Why Search Engine Optimisation Should Matter To You
The way people search has changed, partly due to the evolution of search engines such as Google.
And make no mistake, Google is the market leader in terms of search engines. Since 1997, Google has dominated the search engine market, maintaining 89.95 percent market share as of January 2019.
On top of this, people now use Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram to plan their wedding, draw inspiration, and contact wedding vendors directly. But organic reach of these social media platforms is dwindling and more than ever, businesses are needing to pump advertising dollars into reaching prospective customers.
What does this mean for you as a wedding photographer today?
You can no longer ignore search engine optimisation.
Linked below is a must-watch video from Google I/O 2019. In this presentation, Martin Splitt and John Mueller mention a few key takeaways such as structured data (schema) and the implications of mobiLe-first indexing.
As a wedding photographer, what does this mean for you?
Where a physical shopfront with significant foot traffic was once the cornerstone of running a wedding photography business, all it takes to reach potential clients is to have a photography website and a range of social media accounts.
There are a number of ways to acquire new wedding photography clients.
There’s the age-old word-of-mouth referral marketing. This can come from past customers who recommend your business to their social circle or from fellow industry colleagues who want to support you. For example, florists, planners, makeup artist and venue managers are likely sources of industry-related recommendations (so build real relationships with them online and offline). Even fellow wedding photographers can be advocates of your business.
Another source of customers comes from online marketing. This can involve regularly publishing and engaging on social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Other forms of online marketing include on-page SEO, image SEO, off-page SEO, running Google Ads and/or Facebook adverts, and advertising for editorial spots on magazines and blogs. Some savvy wedding photographers also leverage YouTube to reach potential clients.
Once upon a time, Facebook was extremely effective at reaching potential clients. But once the social media giant turned its focus on monetising its user base, using a Facebook Business Page to reach users free-of-charge became a frustrating experience. That is, without paying for ads, wedding photographers quickly realiSed that a very small percentage of their followers saw their posts.
Are you ready for some really bad news?
Just as organic reach on Facebook News Feed took a dive from 2014, Google too, has shifted its focus from displaying your photography website in preference to making advertising revenue.
In 2017, Google’s ad business grew by 21 percent and accounts for 84 percent of Alphabet’s total revenue.
All it takes is a quick look at how search result pages have evolved since 1997.
If there is one takeaway from this, it is that Google is no longer a search company.
It is an advertising platform.
Bringing it back to the fundamental economic concept of supply and demand, Google controls the supply of organic search result real estate and, therefore, can pull the demand levers at its whim.
The quicker you accept this fact, the less of a struggle your SEO efforts will be.
Now that you have a better understanding of the context of why SEO is something you as a wedding photographer should invest considerable time and resources into, I’ll explain in the following section what search engine optimisation is and more importantly, what it isn’t.
What Is SEO?
Taken directly from Wikipedia, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic, increasing visibility of a website or a web page to a user of a web search engine.
On most Google search result pages, you will see a mixture of paid and non-paid results. That is ads versus organic listings.
Specifically, SEO refers to improving non-paid visibility on result pages. That is, you are actively competing for limited space on the first page for a relevant search query. And make no mistake, it is a competition where the reward can be measured in revenue.
As for how SEO work, there are three distinct aspects of search engine optimisation.
The first being technical SEO.
This typically involves looking for indexability and crawlability issues. That is, investigating whether bots can crawl your web pages and ensuring that your these pages can be indexed.
The second aspect is on-page SEO.
Most wedding photographers are familiar with on-page SEO. That is, including descriptive alt tags, renaming image file names to include relevant keywords, resizing and compressing image files prior to uploading, and modifying page titles and meta descriptions to increase click-through-rate.
The third aspect of search engine optimisation is far less known and is the most taxing in terms of time investment. It relates to off-page SEO and typically involves executing a link building strategy.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of search engine optimisation misinformation.
If it weren’t for my day job at one of Australia’s best SEO agencies, I would still be taking the advice given from various YouTubers as gospel. So in the following section, I am going to dispel some of the biggest SEO lies.
Common SEO Myths You Should Ignore
1. The goal of SEO is to rank your wedding photography website
I want to make one thing clear from the get-go.
Website traffic means nothing if the visitors coming to your photography business website are not the right fit. A web page could rank for an irrelevant term that has high search volume and bring in a heap of daily unique visits. But what would the purpose of that be? Therefore, increasing website traffic is not the goal.
Your business should have a multi-channel marketing funnel. That is, you should be leveraging word-of-mouth referrals, social media platforms, paid advertising (digital or offline) as well as search engine optimisation to bring in potential clients. Therefore, like every other marketing channel, the goal of SEO is to bring in potential customers.
The best way to measure SEO success is via incoming leads and revenue.
