Some Questions Answered Before We Begin
“Search engine optimization is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine” – Wikipedia
Being the top result for specific keywords is essentially have 24/7 round-the-clock promotion for your business. SEO can be an effective way to influence purchasing decisions by providing valuable content to a prospective client. This in turn increases your trust and authority which may result in them reaching out to you and ultimately hiring you as their wedding photographer.
The answer to this question will depend on your choice of keywords and what other wedding photographers and wedding-related businesses are doing. For example, for the keyword ‘wedding photographer Toronto’, use a tool like ahrefs to spy on what the top ranking sites are doing in terms of content creation and replicate.
Both. However, do your research into which marketing channel has been the most effective at converting into paying customers. If Instagram has consistently brought in the bulk of your income, then by all means, continue investing your time and resources into getting the most conversions from it. But at the same time, do not neglect basic technical and on-page SEO when Instagram rolls out any changes that will negatively impact on your audience reach.
The fundamentals of improving web page visibility remain the same, however, there area a few things that are unique to wedding photography websites that the majority of SEO advice ignore.
Top 10 Wedding Photographers (In The World) Have Their Websites Audited
Instagram is probably one of the most popular platforms where prospective customers are lurking. As is Facebook. But reaching these people is difficult.
I wanted to see how various ‘popular’ wedding photographers in the world were faring in terms of search engine optimization. In particular, I wanted to see if there were any correlations between their popularity and their visibility in search engines.
I had a hunch that popular wedding photographers do not invest in search engine optimization and I set out to review their organic keywords performance in relation to on-page and technical SEO.
From my findings, it appears as though SEO was not a priority for these sites. The majority of their organic traffic were the result of having significant brand awareness. This can be correlated to the high number of brand term searches rather than relying on organic visitors from commercial terms.
The most common issues found were:
- Favoring images over descriptive text, especially on the homepage, which prevents search engines from easily understanding what the site is about and thus limiting the ability for web pages to rank for relevant commercial keywords.
- Poor understanding of how keyword research ties in with strategic content creation.
- .Keyword cannibalization
- Misunderstanding the role of blogging has in increasing web page and overall website organic visibility in SERPs.
- Not optimizing for site speed (based on mobile indexing).
- Not following basic image SEO (descriptive filenames and alt image tags).
How The Sample Population Was Chosen
Perhaps the most contentious aspect about this study will be how I chose the 10 best wedding photographers.
There’s no such thing as the ten best wedding photographers in the world – well, not definitively anyway.
Photography, much like art, is entirely subjective. And when it comes to the discipline of wedding photography, much of how we compare wedding photographers can often come down to how much money your clients throw into the location, styling, decor etc. All you have to do is look at Instagram to see which posts get the most viral engagement.
So for the purpose of this audit, I simply collated the list of 10 best wedding photographers in the world from two data sources: Harpers Bazaar and Junebug Weddings. I then picked them based on my own subjective taste and for diversity inclusions.
The 10 wedding photographers that ended up in my audit are:
- James Day
- Someplace Wild®
- Tali Photography
- IKSRA Photography
- Jose Villa
- Cinzia Bruschini
- Inta Photography
- Corinna & Dylan
- Patina Photo
SEO Audit: Methodology
For each of the 10 wedding photography websites, I examined the following areas: (i) technical SEO, (ii) on-page SEO, and (iii) off-page SEO.
Technical SEO refers to checking for and rectifying any issues on a website that may prevent Google from accessing your web pages, understanding what each web page is about, and promoting it in its search engine result pages (SERPs). This usually means looking for crawling and indexing errors.
Before a search engine can rank a web page, it must first be able to access it. In SEO, this stage is called crawling and crawl bots such as Googlebot are responsible for going into websites and seeing what pages are available/acessible.
Just as a book is entered and indexed into a library catalog, search engines do the same thing. Think of the internet as an ever expanding library of web pages.
Indexation is critical as not being indexed in Google = no ranking.
Common reasons for why Google isn’t indexing your site according to Neil Patel’s blog post include improper noindex meta tags, being manually deindexed by Google, and/or blocking crawlers via robots.txt (intentionally or otherwise).
Next, I used ahrefs Site Explorer to see what keywords each website ranks for. Using the keywords pulled from ahrefs, I excluded brand terms and looked for keywords that were under-performing or missing.
