Ah, the photography blog question. I’ve seen this pop up in a few online communities, so I wanted to address a few things about photography blogging, why photographers use it for SEO, and whether or not you really need one in order to boost your results in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Photography Blogs and the SEO Benefits
By nature, our work is visual. The old adage that a photo is worth a thousand words is remarkably true, except when it comes to SEO. Search engines do find value in images (if you optimize your photos for SEO), but words are really what helps them determine context and relevance. Our portfolios and galleries offer a little bit of SEO juice, but nothing like a blog does, where keywords can be used in abundance and the content is updated regularly (or at least often enough, in some cases).
Blogging offers photographers a chance to update copy, apply keyword diversity from keyword research, and use image-based SEO to help in their organic efforts. It’s also a place to show off your talent with the latest photos and help potential clients get a feel for your style, your personality, the way you work, and how you might fit with what they’re looking for.
Another big benefit of having a photography blog is that it provides more link-building opportunities for your site. A part of good SEO is having other reputable websites link (with a DoFollow link) to individual pages and posts on your site. While it can be difficult to get other sites to link to static pages like your galleries or general home page, blog posts usually address one moment or one topic, making them individually applicable to a variety of different audiences. Thus, great content on a blog is much more shareable and linkable. So if you are going the blog route, create thoughtfully.
Blogging can help bring traffic to your site, and not just for organic search. It gives you something to share across your social media sites, and RSS subscribers will remember to visit more often. These aren’t explicitly tied to SEO, but more traffic means more potential leads and more potential links and more potential to impact your SEO.
Where Photography Blogging Can Get Tricky
While there are definite benefits to photography blogging, there are some specific considerations you need to make before taking on this extra effort in marketing your photo business. The first thing to understand is that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. Like anything with your photography business, blogging is something you need to plan a bit for. Regulary, I hear from photographers who are feeling uninspired, and as a result, struggle to keep their blogs going.
Before launching a blog for your photography business, there are a handful of things you should consider:
- Who is the audience for my blog?
- What do I hope to accomplish with my blog?
- Do I have the time to update my blog regularly? What does regularly mean to me and my business?
- Will creating a photography blog that coordinates with my website design on my current website host be a lot of extra work, and am I willing to make that happen?
While none of these things sound a lot like they have to do with SEO, they really do. SEO is about helping people find you, feel out your brand, and make connections. If you start building up a library of blog posts and then quit or don’t find the time to keep posting, it can start to create a negative impression. It’s easy to see the passion and the fuel behind a blog during the honeymoon period, but if you haven’t kept up with the planning and thoughtfulness behind the blog, it’s going to start becoming uninteresting and noticeably thrown together. Again, these things can create a negative impression.
Furthermore, your photography blog then becomes another area that isn’t updated very often, and page “freshness” is a part of search engine rankings factors. According to Moz, most SEOs (that’s what those who work only on SEO are called, clever right?) recommend adding 20-30% new pages every year. For photographers, that could be new gallery pages, new services pages, and, of course, blog posts. Search engines like to see websites that have had the same URL for a long time and they like to see that the content on that URL is kept up-to-date, with more being added fairly regularly.
Blogging: Photography SEO Is Way More Than Just Having a Blog
One of the biggest reasons I started The Marketographer was because of all the misinformation I saw floating around in photography groups. To recommend blogging for SEO isn’t wrong, but it’s not the SEO silver bullet that many photographers believe (and tout) it to be. I’ve mentioned some of the challenges of blogging, but like anything else in your photo business, blogging is a tactic within part of a bigger overall strategy.
If blogging is a part of that strategy, make sure that you have done some keyword research to determine for what search queries you would like to rank for. Keep this list handy, posted near your desk or in a notebook, so every time you blog you can be reminded of the various keywords that are important for your long-term SEO strategy.
Many photographers update their blog with 25-50 images per post. While it’s visually stunning, I see a lot of SEO concerns when I look at most photography blogs, which negate the point of having the blog for SEO:
- The images all have the same file name, and it’s usually keyworded like “John Smith Atlanta Destination Wedding Photographer-1.” Don’t keyword stuff your image file names.
- The title of the post and the headings aren’t reader-friendly, but boy, does they use a lot of keywords.
- The images are HUGE in size. Optimize your image file sizes; page load times are a big part of SEO, enough so that Google even has this as something you can monitor in your Webmaster Tools.
- Very little (if any) text to read. While longer posts (500+ words) are best, aim for a minimum of 300 words per post. Give the search engines, and your readers, some context around your photography business.
The other big problem? It’s not designed for the reader!
Don’t get me wrong, blogs are a great way to show off your work. . . but so are your portfolios and galleries. If you’re just using a lot of the same content in both places, then your blog isn’t adding as much SEO value as you think it is. It’s starting to become duplicate content, which can, in fact, hurt your site. If you are going through the work of creating and maintaining your photography blog, do it the right way and make sure your images (and in turn, the user experience) are optimized for the best possible results. Even if you do not blog, all of those image optimization tips can be used to enhance your SEO.
Photography Blogging Ideas
I’ve said it before, but one of the best rules of thumb is to always be thinking about the person who will be interacting with your site. It’s what Google is most concerned with – does this page bring quality to our searchers? Does this answer the query without having to send the searcher all over?
Think about how your posts can do more than show off your work. Your photos are everywhere on your site. Think about how you can add value to your clients’ and prospects’ lives with your blog. Think about what might help get more links from other photographers or other sites. Think about what makes for good, shareable content on social media.
Does looking at 50 photos from your latest family portrait session do that? Does anyone really care about what the Millers looked like in all of their photos other than the Millers and a couple of family members and friends? But what if that post about the Miller’s session also included some reasons it was so successful? It doesn’t have to be a lot, but even a few words about the location or why their outfits worked well together can be helpful to others who are considering booking with you.
Here are some ideas for photo blog posts that you can use to start making your blog more SEO-friendly:
- Feature a few photos from some of your favorite, similar sessions, along with tips about what to wear during a session. You can show off clients who did it really well, and tell your readers why it worked to get the best possible end result. Other photographers may link to it to help their clients, and the clients you feature in the post will be excited that you included them in a “best of” and will likely share the link on their social channels, as well.
- Show off a session where the light was amazing. Maybe it was golden hour and that was a big part of the moody/airy reason that the photos worked so well. It’s a great opportunity to educate your clients about taking their time during a session, or how the time of day can play a big part in the outcome of their photos.
- On your next destination wedding post, write a paragraph or two about what you love about shooting destinations, or present some tips for couples who are planning a wedding in that location.
So, Do I Really Need a Photography Blog?
The answer is up to you. If you are struggling with your SEO and you understand the commitment it takes to blog for the long-term, then adding a photography blog is a great way to start moving your SEO to a new level. However, if you’re in a position where you aren’t ready for that kind of commitment (or even if you are!), then consider looking at some areas of SEO that your site might not have nailed down just yet:
- Title tags and meta data
- Does your site load quickly (according to Google, not you)?
- Image optimization (size, file names, alt text)
- Open Graph is in place and doing well
- Check the anchor text in your links on the site – are they keywords, or just “click here”
- Are you URL structures sound?
These are just a few other areas where, blog or not, SEO comes into play. There are dozens of ways to boost your SEO without launching a photography blog, should that be your decision.