It just so happens that ranking web pages for relevant search terms is part of the SEO work.
Key takeaway: it may be appropriate to monitor initial SEO success through ranking positions but the ultimate metric is whether or not enquiries have increased
2. SEO is too technical for a non-technical person like me
You weren’t always as good a wedding photographer as you are now. To get to your current level, it required patience, time, practice, making mistakes and a will to learn. So it would be silly to think that you could learn and apply new skills immediately.
The actual doing of SEO is exactly the same.
SEO does have a bit of a steep learning curve but just like photography, photo editing, and running a business, it gets less challenging with continued practice.
Unlike other step-by-step guides, I put together this guide with one thing in mind; to make sure that each recommendation could be actionable.
If you can learn to operate a camera and be able to capture live moments in all sorts of conditions, then I am confident that you can carry out the steps outlined in this article.
Key takeaway: some aspects of SEO will require technical knowledge or hiring someone with said knowledge but the basic tenants on-page optimisation can be mastered by anyone with time and practice
3. Search engine metrics such as Domain Authority (DA), Page Authority (PA), URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (PR) are important ranking factors
Miles Beckler, a digital marketing expert, stated on his YouTube channel that as long as your website’s Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) was higher than a competitor, then your web page would rank higher in search results.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Domain Authority and Page Authority are search engine ranking scores developed by a software company called Moz. Similarly, URL Rating and Domain Rating are search engine ranking scores developed by Ahrefs.
Here’s the thing.
Google has never used Domain Authority, Page Authority, Domain Rate or PR as part of their ranking algorithm. This is because these third-party metrics can easily be spoofed.
Key takeaway: all metrics not produced by search engines are irrelevant, don’t place much emphasis on them at all
4. Only big companies with deep wallets can afford to do SEO properly
Fact: most modern and business-savvy companies have an in-house SEO professional or employ an agency to take care of their search engine optimisation. And it is also a fact that certain industries and niches are far more competitive than others. The fast-moving world of e-commerce is a prime example where SEO is extremely competitive, as is the world of online casinos and adult services.
As long as people continue to want to search for things using a search engine, SEO is relevant and should not be ignored.
The good news for you is that the wedding industry as a vertical has relatively low competition in terms of SEO.
That’s not to say that ranking your web pages for desired keywords will be easy, but compared to the e-commerce space, it is relatively straight-forward.
As I will show you in this article, SEO can be completely DIY.
It won’t be easy and it will probably consume a lot of your waking hours, but there is nothing stopping you from optimizing your own on-page SEO and personally doing the outreach for off-page SEO.
From my own experience, SEO competitive advantage has little to do with financial budget, but rather, access to the right information. As I previously mentioned, there is no shortage is completely wrong information or individuals who have an agenda to provide misinformation.
Key takeaway: you can do this (with the right information)
5. More words equal to more keywords
This is a tricky one as having more words on a page can often lead to the web page ranking for more keywords. But this isn’t always the case because the content could be poorly written, been spun using WordAi, or a duplicate from another page.
One prominent internet marketing guru loves publishing long-form content. Instead of answering a simple question with 300+ words, he writes 4,000 essays. He does this to capture long tail keywords and try to keep visitors on his site for longer periods of time.
From a user experience point of view, how would you feel about having to trawl through 4,000 words when all you wanted to do was to find a simple solution to your question?
I’m not saying that long-form content doesn’t have its place – this exact article is long form in nature.
I am, however, saying that quality and satisfying search intent is more important than word count.
Key takeaway: match your content with search intent
6. Getting backlinks as a wedding photographer is really difficult
I felt the exact same way for many years.
The truth is that if you photograph regular everyday people, most wedding publications will not feature your work. This is just one of the realities of being a wedding photographer. Not every client is going to be insta-worthy.
Link building is a huge element of search engine optimisation.
Links are important. Period.
Google even said so in their 2019 Google I/O event.
I like the fellas at Income School but they’re really not helping anyone by actively telling people to not have a link building strategy.
Getting featured on bridal publications may be difficult but still submit them. The best way to have your work accepted is to understand that each bridal publication is a business. If you can present your work in a way to helps them sell ad placements by giving them something interesting, this mindset can get you a long way.
Other ways to building inbound links is via guest posting as an expert in your field. As a wedding photographer, you can comment on topics such as productivity, overcoming shyness, camera gear etc. With these insights unique to only you, pitch blogs and contribute as a guest poster.
Key takeaway: link building is time consuming and if you invest in this aspect of SEO, you can outrank your competition
Now that we’ve cleared the air, let’s jump straight into photography SEO.
SEO For Wedding Photographers: The Tools That You Will Need
Just as you need cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards and editing software to carry out your wedding photography business, SEO requires a number of tools.
Some tools such as ahrefs and Clearscope will be significant financial investments while most of the other tools in this list are free to use.
