Friday, 11 November 2011

A Few "Search Engine Optimization" Tips for Photographers

As a photographer that wants to build a presence online you have it tough when it comes to achieving a noticeable ranking in search engine results. There are so many competitors out there trying to get to the same clients, if you are not doing the right things to be seen… you’re sunk. By that I mean, if you are not on the first page of a search return, chances are you will never be found by that potential client.

As a photographer that has worked in the online community for the better part of the last decade I have seen the advancements in search engines capabilities in ranking websites based on relevance to the search term entered. And I even scratch my head at times, so, I cannot imagine the frustration some of you out there are feeling.

I thought I would post this blog entry to help you look at the basic things you can do today to help your images be seen by more potential clients.

Image Keywords
Search engines do not see images; they read descriptive text that describes what a photo is. Therefore it’s important that you make sure you give your images three things when describing the image. Detail, location and relevance. Place yourself in the shoes of a searcher looking for something. Be as descriptive as you can. Here is a photo and a few samples of keyword phrases to show what I mean
a) Falling down pier – short tail, hard to rank for
b) Falling down pier on lake Ontario – longer tail, added location
c) Falling down pier on lake Ontario at Fifty Point Conservation area at sunrise – extremely long tail, but covers three phrases

For the first keyword, the chances of being seen are going to be difficult. For the longer tail keywords, you can expect less traffic, but more relevant searches, and thus lower bounce rates for potential visitors to your site, and people are more likely to actually want to buy the image they find. For the third example you are covering a couple of bases: “falling down pier”, “pier on Lake Ontario” and “Lake Ontario at fifty point conservation area at sunrise”.

Once you have worked out the keywords to use, it’s time to work out where on your web page the keywords should go.

Your URL
This is often over looked, but can have a positive impact on your SEO initiatives. Take a look at the company you registered your URL with. See how long you can register the URL for. The longer the better. Don’t do it a year at a time. The longer you register the URL the search engines will give you the benefit that they interpret your long term commitment to the site.

Remember, they want to return the most relevant results when someone searches on their site. If you can show them that you intend to operate your site for a long time, chances are they will determine that your content is more relevant to the search performed.

Page Speed:
Much has been talked of regarding how to improve page speed of a website and there are thousands of useful articles available on how to reduce page loading time. You need to set expiry date against the images and other files known as leverage browsing cache, use CSS Sprite, compress JavaScript, externalize CSS files and other different sort of things to speed up the website. There is a remarkable tool there to help you in this process. It is known as GOOGLE PAGE SPEED ONLINE. Just put in the exact URL and you will get all the details you are looking for and it offers a quality score to improve on.

How to name the images
It’s been recognized within SEO that file names can have an impact on results. This is reflected too within search engine optimization for images. Use dashes rather than underscore to separate keywords in the file name. This comes straight from Google. Follow the same strategy for your image naming convention. Don’t go overboard with the number of keywords in your image, otherwise it’s going to be considered spam by the search engine crawlers.

I wouldn’t put any more than five relevant keywords built up as a phrase in an image name. If you need to describe it more, use the ALT or title tags to do so.

Tagging
Tagging photos is something that many of you will be familiar with. If you are using WordPress for a photoblog, then the natural thing to do is to tag the photo with “falling pier”, “lake Ontario” etc.

Flash
Flash is not a good idea if you are trying to get your images properly indexed. If you must use it, I’d recommend offering an alternative for Google, but if you can implement your site using jQuery for the flash type effects instead, you stand a better chance in the Search Engine Result. Standard issue HTML will always win against a site which uses Flash, simply because even though Google can read flash content, it can’t parse out ALT and TITLE tags while flash is enabled.

Cross site linking
You can’t really talk about SEO in any capacity without talking about cross site linking strategies. If you can link heavily within your site to other pages using the keywords as the link text, then this will improve your images chances of being found. For those of you who don’t know already – link text is the text which is underlined e.g. falling pier

Don’t be tempted to link directly to the image itself, remember that no tags exist when you link to an image directly, so Google isn’t able to work out what the image is about.

Blogging
Basically, a blog is a website with content arranged in chronological order. Once set up, a blog is easy to publish as you don't need any HTML / web coding skills. Blogs have a fill-in-the-blank interface where you enter your content. Then you click a "Publish" button and presto, your new content is automatically converted into HTML code and published to a viewable page.

Here's where search engine optimization comes into play. By default, blogs do many things well that can help them earn search engine ranking. In many cases, blogs can achieve solid ranking faster than regular websites. A blog is easier to publish than a regular website, so you can post content to it more often. Search engines like websites with frequently updated content.

A general rule of thumb is to publish something to your blog at least once a week.

Enjoy watching your website traffic grow!

Kev