Using Screaming Frog SEO Spider, I scraped each wedding photography website to see a full list of their URLs.
Specifically, I looked for error codes (404, 5XX, 302 redirects) and how the site was structured. In the screenshot above, clean permalinks can be seen (which is a good thing).
Using the same crawl results, I then looked at basic on-page SEO elements such as page title length, keyword use in page titles, uniqueness of page titles and meta descriptions, alt image text, and the use of <h1> <h2> and <h3> tags.
If you’re interested in knowing what on-page SEO elements you should have, this article by Brian Dean is a great resource.
Screaming Frog also has a panel dedicated at identifying meta keywords.
Once upon a time (pre-2009), meta keywords were a ranking signal but it no longer has any positive value. Google, Yahoo! and Bing have all stated that their search algorithm ignores meta keywords.
Some marketing professionals believe that having meta keywords can have an negative impact, theorizing that Google may penalize web pages with this meta tag.
Gary from Google, back in 2017 replied the following:
I have no evidence to support whether meta keywords have a negative impact. But to be on the safe side, I suggest removing keyword meta tags.
Halfway through the site audit, I realized manually analyzing Screaming Frog results was taking way too much time. So I went ahead and subscribed to a crawling SaaS called Site Bulb. This gave me much easy results and data points.
I also examined each website according to its page speed using GTmetrix and Google’s PageSpeed Index. This is because ever since July 2018, Google has made mobile page speed a ranking factor and specifically for wedding photography websites (where they typically have many high quality images), there are certain implications that need analysis.
The goal of page speed optimization is not to achieve perfect scores, but rather, to improve user experience.
Potential customers searching for wedding photographers are typically more willing to wait for pages to load because they know that wedding photography websites are image heavy.
As far as I know, Google does not penalize ‘slow’ websites. It hasn’t provided a benchmark for what a fast or slow page load is. But it has stated that its Speed Update,
“will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.”Google Webmasters Blog, 2018
With that said, page speed optimization should be a top priority for wedding photographers because more engaged couples are using Instagram to do visual research and then hop onto corresponding websites in search for critical business information such as pricing and contact information.
In my testing using GTmetix, I chose the closest geographic server to the photographer.
I also looked at each site’s organic traffic – an estimation provided by ahrefs because I do not have access to their analytics.
The organic traffic graph (pictured above) provides an easy visual representation of whether website visits have been on an upward/downward/stagnating trend. Similarly, the organic keyword graph is quite telling as well.
Another thing I checked for was whether each site had implemented the secure version of HTTP. This is because security is a top priority for Google and according to this Google Webmaster article, HTTPS is a ranking signal (since 2014).
Last of all, I used ahrefs to take a look at the backlink profile of each site. I hypothesized that the more popular a wedding photographer is, the more backlinks they would have acquired across time – either through manual submissions to wedding publications or picking up mentions naturally due to their brand reputation.
Specific to wedding photographers, backlinks can be features (i.e., when you submit a real wedding or styled shoot to a wedding blog and upon publicaiton, the site links to your website), can be mentions by other magazines (e.g., a roundup article on XYZ where they credit your image in the form of a link), and can be guest post articles.
In SEO, backlinks matter.
When a site receives multiple inbound links from niche-relevant authority websites, Google interprets these as signals of credibility of said site.
Therefore, I analyzed each wedding photography site for backlinks and compared it to their overall keyword performance.
SEO BLUEPRINT TRAINING
SEO Audit: Findings
1. James Day, NSW Australia
- Page titles were not keyword optimized.
- Out of 36 crawled URLs, only 3 had <h1> tags (read: over 90% of web pages did not have H1 tag).
- Of these three <h1> headings, none were keyword optimized.
- One 1 page out of 36 had a <h2> tag.
- Excluding for branded terms such as James Day, James Day Photography and James Day weddings, the best performing keyword for the entire site was ‘Australian wedding photographer’ – coming in position #9.
- Given the number of high quality referring domains (e.g, huffpost.com, flothemes.com, brides.com, fstoppers.com), the site is not ranking at its potential.
- 97% of all crawled pages did not have meta descriptions.
- 12 images were larger than 500kb in file size.
- Two instances of 404 errors found.
- Site performs poorly in mobile speed testing (see below screenshots).