- clearscope or SURFER
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool
- Google Search Console (previously referred to as Webmaster Tools)
- Google Analytics
- Bing Webmaster
- Self-hosted WordPress site (or Squarespace)
- SEO plugin such as Yoast, Rank Math, All-In-One SEO (not applicable for non-Wordpress sites)
- Google My Business
- Google structured data testing tool
- Image compression software such as JPEGmini, Kraken.io, or ShortPixel
- Lazy Load by WP Rocket
Armed with these tools, these are the actionable SEO tips every wedding photographer needs to follow to improve their SERP listings
1. Write Appropriate Image Alt Tags
On every web page’s HTML source code, images can be configured with alt text. It helps describe what’s on the image and how it relates to the content of the page.
Once thought as something to do to improve user experience, as I watched 2019 Google I/O presentations, it was evident Google took image alt text seriously.
For the following image, can you pick which one is the best alt text?
(a) black and white photo of Eva on her wedding day
(c) just married bride is happily dancing on her wedding day at watsons bay even though it is raining
(d) sydney wedding photographer | angusporter.com
The best alt text for the above image is (c) and here is why:
- it describes what is happening in the moment captured and provides contextual information to the user
- the description does not exceed 125 characters
- low probability of triggering keyword stuffing penalty
Here is another example:
(a) bride and groom kissing as colorful confetti is thrown on them in the late afternoon sun
(b) this a photo of two people kissing on their wedding day
(c) candid wedding photography | candid wedding photographer
(d) bride and groom kissing with confetti
If you picked (a), you’re on the right track.
What does this mean for you as a wedding photographer who may publish 50+ images per blog post?
Don’t waste your time writing alt text for every single image. That would be a terrible use of your time – time better spent on other SEO projects.
There is no hard and fast rule on how many images you should apply alt text to but definitely write them for images that stand-out and reflect what your values are as a wedding photographer.
2. Use Descriptive Image Titles
A large component of image SEO is making it easier for search engines to understand what your image is about.
Building upon image alt tags, one thing that you can do to improve the visibility of your images is by renaming your images with descriptive file names.
Using the confetti example from above, what do you think would be the best file name for the image?
Out of the bunch, (c) is probably the best choice of image tag.
This is because it provides easy to identify context as to what the image is about. Combine with the image alt text, Google can easily understand how the image is relevant to the content and keyword(s).
As an added bonus, following this file naming structure will improve the image’s visibility in Google image search.
3. Internal Linking
Internal links are often overlooked but can produce some quick wins with minimal effort.
Why are internal links crucial to search engine optimisation?
Quoted directly from ahrefs, Google uses internal links to help discover new content.
Before a web page can begin ranking for a keyword, Google will need to index the page. And even before indexation can occur, Googlebot must be able to crawl the web page.
By having internal links, you are making it easier for Googlebot to find more pages to crawl and add to its index.
What does this mean for you?
Your homepage should have internal links to your best-performing pages, or at least, your primary service pages. I’ll touch on this later in the Keyword Research section but each page on your website should have a unique target keyword.
For example, you should create a landing page to capture different variations of “location + wedding photographer”. On these landing pages, you can link to your portfolio in the form of individual blog posts. And from your homepage, you can internally link to these landing pages.
By doing this, Googlebot can easily crawl your entire website and this is a good thing.
This leads me to mention broken links.
You do not want broken links anywhere on your web pages as Googlebot will see these as dead ends and the crawl will stop there.
Download a free tool called Screaming Frog. The free version will crawl up to 500 resources which should be plenty for wedding photography sites.
Copy/paste your domain name into Screaming Frog and run a report. A broken link will be reported as a 404 status code. Fix any broken links immediately.
4. Optimise Your Photography Website For Speed
No one on the Internet likes waiting for things to load and Google knows this. In addition to providing its users with the most relevant search results, Google wants to enhance user experience. One way it achieves this is by promoting web pages that load with minimal waiting.
In July 2018, Google began using mobile page speed as a ranking factor for mobile search results. Specifically, pages that deliver the slowest experience to users will be penalised by the “Speed Update”.
What this means for you as a wedding photographer is that your web page should take no more than 9-seconds to load.
But wedding photography websites are inevitable media-content heavy. It is common for wedding blog posts to feature 50+ images, each weighing in at 250 kilobytes in file size, resulting in 12 megabytes of data that needs to be downloaded.
The good news is that potential clients are willing to wait for images to load because images are what they are searching for.
However, if your site is taking far longer than your competitors to load, Google may penalize you by shoving you down the results page.
So what can you do?
- Keep your homepage and main pages as lean as possible, instead, use internal linking and target pages to funnel visitors to relevant content.
- Remove any tracking codes that do not need to be there (Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics and other tracking codes can cause slow page loads).
