INTRO: Welcome Photographers! I'm so glad you found your way here and I hope I can help clear any confusion and spark ideas for marketing your business! I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in marketing and have been working in the field since. While working two jobs is often cumbersome, some of the day-to-day tasks overlaps and I thought I would use my insight to help photographers who are just too busy to research marketing tactics. Thus, Marketing Mondays is born. I will try my very best to post on Mondays but the posts may be a little on the Tuesday or Wednesday side ;)
It is also important to note that I do not always practice what I preach. Some of what I will go over may not be implemented in my OWN photography business, but I have done so elsewhere in another job. I wish I had time (and money) to do all of the marketing tips I talk about! A girl can dream... Anyway, If you have any topics that you want covered, or if you would like to chat a little more in depth, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Before I begin, there are three important things you should know about SEO in regards to marketing your business.
First, let me tell you that SEO is a vast piece of the marketing puzzle. There are endless things you can do (and should do) to help search engines find your page. However, I realize that most of the audience reading this has little or no knowledge of website coding, schema markups, link building, etc. *****So for the purpose of sanity and simplicity, I'm going to keep this to the very very basics.*****
Secondly, SEO is constantly changing. Google is always changing the way their search engines find and show search results. To keep up with the updates, do your research!
Lastly, I am going to try my hardest to present you with accurate information but again, Google is constantly changing and so is the marketing world. If you see something that you don't think is accurate, by all means correct me in the comments! Let's learn together!
So now, let's begin!
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
SE-WHAT? Search Engine Optimization is the term used to describe the process of getting web traffic to your site via search engines! Have you ever googled "Best Camera Store" and wondered how B&H came up at the very top of the list? Well, besides actually being the best, there's a lot their marketing team did to get them above all of their competitors. For the sake of running a photography business, here are a few things to help you get started.
1. Google Webmaster Tools / Google Analytics
If you have never visited Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, please pause your reading and go sign up for both. I will be covering Google Analytics later in this series but it won't be of any use unless you have data to compare. Google Webmaster Tools will also help you MAJORLY in improving your SEO. When you first sign up, it may seem extremely daunting, but I assure you that it's worth looking into. Remember, I will be covering Google Analytics soon, so don't let it overwhelm you!
No surprise there. Whenever someone mentions SEO, they usually follow by explaining how they have embedded keywords all over their site. NOT SO FASTTTTT. While it's true that keywords are important in SEO, their role is quite different than year's past. Before, you could load your pages (visible and coding) with keywords that Google would look for. Fast forward to 2015 and keywords are simply not enough.
Google has restructured their searching algorithm to help users get the information they are looking for with fewer clicks. What this means for wedding photographers? You need to use your keywords and your content interchangeably.
Let's start an example. Google Virginia Beach Wedding Photographers. Now, ignore all of the map results, I will get there in a second. Scroll past the map results and look what pops up first.
There are THOUSANDS of wedding photographers in Virginia Beach, so how did they get up to the top? Take a look at the descriptions in each of the results. You'll notice that their descriptions are very relevant to the search term "Virginia Beach Wedding Photographers" and that all of them are short, sweet, and most importantly, relevant. This is where your keywords will come into play. When you start to think of keywords to use, make a list of what words you would like to define you. "Virginia Beach Wedding Photographer" is a good start, but it is still very vague. You'll want to also find terms that describe you personally, your business/clientele, and your geographic area.
Now, if you aren't running any paid ads, keywords will only do you but so much. (That's a whole different post) but if you want to see what your biggest competitors are using for THEIR keywords, you can visit SEMrush, enter the website of anyone, and it will show you their average traffic, and if they are running paid ads, it will show you the keywords they are using to be found. If you stick my website URL in there, nothing interesting will happen because I'm not running any paid ads, advertising on partner sites, or really doing anything. I suck. However, go back to your search results for "Virginia Beach Wedding Photographer", pick a URL that's on the right hand side (advertisement) and plug in their URL, that will show you what keywords they have selected and how they are using them.
Okay okay, so you have a list of keywords. Now what? Here are a list of places you should be plugging these key terms.
- Website and blog title
- Website and blog description
- Each page title / page description
- Content pages (i.e, About Me, Information pages)
- Filenames for portfolio images (yourkeywords.jpg)
- Image descriptions and alt descriptions (some websites don't offer alternative descriptions)
- Google Adwords (separate post, coming soon)
Be careful to use your keywords relevantly. If you just throw keywords on your website without using them in a paragraph or content, then Google will mark you as spam.
3. Content Marketing & Blogging
This one is so important! Take note!
