with so much spam that it’s only a matter of time before they delete most of their links, place a “nofollow” value on the links, or get designated by Google as a “spammy website.” If any of these happen, then the time you spent commenting will have been wasted and potentially damaging.

For those reasons, we advise against commenting for backlinks. However, there are those very rare sites that do not have the “nofollow” value on their links, yet they moderate enough to eliminate spam. If you do fi nd these sites, be sure to follow these guidelines:

How to NOT Spam

Many website owners are sensitive to comment spam. If your comments are marked as spam and the web owner has the service called Akismet installed on their website, you run the risk of being entered into a database of spammers and blocked from commenting on other sites using the same service. Needless to say, this is not good, so there are a couple best practices you should follow to avoid getting flagged.

Read Other Comments
If you take a look at the comments that were accepted onto the site, you’ll notice the type of anchor text and comments they allow. If all of the names you see on the links are free of keywords, it will be safest to stick to a real name as the anchor text. If all of the comments are really long and thoughtout, you should try to make yours the same in terms of length and quality.

Submit Great Insight – If you’re just saying “Great Post” or other generic statements, there is a good chance a webmaster will mark you as spam. Make sure to actually read the article and contribute with something of value.

Space Out Your Comments – If website owners see multiple comments from the same person within a short timeframe, those comments will draw more attention and be put under a microscope. This increases the likelihood of your comments being marked as spam.

Action Steps & Recap:

As a reminder, we do not generally recommend commenting for links. However, if you are fully aware of the risks and you have found sites that work for you, follow these action steps:

  • Start a document to track your list of “Dofollow” Blogs. Only include blogs related to photography that do not house “spammy” comments.
  • Set a commenting schedule for these blogs (weekly, monthly, etc.).
  • Continue adding and deleting blogs to refine the list.

Ask for Backlinks from Charities and Clients

Everyone needs photography, from charities to local businesses to academic institutions. Consider photographing events for local charities that need your services to spread awareness for their cause. Of course, you should not do this solely for backlinks; but if you’re already helping out, it makes sense to tactfully ask for a favor in return.

The same approach works for local businesses. If you’re already hired by a local restaurant, gym, real estate agency, insurance agency, or any other local business; why not tactfully ask them to give you link credit for your images on their site. For some clients, you may even build in a discount for your services as an incentive. With others, you might have a strong enough relationship to simply ask.

Actions Steps:

  • Brainstorm opportunities for link building among the organizations that you already support.
  • Ask your current clients with websites for backlinks.
  • Consider building in small discounts as incentives for backlinks.

Reviewing or Featuring Products for Backlinks

There are hundreds of product, service, and software companies in photography. Think about your own gear bag and workfl ow and you’ll realize how many diff erent companies you have supported over the years by buying their products. These might include:

  • Major Camera, Lens, and Lighting Makers
  • Tripod Makers
  • Radio Trigger Companies
  • Camera Bag Companies
  • Post Production Software
  • Album Design Software

The list can go on and on, but the point is that you’re using these products on a daily basis; and sometimes all it takes is a picture of you using the product or a testimonial for the product or service to get you featured on their website. Here is an example of a feature we received from the Pocket Wizard Blog:

free-backlinks

Action Steps:

  • Make a list of all of your gear and software
  • Study company blogs to see if they feature user reviews or testimonials.
  • Create your content. Take a picture of record a video of the product in use and/or write up your review.
  • Find the best contact person. This is usually their marketing manager.
  • Email the contact and remember to follow up if you do not receive a response.
  • If you are still not receiving a response, reach out via social media with Tags and Mentions (to be covered in the next book).

Bad Link Building Practices

Link building is not easy. It takes time, dedication and a unique strategy. As with anything diffi cult, there are always those who try to take shortcuts. Here is a list of shortcuts to avoid:

Do Not Buy Links

As tempting as it is to go onto sites like Fiverr.com and buy hundreds of links for the price of lunch, don’t do it! This is one of the quickest ways to hurt your SEO and waste money in the process.

Do Not Participate in Link Exchanges

Also known as reciprocal links, this practice involves placing a link on your site in return for a link on their site, creating reciprocal links. Google is quick to detect unnatural reciprocal links and penalize you for it. You won’t be penalized just because you are linking over to a site that happens to link over to you. However, just make sure it’s natural and in-context.

For example, if reciprocal links are found in the sidebar or footer of both sites, then that might be a sign of unnatural linking. However, if these links fit the surrounding content and they’re used within context, there is nothing suspicious and both sites benefit.

Do Not Build Links at Unnatural Rates

Google spiders are crawling the web nonstop. If one week you have hundreds of new links pointing to your site and the next week you have no new links, then your link building strategy might work against you because it seems unnatural. Remember, Google wants everything, including link building, to happen naturally, so your link building strategies should be consistent and sustainable.