- Resize images to appropriate pixel dimensions prior to uploading them to your site.
- Reserve image-heavy pages for deep internal pages instead of your homepage.
- Change to a less resource-heavy and bloated WordPress theme.
How can you find out whether your photography website is slow?
The best way to test your web page speed is by using a free tool called GTMetrix.
When you sign up with a free account, you can specify the location of the test server. By choosing a test server that is geographically closest to where your potential clients are, you can get the best insight into what your photography website’s page speed experience is like.
What can you do to improve the page speed of your website?
There are a number of ways that you can optimise your photography website for page speed. Here are just a few recommendations to get you started:
1. Reduce the number of WordPress plugins running on your site
The more plugins running on your site, the slower your site will load.
As handy as WordPress plugins are, having too many installed on your site can lead to poor user experience.
Before installing a plugin, ask yourself if the same result can be achieved with relative ease via hard coding.
For example, a plugin can make 301 redirects really easy but the same 301 redirects can be achieved by hard coding it into your .htaccess. It may take a few minutes to learn how to access and edit your .htaccess file but in doing so, you can reduce the number of plugins running on your site.
As a rule of thumb, try to keep the number of active WordPress plugins to less than 30.
2. Upload correct sized compressed jpegs
As a photography website, the biggest cause of slow page speed will be your images.
The problem with most SEO tips is that they are not written for wedding photographers.
Most users are impatient on the Internet. However, when it comes to someone who is actively looking for a professional photographer for their wedding, they are willing to wait.
Therefore, there is no need to spend too much time and effort into reducing the load time of your pages.
You already know that Google uses page speed as a ranking factor. Remember that it will only penalize sites that are the slowest in their cohort. As long as your web pages are loading within 6-9 seconds, that is the extent of your SEO efforts.
One of the easiest ways to achieve faster page speed is by correctly resizing your images prior to uploading them to your site.
As a general rule of thumb, the majority of your images should be no larger than 1400 pixels on the long side. From my experience, most WordPress themes are configured to display content at 960 – 1080 pixels wide. Given that the majority of users are on smartphones, images that are 1400 pixels wide will render crisp images on most devices.
Generally speaking, you will want to keep your images under 300 kilobytes in file size, preferably within the 150 – 20 kilobytes range. In order to achieve this, run your JPEG files through compression software such as JPEGmini, Kraken.io or ShortPixel.
A word to the wise: only run one form of compression on your jpeg files. That is, either use only JPEGmini, Kraken.io or ShortPixel – never a combination of them. This will minimise jpeg artefacts in your images and make them look nice and sharp whilst loading quickly for end users.
For full-width header images, you can resize them to be 1920 pixels wide but use these sparingly as these larger file sizes will require longer loading times.
3. Use lazy-load for images
Wedding photography websites tend to have a lot more images than other websites. This increases the time that a user needs to wait for a web page to load. The longer the wait, the increased risk that a user will give up and leave.
A plugin such as Lazy Load by WP Rocket enables lazy-load for images across your site. It is as simple as installing and activating it!
4. Choose a web host that has servers geographically near to your target audience
Server location is critical.
If your main customer base is in Australia, do not choose a web host that has servers in other countries other than Australia.
If you’re a wedding photographer that targets people from all over the world because you’re a destination wedding or destination elopement photographer, you should choose a web host that has servers closest to the majority of your customer base. On top of this, you can use a Content Delivery Network.
5. Choose a fast web host provider
Just as the location of your chosen web host server is critical to page speed, the speed of the web host server is also very important.
No matter how well you optimise your on-page SEO, if your web hosting service has limited resources, poor data center infrastructure and slow hardware, you are at a significant disadvantage compared to your competitors.
When it comes to web hosts, you typically get what you pay for. Not all shared hosting providers are equal so it pays to do your homework. And unless you have a particularly technical background, managed VPS providers come with more headaches than solutions out-of-the-box.
For angusporter.com, I moved from a shared hosting plan (VentraIP) to a managed WordPress host (Flywheel). This alone made significant positive page speed improvement.
For those of you running WordPress websites, consider migrating across to Kinsta, WPEngine, or WPX Hosting.
FYI – I would prioritise a faster web hosting provider over server proximity.
5. Install An SSL Certificate
Back in 2015, Google’s Gary Illyes said in a video hangout the following,
If you’re in a competitive niche, then it can give you an edge from Google’s point of view. With the HTTPS ranking boost, it acts more like a tiebreaker. For example, if all quality signals are equal for two results, then the one that is on HTTPS would get … or may get … the extra boost that is needed to trump the other result.
What does this mean for you?
Get SSL on your website immediately.
Depending on your web host, your cPanel may come with Let’s Encrypt free AutoSSL so there is really no excuse not to have HTTPS enabled across your site.
