So many wedding photographers struggle with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and watch as free organic traffic goes to competing photo businesses in their area. Luckily, the solution is fairly simple, and many of these steps can be implemented in only a few hours!
In this article we are going to discuss Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices for wedding photographers and how you can optimize your website to capture organic traffic most effectively. Even with all the countless marketing and advertising tools at your disposal, Search Engine Optimization is one of the most important as, if done correctly, it can provide you with free, relevant traffic from potential customers.
Before we begin, there are a few important disclaimers I want to get out of the way:
- Most experts agree that it takes about six months for any SEO changes to result in any increase in website traffic. Be patient! I also recommend setting up a reminder for six months from now so you can check your analytics and (hopefully) start to see some results! Plus, any work you put in now will be invaluable when the next wedding season rolls around.
- There are no tricks anymore. Back in the day, you could “trick” the search engine into thinking your pages were better than the rest by keyword stuffing, increasing keyword density, or generally just putting low quality content on your pages. These days, many of these “tricks” will actually result in a lower ranking for your website. If you find anyone out there in the marketing industry selling a product that will “result in a quick boost to SEO,” proceed with caution!
- I’m going to use Google as our example search engine throughout this article; most search engines (like Bing) follow these same principles.
- We are going to be focusing on local SEO in this article. If you are (or want to become) a destination wedding photographer, you will also want to learn about national or global SEO.
Next, let’s define a few terms that are important to understand before we proceed.
- Ranking: When someone searches for a term relevant to your business, how close to the top of the search results is your website?
- Search Engine Results Page (SERP): The page someone sees after running a search. You want to be on page one.
- Organic Traffic: Website traffic that found your website without the aid of paid advertisements or marketing efforts.
Step 1: Set up tracking!
It’s important to know how much average organic traffic your website is getting right now so that we can see how our SEO improvements help. My recommendation is to set up Google Analytics, as it’s the most robust analytics tracking tool available for SEO and offers far more features than the built-in analytics tools in Squarespace, Pixieset, etc.
How to link your website with Google Analytics:
To link Google Analytics with most website platforms, begin by logging into your Google Analytics account. Locate the Admin section and select the desired account and property/URL. Then, under Property or Data Collection, click on “Tracking Info,” “Tracking Code,” or “Data Streams.” Here, you’ll find the tracking code (called a “measurement ID”) provided by Google Analytics. It appears like this: G-XXXXXXXXXX. Copy this measurement ID code.
Then, within your website platform’s account dashboard, access the settings related to analytics or tracking. On most sites, you can find where to put your measurement ID under a section under settings labeled “Integrations,” “Analytics,” or “External API keys.” Paste the Google Analytics tracking code into the designated area. Save the changes, and ensure the code is applied across all pages of your website.
After this integration, Google Analytics will start capturing data from your website. Always remember to follow any platform-specific instructions provided for accurate implementation. Most website platforms provide exceptional, specialized help articles that walk through this process in detail.
Once you have Analytics set up, head over to https://analytics.google.com
Next, we want to create a report that will show you your organic search traffic and how it compares to a time one year earlier. This will get pretty detailed, so stick with me!
In the upper-left corner, click on “Reports,” then “User Acquisition.” This will show you how your website users originally found your website. Next, in the upper-right corner you can set the date range you would like to see information for. I recommend setting that to either “Last 7 days” or “Last 28 days” depending on how much daily traffic your website gets (if it gets a lot, go with 7, if not, then go with 28).
Finally, if we look at the “Organic Search” row, we can see the following information:
Note: I’ve skipped some of the columns to focus more on the ones that I find most important.
- New users: The number of new people who accessed your website over that 7- or 28-day span.
- Engagement rate: The percentage of all sessions (one user visiting your website twice would count as two sessions) who spent longer than 10 seconds on your website or visited two or more of your pages. Think of these as the percentage of people who were interested enough in your business to spend some time reading/browsing. We want to see this percentage increase over time – you should also see that the engagement rate of “Organic Search” traffic is much higher than the other acquisition types as people who find content organically are much more likely to spend time on the pages they find. Hooray for SEO!
- Average engagement time: This is simply the average amount of time a user spends on your website. We really want to see this grow over time as we add more content to our websites and give our potential customers more to read and learn about our businesses. As Google sees users spending more time on your website, your overall SEO ranking will increase – keeping people on your pages longer will bring more people to your pages!
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Now that we understand the data, let’s customize this a bit. Click back up on the date range that we set earlier, scroll down on the left, and turn on “Compare.” Set the compare period to either “Same period last year” which will compare the last 7/28 days to the same 7/28 days the previous year, or “Preceding period” which will compare the last 7/28 days to the 7/28 days that happened right before.
To track the effectiveness of your SEO changes and tweaks, I recommend the “Same period last year” option as many SEO changes take 6-months to a year to fully manifest.
Lastly, click “Apply” in the bottom-right of the date range box.
Now we can see how our traffic compares to the set comparison range. What we are looking for here is green percentages indicating an increase in traffic, users, and engagement. Again, this will not happen overnight. You want to do this on a timescale of at least one month, but a year is even better. Don’t get discouraged!
ADVANCED PRO TIP – To limit this report to only showing organic search traffic, click the pencil in the upper-right and add a filter with the following options:
- Dimension: First user default channel group
- Match Type: Exactly matches
- Value: Organic Search
You can also save this report for future use by clicking the “Save…” button in the upper-right corner.
Step 2: Write, write, write.
Unfortunately, most photographers don’t love to write (me included). With that said, Google (at least right now) doesn’t look at our pictures, so having 200+ wedding photos on your website with no industry-specific text does literally nothing for your search ranking. Instead, we need to write a lot of relevant, useful text about our business, services, pricing, etc. to teach Google and our customers what our business is all about.