- Images do not have descriptive titles.
- Images do not have alt image text.
- 2 broken internal URLs.
- Noindex URL in XML Sitemaps.
- Some blog posts have zero keywords attributed to them.
Things the site did well: (1) have a high number of authoritative and relevant referring domains, (2) the majority of images were compressed, (3) no meta keywords, (4) URL structure were clean, and (5) HTTPS protocol implemented with correct 301 redirect for HTTP/HTTPS and www and non-www URLs.
2. Terralogical, Bali Indonesia
- Homepage does not have a <h1> tag.
- Of the 122 web pages crawled, 120 of them had duplicate <h1> tags.
- 14 pages have duplicate <h1> tags.
- Meta keywords found on all pages.
- The most relevant keyword that the site ranks for is ‘bali wedding photographer’ – currently position #26 despite the site having a high number of authoritative and industry relevant referring domains.
- Most (if not all) images are missing alt tags.
- Pages are very thin on word count.
- 63.2% of all organic traffic is due to branded searches rather than commercial terms and long tail keywords.
- Most pages are not ranking for any relevant keywords even though the page titles suggest an attempt has been made to target a specific keyword.
- Evidence of keyword cannibalization seen in multiple page titles targeting the keyword ‘destination wedding’.
- 123 web pages with <head> containing a <noscript> tag, which includes an image.
- Also, 123 instances of the <head> containing invalid HTML elements.
- Homepage has a total size of 21.9MB, according to GTmetrix, 6.5s is needed to fully load the homepage, and even slower for 3G connections.
- 12 internal links with no anchor text.
- Site speed has not been optimized for mobile users according to PageSpeed Index.
- 109 pages with total page sizes too big for 3G connections.
- Some meta descriptions exceed the recommend length of 160 characters.
- 11 images over the size of 1MB were found (with the largest image exceeding 12MB).
- Homepage does not have keywords that convey to crawlbots what the site is about.
Things the site did well: (1) have a high number of authoritative and relevant referring domains, (2) URL structure was clean, (3) HTTPS protocol implemented with correct 301 redirect for HTTP/HTTPS and www and non-www URLs, (4) absence of 404 errors or 302 redirects, and (5) most page titles attempted to include a target keyword.
Learn to master keyword research, how to extract insights from your competition, and get the exact tasks you need to do in order to rank.
3. Someplace Wild®, New York City USA
- Many page titles, whilst unique, exceed 160 characters and are being truncated in SERPs.
- Some pages have more than one <h1> tag.
- Many pages are missing a <h1> tag.
- 15 pages are missing meta descriptions.
- Image file names are not descriptive.
- Whilst some images have descriptive alt tags, many are duplicates of their filename.
- According to PageSpeed Index, the site has some significant page speed issues.
- 36 page titles are direct duplicates of each other.
- 4 pages have duplicate meta descriptions.
- 541 instances where the <h1> tag is empty.
- 1 instance where a canonical points to an URL that is an error.
Things the site did well: (1) clean URL permalinks, (2) target keyword placed at the front of page titles, (3) is ranking well for wedding venue based keywords, and (4) some very good referring domains are linking back to someplacewild.com.
4. Tali Photography, Germany
- Excluding for brand terms such as tali photos and tali photography, the best performing keyword for the site is ‘san luis lodge’ – in position #15 – a site with so many wedding blog features should be ranking a lot higher.
- Similarly, for the target keyword ‘wedding photography Mallorca’, the site is ranking in position #27.
- 5 internal links result in 404 error.
- Meta keywords found on 59 pages.
- 3 URLs with duplicate <h1> tags.
- 3 URLs with duplicate page titles.
- Descriptive image file names not implemented.
- Evidence of keyword cannibalization (refer to above screenshot)
- 3 image files exceed 1MB.
- 2 URLs with duplicate meta descriptions.
- 20 pages with a total page size too big for 3G connections.
- 5 Not Found (4XX) URLs in XML Sitemap
- 16 page titles are at risk of being truncated in SERPs (e.g., homepage has a title length of 194 characters)
Things the site did well: (1) good mixture of relevant referring domains and backlinks, (2) site is on an upward trend for organic keyword ranking, and (3) keywords have been incorporated into page titles.
5. ISKRA Photography, Iceland
- There is a robots.txt rule disallowing some search engines from crawling this site.