A word of caution, however.
Improper implementation of SSL can cause duplicate content issues when HTTP does not redirect to HTTPS. As a result, both HTTP and HTTPS versions of the same content may get indexed. Therefore, it pays to be with a web host provider that has great customer support.
Difficulty: Low – Moderate
6. Improve Readability
Most users will quickly scroll down a web page to parse the contents to see if the information satisfies their search intent. This is because most people searching for information on the Internet are in a hurry.
By segmenting your writing into short paragraphs with prominent headings, a user can quickly understand the information on the page, scroll back to the top of the page and read it at a more normal pace.
Readability in itself is not a ranking factor. It does, however, improve the chances of a user spending longer consuming your content and increases the chances that they will click through to deeper pages on your site.
As a rule of thumb, avoid using long and complex sentences. For paragraphs with no more than five sentences, and use appropriate headings to act as signposts for the reader.
And on the note of headings, use a single H1 tag for the page title. Never use more than one H1 on a page. Instead, use H2-H3 tags for subsequent subheadings.
7. Perform Detailed Keyword Research
Keyword research is vital to search engine optimisation as it identifies user search intent and how you can target this intent for your photography website. For those of you who find it difficult to blog, keyword research gives you a map of all the keywords you wish to target. It’ll give you an incentive and purpose for creating content and information that potential clients are looking for.
Most wedding photographers make guesses as to what prospective customers are searching for.
Funnily enough, one of the best ways to gather real-world data for keyword research is via Google Ads.
What you will want to do is to decide how much money you are prepared to lose because that is essentially what you will be doing when you run a Google Ads campaign to collect data.
To begin collecting keyword data from Google Ads, I recommend using a broad match modifier keyword such as +wedding +photographer. You will need to monitor the campaign on a daily basis to add negative keywords to the ad set.
Related reading: How to choose the best keywords for your website
If you don’t have existing data, one of the best ways to find out what keywords you should be targeting is by looking at what your industry competitors are doing.
Ahrefs is a tool that is very good at identifying the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, the amount of traffic each keyword brings, and also the backlinks that your competitors have. It’s not a cheap tool though ($99 per month).
This is how you can discover keywords for photographers using ahrefs:
Step 1. Copy competitor’s URL and paste it into Ahref’s Site Explorer.
Step 2. Click on Organic keywords on the left hand side menu to see all the keywords that the website ranks for. In this example, Lovereel has 164 organic keywords according to ahrefs. You will also see from this overview of the site metrics that they have 145 backlinks from 15 unique websites.
Step 3. Click Export > Export to CSV. Ahrefs has the ability to show keywords per search region. This is because a webpage may rank well in one area of the world but have poorer visibility in another. In this instance (see below), ahrefs has correctly shown all the keywords that the site is ranking for for Australian-based searches. Make sure that the right geographical regions has been selected.
Now that you have a list of keywords that your competitor ranks for, what next?
Repeat the above process for all the wedding photographers who are displayed on the first page for your target keyword. Then collate and combine the data so that you can see the full gamut of what keywords exist for your business.
What should your keyword research reveal?
Keywords should identify different search queries that potential customers use at different stages of their buyer’s journey. This is because not all searches have the same commercial value.
You will discover that there are hundreds if not thousands of keywords related to wedding photography. This is only half of keyword research. The next step is going through your list and using your own judgement to decide which keywords to keep and which ones to discard. No amount of automation and machine learning will replace what you as a business owner will know.
Generally speaking, the higher the search volume, the lower the transactional intent. This is because general searches tend to be informational whereas a long tail keyword search indicates a buyer who is in the consideration or decision stage of the buyer’s journey.
Every single blog post and/or page that you create on your website should have a specific keyword that you wish to rank for.
8. SEO Copywriting
According to this article by Neil Patel, SEO copywriting is all about creating useful, compelling and valuable content that targets specific keywords so that other people will gladly promote it on social media platforms.
I agree with the first half of the sentence – your content must be relevant and useful for the user.
I have reservations about the rest of his statement.
Many wedding photographers struggle with blogging (read: writing) so how do you optimise the written component of search engine optimisation?
Invest in a tool called Clearscope.
Clearscope is a tool that analyzes the top 20 search results for a specific keyword. It then outputs a list of relevant keywords and their corresponding importance.
Fact: I’m using it right now as I write this article with the target keyword ‘SEO for photographers’.
I am a believer that Google gives you the answer to how to rank your website in plain sight. After all, every website featured on the first page of the SERPs is there for a reason. So if we follow this framework, we can apply it to how ranking pages are formatting their on-page content.
There is a free Chrome extension called SEO Minion that will identify all the H1-H6 tags on any given page as well as the page title and meta description (see below).