Linking to and from Bad Sites

In SEO circles, this topic is called bad “link neighborhoods.” If you’re linking to or from spammy sites, you can get penalized.

Remove Comment Spam – Remove spammy links from your site. This includes in the body of your content as well as the comments.

Verify Use of Nofollow – It’s also important to ensure that you have the “nofollow” tag on comment links from your own site so that you’re not lending credibility to any potentially spammy sites. This is the default for most content management systems so there should be no action required on your part.

Get Removed from Spammy Sites – Sometimes a spammy site will link to your website without your approval. For example, you may have mistakenly hired a bad SEO company; and they may have bought spammy links as part of their strategy. If you’re somehow being backlinked by a spammy site, fi rst try to contact the website owner to request removal. If that doesn’t work, use the disavow tool in your Google Webmaster account, which we’ll cover in the bonus chapters.

Using Backlink Watch!

This is one of the most valuable sections of this entire book and one of our notso- well-kept secrets. There are many websites and services that allow you to input any URL; and from that, they generate a list of links to that site. Some charge monthly fees while others are free, like http://www.backlinkwatch.com/. The free services are limited in the number of results they show you, but they give you enough information to help you gain an understanding of any website’s backlinking strategies.

If you think about it, backlinks are like SEO footprints. By analyzing a competing website’s backlinks, you are able to track where they’ve been and what they’re doing to improve their search rankings. Type in a few of the URLs that rank well in your area for your keywords and see what you find.

Below is a sample screenshot of our blog linandjirsablog.com that shows you the following for each link:

  1. The Backlink URL
  2. The Anchor Text
  3. OBL (number of outbound links from that URL
  4. Flag (indicated nofollow when applicable)

backlink-checker

Analyzing these reports will give you new ideas and strategies for building backlinks. Here are some potential ideas that you can get from these reports:

Websites to submit to – Maybe the majority of a website’s backlinks are from industry specific websites like fashion blogs, wedding blogs, or specific religious websites. By checking out the source of these backlinks, you can find websites that accept submissions. Submit your work as well where appropriate.

Websites to comment on – Maybe you discover that a website has a lot of backlinks from comments left on other websites. Well now you are able to follow these links, analyze the quality of these links, and comment there as well if applicable. Remember to keep in mind the limitations of nofollow links and be sure to avoid being labeled as spam.

Directories to Submit to – These backlink watches will help you discover legitimate, valuable, relevant directories that you may consider submitting to.

Site to Guest Write for – The backlink watch process will help you discover popular websites on which you would want to post. We already mentioned submitting to SLR Lounge and other popular photography websites but there are thousands more out there that relate to photography, your related industry (wedding, fashion, etc.), and your specific location.

Partnerships to Make – By studying another website’s links, you’ll gain insight into the partnerships they’ve chosen to make. It might be worth exploring how you can make those same partnerships in your business.

Backlink Watch Limitations

Keep in mind that just because a website is doing well in search rankings, that doesn’t mean that all of their links are great ones. For example, maybe they’re paying for links or submitting to low quality directories or comment spamming. But maybe their positive SEO eff orts are simply outweighing some of these negative ones to still rank well. Do not simply dive into each scenario blindly and be sure to use the knowledge you’ve gained in this book to analyze each link.

Link Building Organization

To help keep your efforts organized, use an excel spreadsheet or Google Document. Create a different tab for each link building strategy that you decide to utilize.

We have created a sample spreadsheet for your convenience located here:

https://www.slrlounge.com/link-building-worksheet

Enjoy!

CHAPTER 1.01 – INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 2: 1.02 – SEO BASICS & KEYWORD STRATEGY

CHAPTER 3 1.03 – CREATING CONTENT

CHAPTER 4: 1.04 – SITE STRUCTURE

Chapter 5: 1.05 – ACCESSIBILITY, SPEED, AND DUPLICATE CONTENT

Chapter 6: 2.01 – LINK BASICS

Chapter 7: 2.02 – LINK VALUE FACTORS

Chapter 8: 2.03 – NOFOLLOW, RELATED LINKS, & ANCHOR TEXT

Chapter 9: 2.04 – LINK BUILDING STRATEGIES

Chapter 10: 3.01 – THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Chapter 11: 3.02 – MAXIMIZING SPECIFIC SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS

Chapter 12: 3.03 – MASTER LOCAL SEARCH

Chapter 13: 4.01 – Initial Decisions

Chapter 14: 4.02 – WORDPRESS AND SQUARESPACE

Chapter 15: 4.03 – GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Chapter 16: PAID DIRECTORIES

ACCESS TO INDUSTRY-LEADING EDUCATION

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