- 100% of page titles are over 60 characters in length and are truncated in SERPs.
- 3 instances of internal 307 redirects.
- Meta keywords found.
- Missing <h1> tag missing on 36 web pages.
- Page title wording suggest keyword cannibalization.
- Ahrefs Site Explorer reveals multiple internal pages are competing for the same keywords (e.g., Iceland wedding photographer, Iceland photographer, Georgia photographer, Iceland elopement).
- All meta descriptions are duplicates of the same text.
- No alt tags found (let alone descriptive alt tags for important images).
- With the exception of the homepage, page titles are not been keyword optimized.
- Non-www/www page redirects are not configured – high risk of content duplication.
Things the site did well: (1) HTTPS protocol implemented with appropriate redirect, and (2) solid link acquisition from highly relevant and authority wedding sites.
SEO BLUEPRINT TRAINING
6. Jose Villa, Santa Barbara USA
- The homepage for josevilla.com is a splash page (as seen in the above screenshot)
- As such, there is a complete lack of crawlable and indexable information at all for search engines to see and interpret
- The bulk of page titles were not keyword optimized at all
- Multiple URLs consistently repeat the words ‘fine art engagement photography’ and ‘fine art wedding photography’.
- Only one web page appears to have had some on-page SEO carried out.
- Some pages are missing meta descriptions altogether.
- Excluding for brand terms (Jose Villa, josevilla), the site’s top performing commercial term is ‘fine art wedding photography’ – in position #2 – but the URL goes to an about page. The same page ranks in #3 position for ‘fine art wedding photographer’.
- The keyword the site wants to rank for (‘Santa Barbara wedding photographer’) is in position #30.
Things the site did well: (1) clean URL permalinks, (2) has an insane amount of referring domains – most highly relevant to the industry, and (3) has HTTPS implemented including www and non-www redirects.
7. Cinzia Bruschini, London UK
- No HTTPS.
- Homepage does not have a H1 tag and/or keyword optimized H1 tag.
- URL permalinks and corresponding page titles suggest limited keyword research.
- High number of referring domains are from low quality sites suggest questionable off-page SEO.
- Similarly, web pages other than the homepage are not ranking for any keywords at all.
- Almost half of all pages (47%) do not have meta descriptions.
- Some target keywords seem to have been applied to page titles, however, no written content on actual web pages make it very difficult for search engines to understand what the page content is about (and subsequently how best to relate it to searchers).
- As such, as seen in the above screenshot, the site has very few ranking keywords.
Things the site did well: (1) reasonable PageSpeed Index result (59/100), (2) below 2-second fully loaded time as reported in GTmetrix, and (3) one of the only sites on this list that have attempted link acquisition outside of wedding blog features.
8. Inta Photography, Riga Latvia
- No H1 tag found on homepage and/or no keyword optimized H1 tag found on homepage.
- 34.8% of web pages did not have a H1 tag.
- 100% of crawled pages (23) were missing meta descriptions.
- Nearly half of all page titles exceed the recommended character length of 65.
- 17 broken internal URLs.
- Same 17 Not Found 404 URLs in XML Sitemap.
- Site has decreasing search engine visibility across multiple countries and keywords.
Things the site did well: (1) all page titles were filled out, (2) some URL permalinks match with keywords used in H1 tags, (3)
9. Corinna & Dylan, NSW Australia
Out of all the sites, this one had the best on-page SEO (as demonstrated in SERP position and ranking keywords for individual pages).
- 16 instances where the base URL is malformed or empty.
- 61 instances where <head> contains invalid HTML elements.
- 48 noindex URLs in XML Sitemap.
- Links out to 6 broken external links.
- Inbound links point to homepage rather than target URLs.
- 73% of page titles are truncated in SERPs.
- Keyword cannibalization is preventing high quality content from having more SERP visibility.
- Some commercial keywords (e.g., ‘wedding photographers Canberra’) have been falling in rankings since the beginning of 2019.
- 18.9% of web pages are missing meta descriptions.
- 83.8% of pages have multiple H1s.
- Some page titles do not incorporate target keyword(s).
- Images do not have clean attachment URLs.
- Keyword stuffing in alt tags.
- Important content pages are thin on long tail keywords.