There is no need to reinvent the wheel in SEO. Simply replicate how ranking pages are structuring their pages and implement what they’re doing for your website.
9. Discard Meta Keywords
The use of meta keywords dates back to 1995.
According to Google, the world’s leading search engine stopped using keywords meta tag in web ranking. Google announced this officially in September 2009. Other search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing similarly followed suit.
Since 2009, meta keywords are seen as a spam signal and should be avoided at all cost.
To check whether your site has meta keywords, run a scrape using Screaming Frog and check the Meta Keywords tab. Chances are, you website will not have any meta keywords.
10. Choose A Self-Hosted WordPress Site Over Squarespace And Wix
I’m not saying that you cannot carry out search engine optimisation on a Squarespace or Wix website but it will be far easier to achieve the same on-page SEO results with a self-hosted WordPress site.
I know a large number of wedding photographers prefer Squarespace sites because they are responsive out-of-the-box. Squarespace also has really attractive themes that are very visually appealing with a few simple clicks. I’ve been tempted myself!
But here’s the thing – the wedding photography niche is competitive. From my experience, I have found most wedding photographers to be quite capable at learning technical things. As such, the SEO knowledge across the board is generally higher than other wedding industry professionals. What this means for you is that ranking on the first page for a popular keyword just got a whole lot more difficult.
If you are serious about your wedding photography business and want to increase organic traffic and enquiries via SEO, a WordPress site is going to cause far less challenges than doing custom development on Squarespace and finding someone willing to do development work on a Wix site.
At the end of the day, what is more important to you?
Having a wedding photography website that looks amazing or a wedding photography website that brings in more potential clients?
Recommended reading: Squarespace versus WordPress: Why WordPress Is Better For SEO
11. Install A WordPress SEO Plugin
One of the biggest reasons why I recommend wedding photographers to choose a self-hosted WordPress CMS over a visual builder platform such as Squarespace or Wix is because of the incredible wealth and depth of third-party plugin support that the WordPress CMS has. Of these include SEO plugins such as Yoast, All-In-One SEO and Rank Math.
I’ve used Yoast SEO on most of my sites. Recently, I installed Rank Math on a new project of mine. It looked promising but had some serious bugs in the early versions. And I’ve heard only positive things about All-In-One SEO as well.
Each of these competing SEO plugins do the same thing more or less.
They’re relatively easy to install and all come with full-functioning free versions. At the time of writing, each SEO plugin also has a paid premium version. You probably do not need the premium version of any SEO plugin because the plugin itself does not do the SEO per se.
SEO plugins are essential for customising page titles and individual meta descriptions for blog posts and pages. In terms of search engine optimisation, these are areas of ranking factor opportunity. An SEO plugin such as Yoast is also handy for generating XML sitemaps which you can then submit to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Upon installation and configuration, you may designate a single main keyword for each blog post or page. Yoast Premium allows you to assign multiple keywords.
A word of warning about SEO plugins, however.
SEO plugins such as Yoast tend to trap wedding photographers into making keyword cannibalisation errors.
Keyword cannibalisation is when a number of pages or blog posts target the same keyword. Without knowing, you probably have keyword cannibalisation issues across your photography website. For example, how many blog posts have you reused the same [venue/location] + wedding photographer as the main keyword?
The problem with keyword cannibalisation is that a search engine like Google does not know which page is the most relevant for a specific query when multiple pages target the same term. When Google crawls your site, it will pick one of your pages to display on its results page. Unfortunately for you, you will have no control over which page it decides to rank for the keyword.
To avoid keyword cannibalisation, each page and/or blog post should be mapped with a particular search query as identified in your keyword research. The best way to identify keyword cannibalisation is through Site Explorer in ahref.
12. Connect Your Photography Website With Google Search Console And Google Analytics
The process of search engine optimisation requires careful measurement. Without data, you have no way of knowing whether your efforts are having any impact at all (both positive or negative). Therefore, it is imperative for you to set up a Google Search Console account and a Google Analytics account.
You will need both because Google Analytics provides information on how your wedding photography website visitors interact with your site while Google Search Console provides you insights on how search engines interact with your site.
For example, Google Search Console is used to identify whether or not the search engine can crawl your web pages. In the world of SEO, Googlebot has to first crawl your site so that it can understand what each web page is about and how it relates to a particular topic. In order for your web page and/or website to show up in search engine results, your web pages must be indexed. However, there may be a number of technical reasons as to why your web page and/or website is not being crawled or indexed and Google Search Console is the definitive tool to identify these technical SEO issues.
Both Google Search Console and Google Analytics are free services. All you will need is a Google email (which is also free).
13. Connect Your Site To Bing Webmaster Tools
On a global scale, Bing is the second frequented search engine with just under 4 percent market share.