Like I said earlier, keywords can only take you so far. If you're just posting "Virginia Beach Wedding Photography" and blah blah blah, you're missing out. Google is user based, they really don't care how badly you want to be on that first page of results, they are about finding relevant data for their users. Content marketing has become HUGEEEEEE the last few years and it really is a GREAT way to generate traffic and turn that traffic into clients. Content Marketing is creating and posting content (images, videos, infographics, blog posts) that is relevant to your business. As photographers, we have a VAST amount of things we can use! Writing blog posts about how to help a new bride to creating a behind the scenes video. So if someone is searching for "Virginia Beach Wedding Photographers" - creating a blog post about how to find the best photographer would be a great idea because it would help users in their search and drive traffic to your site at the same time... win/win.
Coming up with ideas is hard, but the more creative you get, the more traffic you can drive in. If you are just posting images of your work, you're still missing opportunities! Alternate images with your own created content to push a message across. Create clever graphics (inspirational quotes are all over pinterest), informative videos, or anything really! Just make sure they are your OWN work.
How many times have you seen a BuzzFeed quiz pop up in your newsfeed on Facebook? They do such a great job at creative fun and interesting content that not only draws traffic to their website, but it also goes viral. That's your goal when you're creating content... to make it viral!
Blogging - If you do not have a blog tied to your website, stop reading this and go make one... right now. For ultimate SEO results, I would recommend having your website and blog tied into one URL. If you have two, that's fine too, but it's not very likely that both your home website and your blog will both be on the top page. Use your blog to plug in more of those keywords, post creative and original content, and be consistent. You certainly don't need to blog everyday, but Google places priority on websites that are updated and active frequently. That's how they know a website has updated and accurate information, by being active. My good friend (and fellow marketing nerd, Cate, does a great job at creating original content. I'll admit, I've clicked on every single one of her posts and that's exactly the point! http://violetirisstudiosblog.com/)
4. Link Building, but don't overdo it.
This is where it can get a little "complicated" for the average joe, and for most of us wedding photographers, we don't need to worry about the negative effects of external links.
We are so lucky to be photographers in the digital age because it gives us access to so many platforms to advertise and share our work. It's probably thought to be common sense that if your name and website URL are mentioned on a million different websites, that it's good for your traffic right? WRONG. It can cause huge red flags. What I mean by that is that say you have 100 website visits a day, and all of the sudden, you get a huge influx of hits and surges your traffic WAY higher than normal. If this is caused by you and original content then yay! If this is caused because a website that is not related to your field is linking back to your site, then boooooo.
Again, most of us don't need to worry about this because we aren't some major company that's getting a TON of traffic. This only happens when a large amount of websites that have nothing to do with your field are sending traffic to your website. This looks super sketchy to Google and they actually will penalize you for it. For example, if some Chinese apparel website was re-directing traffic or displaying links to my website, Google would think that I am up to something (Black Hat SEO) and push me back in their search rankings if display me at all! It takes a very long time to get trust back once this happens but again, a lot of us don't need to worry about it. It's just something to keep in mind. You can also check the status of external links via Google Webmaster Tools.
Instead, focus on positive link building! Submit your work to get featured, get people talking about you! You can also hire people to build your external links, it's big business, but like I said at the beginning, I'm keeping this as simple as possible. The more traffic you get from reputable sources, the better.
5. Get Google to love you.
If you go back to our original assignment (Google "Virginia Beach Wedding Photographers) I told you to ignore the map results. However, they are kind of hard to ignore right? I mean they pop up before the actual search results?! If you don't have a Google mail account, you should seriously consider it. I switched over my GoDaddy email to Gmail and I haven't looked back since. However, creating a Google Business account is beneficial as well. Regardless of what you're using, make sure that all of your business information is correct and aviabile. This includes a mailing address, a phone number, and of course, your URL. Make sure this information is also readily available on your webiste. When Google looks through your site index, they look for all sorts of information at crazy fast speeds. Making sure your contact information is easily seen, displayed, and repeated, will help tremendously.
Encourage your clients to leave reviews about you and your business on Google! Google loves Google, so if there are great reviews about you, they won't go unnoticed.
Also sign up for a Google+ business page! This will give you another outlet to link to your site, add your contact information, and throw in some keywords/content. Google+ is on the decline and may disappear in the next few years, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have one right now.
PHEW! That's a lot to take in.
I decided to break this post into two parts as to not overwhelm you guys. I've given you some homework if you haven't already done the above.
1. Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools / Google Analytics and get them rollin' on your website.
Leave your questions or point out my mistakes in the comments ;)