I would start this process by thinking about what kinds of searches you would like to rank for in your area. These search terms are called keywords and should be the backbone of every bit of writing on your website. You want to think about what someone looking for your wedding photography business might search for. Try your best to not think like a photographer here. We all use a bit of jargon that might not be too familiar to non-wedding photographers.
Try to think of locations, types of services, and anything else you can think of that someone might search for. I recommend making a nice chart that helps you get all of your search ideas on paper. Here’s an example.
|Families||Your County||Expensive||Your Vibe|
|Boudoir||Destinations Near You||Cheap||Your Style|
Next, start to string these search keywords together into long-form search terms that someone might actually type into Google. Also remember that many people won’t type locations when searching anymore since Google knows where someone is searching for and will show relevant content. (But, that doesn’t mean you don’t still need to include location-based text on your website!)
- Best wedding photographers in (your city)
- Most affordable wedding photographers in (your state)
- Wedding photo and video in (your city)
- (Your style) wedding photographers near me
Once you have some examples, start to think about how you can incorporate these into the text on your website. I would aim to include each of the keywords in your chart at least 3-5 times somewhere on your website, and use keywords that have to do with “your location + weddings“ at least 10 times on your website.
Disclaimer – Google knows if you are just putting words on the page for the sake of having words on the page. The idea is to write good copy that makes sense, informs your customers, and helps them decide if you are the right person to hire for the job. This probably means building a website with at least five pages and trying to have each page have between 500 and 1000 words, minimum. Just putting random words on the page will hurt your overall page ranking, but putting words on the page that are there intentionally will help you rank on page one of search results!
Step 3: Build a (good) Google Business Profile
This is so important. Google search results rely heavily on Google Business listings and creating a full, accurate Google Business profile can do so much to help you rank higher.
The single most important thing you can do is ensure that your business phone number (yes, you need one of these), email address, and physical address/service area exactly match what’s on your website. Google will cross-reference this information and rank you higher if it sees the same information in both places.
The second thing to focus on is getting (and responding to) reviews. I recommend adding a “Please leave me a review” button on the bottom of every email you send, especially those emails that contain links to your final image deliverables. The absolute best time to get a review is the moment a client first sees the images of their wedding. The easier you can make the process of them leaving a review at that moment in time, the better!
Another thing to consider is adding an incentive to leave you a review! Something like “Save $50 off your next session by leaving me a review.” Just be sure to never tie these incentives to a “positive” review – we want our clients to be honest when reviewing our business.
When someone does leave a review, respond! If the review is negative, be respectful, thank them for their feedback, and offer to remedy the situation (if possible). Just remember that all reviews and responses are public!
PRO TIP: Develop an email mailing list of all potential, current, and past clients with a way to segment between the different groups. This makes it super easy to send reminders to all past clients asking them to please leave you a review!
I would also recommend adding some images to your Google Business profile. They really help potential customers see what types of images you create. I would advise a 50/50 mix of deliverable images and behind-the-scenes images showing you in action! If you have a studio or storefront, I would absolutely include images of those as well.
Finally, post updates on your Google Business profile. This shows the world (and Google) that you are active, and your business is alive and well. This should include photos, BTS, business updates like discounts, mini-session availability, or even that you are now booking for the upcoming wedding season.
Step 4: Get some backlinks!
Here’s the big one – the one that also takes a lot of work. Google will rank you higher if other websites link back to your website. For example, me putting a link to https://sarahchaput.com/ in this blog article helps Sarah’s website rank higher! That’s awesome.
To sweeten the deal, the more popular the website that links back to you, the better it is for your ranking. For example, a backlink from The New York Times will have way more impact than a backlink from a local mom-and-pop magazine.
There are a few ways to get quality back links, but my favorite for local SEO is to partner with local businesses in related industries and share backlinks. For example, if you develop a relationship with a local floral shop, ask them if they would be willing to link your website on their website in return for you doing the same! It should be noted that there are a few services out there that you can pay for that will provide paid backlinks, but I would much rather spend that money on some paid advertising and work to get my backlinks manually.
Another thing to consider is if you have a friend who owns another photo business that doesn’t compete with your own, feel free to put links to each other’s websites! You can refer clients to one another, link to each other’s website, and help one another grow. It’s a win-win.
If you’re wondering where to put all of these links, text, and content, consider adding a blog to your website! Blogs can be a fantastic way to build SEO as they give you a platform to put a ton of text on your website. I see a lot of photographers mostly just putting images on their blogs, which is pretty, but it’s not the best use of that feature. If you want to maximize your ranking, aim to have at least 500 words on each blog post (2500 words is a good goal to really get traffic).
Ranking on Google’s search page one won’t happen overnight. It takes time. Think of SEO like a tree – you plant it now and in 5 years it will have deep roots.
My recommendation is to try and complete all these tasks in the next couple of weeks, set a reminder for a year from now and check back in on your Analytics then. Hopefully, you will see some nice growth in your organic traffic. If not, maybe rethink your keywords, try to get some better backlinks, or even consider pivoting the business in a slightly different (and hopefully less competitive) direction.
Finally, under no circumstances should you ever take your website down and replace it with an “under construction” notice. Doing so for too long can destroy any ranking you have built and cause this entire process to restart. If you are unhappy with your website shortly after publishing it, welcome to the club! Remember, we get bored with our own website way faster than our customers do. Keep the text on the page, add more if you can, stay the course, and the organic traffic will come. If you’re short on work, consider running a paid advertising campaign on Instagram or Facebook – we will show you how to do exactly that in our Professional Intensive program. You can learn more here: https://pi.rmsp.com/
And if you are looking for tips on better web design, check out this article!