Whilst 4 percent may seem insignificant compared to Google’s lion share of the market, you don’t want to be missing out on potential wedding photography clients.
What does this mean for you?
Bing Webmaster Tools is similar to Google Search Console. In certain areas, the reporting from Bing Webmaster Tools can be more insightful than Google Search Console. And having more data to make informed decisions is always a good thing to have.
14. Use Google My Business For Easy Local SEO Wins
If you do not have a Google My Business (GMB) listing already, set one up right now.
Common mistakes that I see in GMB listings include keyword stuffed business names, multiple listings for the same business, and fake reviews. These are easy to spot and can be reported to Google as spam.
You could engage in spammy tactics (at the time of writing, many still work) – just be aware that there may be negative consequences to go with the good.
Recommended for you: How To Rank Your Google My Business
If, however, you wish to optimise your GMB within Google guidelines, post frequently and upload high-resolution images of your wedding photography work. Do not forget to ask past customers for a positive review for your GMB because research shows that 91 percent of people regularly read online reviews.
15. Have A Link Acquisition Strategy
Off-page SEO is one of the most time-consuming tasks in search engine optimisation.
Essentially, off-page SEO involves emailing countless website and pitching them with relevant content topics. The goal of link-building is to acquire a backlink from an external website to one of your web pages.
Backlinks are important no matter what certain marketing gurus say. One particular wedding photographer/SEO claimed that links are less valuable in 2019. Misinformation like this is incredibly dangerous.
If you go back to the fundamentals of how Google crawls the Internet, links are essential to the process.
Think of your wedding photography website as a research paper. When you write a college-level research paper, you are expected to cite relevant sources to back up your claims. The same applies to your website. That is, you can improve the credibility of your site by having many credible websites linking back to your web pages.
As a wedding photographer, common sources of backlinks are wedding websites that you are already familiar with. Some include The Knot, Style Me Pretty, and Junebug Weddings. But as you will know, having your work featured by these popular websites is not easy.
So what does this mean for you?
Think outside of the wedding ecosystem.
Websites are hungry for content.
People are hungry for content.
Once you realize that you have something of value to both sides of the demand and supply equation, you can begin pitching content topics to a variety of websites outside of the wedding niche.
If you suck at writing, practice until you suck less at it.
I’ve had guest posts published on the following sites free of charge: smartinsights.com, jpegmini.com, petapixel.com, and databox.com. You can too!
If you think that you don’t have anything interesting to offer, sign up to Help Out A Reporter (HARO) as a source. Journalists and writers will seek comments from female founders/entrepreneurs on a weekly basis. HARO is a great way to achieve hard-to-get links from big media publications.
FYI – do not buy backlinks on gig platforms such as Fiverr. These link packs will do you more harm than good. Please avoid at all cost.
16. Create A Custom 404 Error Page
This is what a typical 404 page looks like.
We’ve all encountered one on the Internet.
Chances are, you either closed the window or clicked back and found another source of information.
This behavior can send negative signals and Google may demote your page’s ranking as it may think that your page is not relevant or adding value to users searching for a specific keyword.
However, a user can arrive at a 404 error page for many reasons. Sometimes, it may be no fault of yours. For example, a user can misspell a link and arrive at a 404. You will have no control over this.
But you can create a custom 404 page that can provide internal links and even a search bar to keep the user on-site.
First of all, run a Screaming Frog crawl of your site to identify any instances of 404 errors. These internal broken links prevent Googlebot from discovering your web pages and should be fixed immediately. Similarly, you should fix any outgoing external links as well.
Incoming broken links are harder to fix. You can identify them using the ahrefs backlink tool in Site Explorer.
By having a custom 404 error page in place, you can still retain the user on your site if the external site is unwilling to change the broken link. However, most backlinks in the wedding industry go straight to the root domain so incoming broken links are less prevalent.
To set a custom 404 error page, WordPress has a number of free plugins for you to choose from.
A permalink is the full URL that users and search engines see when navigating through your site.
Neil Patel uses the metaphor of likening a permalink to a physical address. It’s quite an apt metaphor.
Before WordPress 4.2, the most popular CMS in the world implemented a hideous permalink structure. Thankfully, WordPress defaults to the SEO friendly permalink that uses the post name in the URL.
Which of the following links are you more likely to click on?
Answer (a) doesn’t provide you with any clue with what the content is about. Neither does answer (d). Therefore, these two permalinks have the least click-through-rates.
Both answers (b) and (c) have descriptive keywords in the permalink. However, (c) has a date stamp and if you are wanting up-to-date SEO tips, (b) conveys a more evergreen vibe than answer (c).
What does this mean for you?
You should use Post name permalinks in WordPress. Before publishing a page or post, customise the keywords in the permalink to reflect your keyword research.
Secondly, keep permalinks under 50 characters in length.