Things the site did well: (1) ranking in top 10 positions for a range of commercial terms that reflect an understanding of the buyer’s journey, (2) URLs are clear and short, and (3) frequent inbound links from wedding blog features.
10. Patina Photo, New Zealand
- Web pages have beautiful images but have zero crawlable unique text to help search engines to promote it.
- H1 on homepage is not keyword optimized.
- 214 pages have duplicate H1s.
- 8 pages share the same page titles.
- Excluding for brand searches (i.e., Patino), search engine visibility is mostly page 2 and beyond.
- 273 instances where <head> contains invalid HTML elements.
- 273 instances where the base URL is malformed or empty.
- 34 pages are orphaned and cannot be found by crawlbot.
- Poor PageSpeed Index results.
- 2 URLs share the exact HTML content (these happen to be T&Cs and can be noindex-ed).
- Page titles are not keyword optimized.
What This Means For You
Thank you for coming this far with me but the next few paragraphs are probably the most important ones to read. So don’t leave just yet!
So what does all this mean to you?
1. Even if you’re not a rockstar wedding photographer, don’t worry – there is hope!
As a past wedding photographers for 9+ years, I know that it can feel absolutely soul-crushing at times. Even when you put effort into posting your favorite work on Instagram and write an authentic caption – you get a handful of likes.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
But if there is one thing you can take away from this audit it is that most wedding photography sites do not even have basic on-page SEO down pat.
This means there is huge opportunity for you to crawl up in SERPs for relevant keywords.
Google is always going to show some non-paid search results. Therefore, there is always an incentive to strive to be on the first page for your money-making keywords.
I think one of the biggest SEO challenges for a wedding photographer is emotion.
Remember, Google doesn’t know how good a photographer you are. The search algorithm doesn’t care. Machine Learning can interpret certain things about an image but it cannot assign emotion and subjective taste.
So when it comes to on-page SEO, get writing! Pair great images with descriptive text!
Read this article if you want to know how to choose the best keywords for your business.
2. Keyword research is vital – do not skip it!
Like building a house, the foundation is key. The same applies to search engine optimization.
The foundation of SEO is keyword research.
Not only do you want to find out what keywords your prospective customers are typing into Google, keyword research is the first step to understanding what your customer wants. And once you know what they want, you can give it to them!
Sign up to my keyword research training course that I created just for wedding photographers so that you can dominate Google rankings!
Learn to master keyword research, how to extract insights from your competition, and get the exact tasks you need to do in order to rank.
3. All the wedding blog features don’t mean shit if you don’t get your on-page SEO in order
There was a specific reason why I chose popular or well-known wedding photographers. I knew that they would probably have a high number of wedding blog features and citations.
In SEO-speak, these are backlinks and as you have seen, over half of the audited sites each had impressive backlinks from major wedding-related websites.
Wedding blog features can be difficult to acquire and are time consuming. But as you have also seen, no matter how many high quality and highly relevant inbound links you receive, you cannot ignore fundamental on-page SEO.
Specifically for you, remember to:
- Include a keyword-optimized H1 tag per page.
- Include a keyword-optimized page title (preferably in less than 65 characters).
- Use clean URLs – also with keywords written into the permalinks (preferably towards the front of the URL).
- Use descriptive file names for images.
- Avoid keyword stuffing and duplicate alt image tags.
- Write at least 300+ words per page to take advantage of long tail keywords and to help search engines decipher what your page is about.
You may be feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
You may think getting all this SEO stuff will take forever to learn and implement.
SEO doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, follow these actionable steps in just a day and you will feel better about DIY search engine optimization.
4. Blog once-in-a-while but do so with purpose!
Many wedding photographers struggle with blogging.
It doesn’t have to be a struggle.
When I was a wedding photographer, I was blogging frequently but I was doing it all wrong. You may be making the same mistake too!
Each web page on your site should serve a particular goal to bring in new customers. Therefore, each page has a target keyword which then has an array of corresponding on-page elements to support the target keyword.
Blogging can help with you SEO but only if done correctly. You will need to do your keyword research beforehand in order to blog effectively for results.
You can find out more on strategic blogging here.
That’s A Wrap!
Did you find this helpful?
Did you learn anything new?
Let me know in the comments!
Check out my free DIY SEO guide for wedding photographers.
SEO BLUEPRINT TRAINING