18. Keep Page Titles Under 70 Characters Long
Meta title tags are displayed on search engine result pages as the clickable headline for a given result (source: Moz).
Using an SEO plugin such as Yoast, you can easily customise meta title tags in order to attract attention, gain clicks, and for SEO intent.
Page titles are best 55-60 characters in length. Any longer and they are cut off in search results. You can use Screaming Frog to export an entire list of all your meta page titles and identify which titles need to be shortened.
Page titles signal to users and search engines what the page content will be about. Going back to your keyword research findings, each page should serve a distinct purpose and therefore, should have its own unique target keyword. The same applies to the page title as well – it should be unique and not be replicated anywhere else across your site.
Once again, Screaming Frog can help you identify duplicated page titles so that you can go into your CMS and make the appropriate changes.
19. Implement JSON-LD schema markup
As a wedding photographer, you probably know that most images have EXIF data embedded within the file.
Schema markup is a form of structured data that acts in a similar way. It helps search engines read and represent your page in search results.
Schema is one of the most difficult technical aspects to implement and I highly recommend that you hire a developer to make the necessary edits to your site. You will have to do your own homework and tell the developer what structured markup you want added.
At the time of writing, Yoast and Rank Math both implement site-wide schema by default. This is great for populating fields such as your business’ telephone number, physical address, logo, and price range. But these are basic in nature and to really benefit from schema SEO, you will need to venture into page-level structured data markup.
Recommended for you: How To Add FAQ Schema To Your Squarespace Website
What does this mean for you?
At the very least, you should fill out the relevant structured data provided by your SEO plugin. You can verify that the plugin has implemented them correctly by testing it in Google’s free structured data testing tool.
⚠️ BONUS: Copy My Exact SEO Strategy?
I’m going to share with you an SEO strategy that I use for my existing clients. I’ve had success getting my own websites ranking with this strategy and my clients have not only reported an increase in enquiries but also actual wedding bookings as a result of this strategy.
What is the strategy?
It’s simple really – the strategy I am about to share involves giving what brides and grooms are searching for.
After the saying ‘YES’ to a marriage proposal, most brides will begin their wedding planning process. And what is the first thing most brides will search for?
A wedding venue.
Many couples will not set a date for their wedding until they have locked in a reception venue. This is because the reception venue is the most costly part of the wedding day. Averaging $140 per head in most metropolitan areas of Australia, the wedding reception can easily cost north of $15,000.
Due to the financial significance of the reception, you can begin to understand why the wedding venue is the first thing couples want to seek out.
I didn’t know fully comprehend how difficult and frustrating it was to find information on wedding venues until I started doing my own research. Because of this, I knew I was onto something.
A bride may use visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to shortlist wedding venue candidates. But in order to secure a wedding venue, she will have to manually find certain details.
These details will always involve:
- Pricing – how much does it cost to have a wedding at said venue (e.g., cost per head, seasonal discounts, minimum spend etc).
- Capacity- how many guests can the venue cater for (seated/theatre/cocktail configuration)
- Independent reviews
And this is exactly the information that you will provide for them.
This is what you can do:
- Manually call venues up and ask them for this exact information.
- Present this information on a venue-specific page on your website.
- Do a site visit of the venue and showcase it in different times of day/seasons etc.
- Explain why the venue is a good fit for them (in words).
- Showcase your visual portfolio.
You can even go one step further and provide recommendations on nearby photo locations and embed these on a Google My Maps (see below).
As you can see, this strategy does not require you to have photographed a real wedding at said venue. This is because you’re not marketing wedding photos to the bride, but instead, giving her reasons why she should proceed with a venue of her choice.
By including examples of your portfolio, she can get a sense of your photography skills.
In essence, you’re selling yourself without coming off as being salesy.
This strategy works because you put yourself in front of customers before they even realise that they are your customers. By adding value to solve their problem, you demonstrate your knowledge and authority in the wedding field and do not have to compete on your videography portfolio and pricing.
You may have tried blogging individual weddings in the past with the hope of ranking for [venue + wedding] keyword. Due to the competitiveness of the SERPs, there is very little chance that you can rank by blogging individual posts that centre around one wedding. This is because the venue page will typically rank for its own brand name as will other venue-focused websites such as wedding directories.
The strategy I have outlined here solves this problem.
I’m sure you have questions on how to execute this strategy. I provide this type of in-depth consultation for my private clients only. Get in touch if this is something you would like to invest in.
Multi-channel marketing is more than ever an absolute must. I know many of you will be heavily invested in (visual) social media channels such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Search engine optimisation should be one of the channels that you invest in. Whilst Google may control how it represents search results, at least you can directly control the quality and relevance of the content on your web pages.
Now is the time to take control of your SEO and with these 19 actionable steps, you can.
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